Gear & Electronics


Marine-Rated Light Offers Water Intrusion Prevention and Maximum Flexibility with 42-degree Rotation

New Bedford, MA – Imtra, the leading importer and supplier of quality marine products, announced today the availability of the IML Cockpit Spreader Light. The only waterproof light available with a rotational positioning design, the Cockpit Spreader allows maximum flexibility in illumination and installation on any vessel. Designed for open element use in harsh marine environments, the light’s stainless steel upper body pivots smoothly on a GRP spindle and bearing for convenient light positioning.

Designed with a size and shape that allow maximum versatility, the Cockpit Spreader can be used for a variety of exterior applications in both the power and sail environments. Mounted to the underside of a fiberglass hardtop on a fishing boat, a pair of these waterproof lights may be positioned to illuminate all areas of the cockpit, including the fish-prep area, aft transom door engine well or over the gunnel. Deck or roof mounted, these lights are ideal to highlight the radar mast, burgee, and other structures.

The Imtra IML Cockpit Spreader Light is designed to operate with 12V or 24V DC. and accepts an MR11 halogen reflector or MR11 LED bulb with halogen wattage ratings of 10W, 20W and 35W (exterior only). Available in stainless steel (model number ILIM90100) and white powder coated (model number ILIM90101) finishes, the Cockpit Spreader has a small mounting base, an easy-to-install three-fastener installation design and 42-degree full-rotational pivot action for percise light positioning. Fully waterproof, the lights feature silicone rubber O-rings and seals, and are rated at the IP65 standard providing complete water egress protection and the ability to withstand sprays from any angle. Imtra IML Cockpit Spreader Lights carry a 2 year limited warranty.

For more information on Imtra’s IML Cockpit Spreader Lights, Imtra or its entire marine product line, please contact 508-995-7000 or visit


AMSTEEL BLUE vs. Winch Cable

by Steve Reeves

3/16 Amsteel in hand

I recently had to replace the winch on our King trailer. The Fulton 3200# 2-speed model buckled (and parts broke off and flew into the water!) when I was winching the boat onto the trailer at Brannan Island marina in the Sacramento River Delta.

In replacing the winch, I decided on another winch of the same type (best of the choices out there). I removed and sanded and painted the steel plate that the winch mounts to, and mounted the new winch with the same three bolts to the trailer. Then I ordered a strap with a similar working strength to what had been on the old winch (figured I should get everything new, though the old strap was still serviceable) and prepared to install it. The strap seemed less substantial to me than the old one (that came on the trailer) was, and so I returned it and began looking at alternatives.

I could put a cable on the boat, oil it regularly and replace it every few years. I could order a heavier strap, adapt the winch (which is fitted from the factory to handle a cable or rope) by drilling holes in either side and fitting a bolt for the strap to mount to. Or I could think ‘outside the box’.

I did the latter and, after looking at many types of heavy duty rope, came across one that bills itself as the alternative to cable. It’s called Amsteel Blue, and it utilizes Dutch technology which makes it several times stronger than rope and stronger than the equivalent size of cable. It is nearly impossible to cut (requires a very sharp razor knife) and it floats! So I ordered 25′ of Amsteel Blue in a 5/16″ thickness, and installed it on my winch (with a 4″ section of shrink-tubing where the rope passes through the wall of the winch to be anchored the outside). Couldn’t be happier with the rope’s performance to date. The breaking strength of the 5/16″ Amsteel Blue is 13,700#. I don’t anticipate any trouble with a boat that, fully loaded is about 8000#.

I liked it so much that I ordered four lengths of 3/16″ Amsteel Blue for my fenders. Overkill perhaps (breaking strength of 5400#), but I’ll never worry about currents or a rough dock wearing on my fender lines! An added benefit is that you can use a much smaller thickness of line (3/16″ vs. 5/8″ in regular rope), leaving more room on the cleat for your docking lines, etc.

Resource: There are several places to get Amsteel Blue, but I think I found the best: Greg Kenley at Midwest Winchrope ( will cut your length(s) to order and splice loops/thimbles into the ends for you. He does top notch work, and his prices are at least as good as larger ‘discount’ shops. His phone number is: (573) 703-3040 and, as a bonus, he’s a nice guy.  Amsteel Blue is as tough as it gets and I’m glad I found it for Kokomo. You may have an interest in taking a look at the demo video (Greg’s homegrown video) at: =FcifJkhXpMM. Even if you’re not looking for heavy duty, light weight winch line, it’s pretty interesting.

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A 406.028Mhz P.L.B. provides instant satellite communication in an emergency …

The A.C.R. AquaLink P.L.B.

I’ve followed the evolution of emergency beacons for years now, from the (really large) old E.P.I.R.B.’s (emergency position indicating radio beacon), the newer EPIRB’s (smaller and more manageable with longer battery life) to the latest in P.L.B.’s (personal locater beacon), the smallest and, except for battery life, most desirable . Recently, I picked the top 3 units out there, researched them thoroughly, and bought one for my boat. This recounts the quick, easy process for registering a PLB, how I came to buy the one I did and the peace of mind found in having it with us when we leave port.

The three units I looked at were the ACR AquaLink PLB’s, the Spot II PLB and the McMurdo 200 series PLBs. These three outsell their competition and have good reputations among their owners. They all feature the new(er) 406.028Mhz satellite and 121.5Mhz ground frequency for summoning emergency assistance, and all have really solid reputations for the way they are built. Any of the three would have been a good purchase, but the Spot II requires an annual subscription ($99/year) and the McMurdo (I was all set to buy the 210 when I began this process) doesn’t float (?).

