Whats a Deluxe Pickup Stick?


Overheard aboard a bareboat charter at the Bitter End on Tortola, British Virgin Islands, at sunset circa 1978: “I wish George would hurry up and whack all those big orange balls out of the way, so we can anchor.”

Whats a Deluxe Pickup Stick?

There are still many places where snagging a mooring requires someone who knows the business end of a boat hook, but in most of New Englands municipal harbors, the ubiquitous mast buoy has made the chore infinitely easier. These “pickup sticks” are now standard in the region (much to the chagrin of area divorce lawyers).

If you are tasked with maintaining your own mooring-and you don’t yet have a good pickup stick-we can recommend a replacement: a “deluxe” mooring buoy from Island Mooring Supplies. Now, before the idea of a deluxe pickup stick starts you choking with laughter, please bear with us.

After many years in the commercial shipping industry, David Homan began making mast mooring buoys in the basement of his home on Prudence Island, a sparsely populated patch of land in Rhode Islands Narragansett Bay, accessible only by ferry. Seven years later, Homans Island Mooring Systems now has sold thousands of the mast buoys, mostly to yacht clubs and town harbors. Youll find his buoys everywhere from New Yorks Larchmont Yacht Club to Jamestown Boat Yard in Rhode Island.

Homans 6-foot model ($42) is the most popular. Expensive? Maybe, but it is virtually indestructible.

Theres not much to a mast buoy-a long stick, a float, and some lead on the bottom-but Homan adds a few subtle touches that make it much more durable than your average stick. The pole itself is quarter-inch solid fiberglass coated with a thick, bright orange, UV-resistant polypropylene sleeve that adds another 1/8-inch to the sticks diameter. The lead weight is hot-dipped in Plastisolve acrylic, so its totally sealed from the salt water. The buoy is your basic industrial strength 5- by 11-inch lobster buoy. Delrin washers and sleeves and stainless-steel clamps hold the buoy in place. The only thing missing is some SOLAS reflective tape at the top, which is easy enough to add.

We tried are best to break the pole but couldnt. If you do, there is no warranty, but Hamon says hes never had one come back.

The poles are sold at marinas and chandleries, or you can order one online from http://www.hamiltonmarine.com/.

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Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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