Now I don’t want to pay $100 a year for a PLB I hope never to use, but I can understand some yachtsman buying this unit for the satellite messenging system that comes with the subscription. The makers of the Spot II are promoting it heavily (50% off as I write this at Westmarine = $50) but the boating/buying public is balking at the subscription fee. Maybe they need to offer a unit that, like the ACR PLB’s, offers satellite messenging if the owner wants to add it, and an excellent PLB all the time … without a subscription.

I’m not sure I can make sense of why McMurdo would create such a great PLB but build it in a case that doesn’t float. After all, the unit is meant to handle emergencies on the water, right? Any PLB or EPIRB that gets deployed is going to get wet, and is likely to be submersed. I just couldn’t see relying on a unit, in what would be one of life’s most stressful moments, that would sink if I or someone else dropped it in the sea. A visit to the McMurdo site may provide some context, however, as McMurdo touts this unit for many land-based activities (hiking, camping, climbing, 4-wheeling, etc.) in addition to river rafting, canoeing and kayaking, and (last but not least) various forms of boating including sailing and yachting. The company offers an optional ‘life vest’ for the McMurdo 210, which consists of a neoprene case and a lanyard.  I look forward to hearing that McMurdo has added floatation to the list of it’s PLB’s admirable features.

So my choice was the ACR PLB’s and I chose the ACR AquaLink (standard) PLB, because I couldn’t see paying an additional $100 for the ACR AquaLink View (which features an LCD readout but is otherwise identical to the standard unit) to have a yearly view of the GPS tests I do on the unit, and I don’t plan to use my unit (though it’s capable) as a messenger. The more I read, the more I became certain that this was the unit for me. And my purchase proved me right.

The ACR AquaLink has that well-heeled look and feel about it (the quality build reminds me of their EPIRB’s). It’s waterproof, it floats (!) and it’s intuitive to use. The long, stainless antenna wraps around three sides of the unit and holds securely in a notched keeper. The buttons are all well-marked and, in the unlikely event I have to deploy it, it’ll require removing the antenna and pushing the red button … two simple tasks that take about 10 seconds to accomplish. The ACR is more expensive than either the SPOT or the McMurdo. Mine was a full $100 more than the nearest price (the McMurdo), but there’s something about having the best in emergency equipment when you’re out on the sea (and alone) that is comforting. I encourage you to do your own research, and don’t be surprised if you end up with an ACR PLB in your inventory of emergency gear.

Registering the unit with N.O.A.A. (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) was one of the several positive surprises of buying this PLB. The process is the same for a PLB or an EPIRB and involves completion of a one-page application and submission by either mail, fax or e-mail. I received confirmation of registration in ten minutes (not a misprint … 10 minutes!) and an official registration tag (that must be affixed to a designated spot on the PLB) by mail in two weeks. Amazing service from a government agency.

All in all, my PLB buying experience has been a good one. I think the best part, though, is that we’ll have the ACR AquaLink to rely on in that very unlikely instance in which we’ll need it.

* Read our article on “Ditch Bags” in this section (scroll down) …

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A Portable, Quality Refrigerator/Freezer for Kokomo …

View larger image of EdgeStar 43 Quart 12V DC Portable Fridge/Freezer - Grey

Like many yachting folks, I have found the need for a supplemental freezer to be a high priority, especially when setting course into ‘marina-less’ waters, which are where I want to go most of the time. I finally purchased a freezer/refrigerator and have operated it for long enough, now, to offer you my appraisal of it’s performance both on land and at sea.

Through study, I narrowed my brand choices down to Engel and Edgestar 12V/110V fridge/freezers, and, through the process of elimination (based on what size would fit in Kokomo and the various road vehicles it would have to fit in), to the 43qt. models of each. I ended up purchasing the Edgestar unit ($500 vs. the Engel at $900+) and my experience so far has been excellent.

I have to say that my initial reaction, in addition to being impressed with the quality of construction, was that it sure seemed big for a 43qt. portable fridge. But that was also my first lesson in uncompromising quality … the Edgestar has to be large (and heavy: 45lbs. empty) in order to provide the kind of thermal protection and rapid refrigeration it does. It features tasteful metal grey sidewalls and a heavy-duty latch, along with heavy-duty carry handles. It barely fits in the rear seat of the truck or car when they are scooted back to allow for legroom, which is a great argument against buying the 63qt. and 80qt. models as ‘portable’ units. They’ll be exceptional when permanently placed (or rarely moved) refrigerators (like under a dinnete settee in your yacht), but the 43qt. is just portable enough to be moved between vehicles, boats, RV’s, etc.

The Edgestar 43 is so quiet that I worried initially that it wasn’t working right. Thirty minutes later my worries were put to rest when I reached into the operating unit and felt the freezer at 19-degress. I’d placed it on “Fast Freeze”, a great feature of the Edgestar units, which takes the fridge from room temperature down to single-digit temps in short-order. You’re not supposed to leave it on Fast Freeze for extended periods of time, so I keyed in 10-degrees and the Edgestar maintained within two degrees of that temp for the rest of the day, even with occasional opening of the well-sealed lid.

The display on the Edgestar, located on the right side when facing the lid, features large, easy-to-read numerals or the letters “FF” when in the Fast Freeze mode. There are 110V and 12V plugs receptacles beneath the control panel (on the same side of the fridge), and I’ve found it handy to have the power cord and the display facing me when the unit is in the back seat of the car (behind the passenger seat).

It’s the perfect set up for the boat as well, as I can see the temperature on the fridge from the helm while underway (which is handy, because the display is lit whenever the unit’s ‘on’, you sometimes feel the need to confirm its operating status and the yellow warning light – indicating low batteries – is readily visible). When both plugs are connected, the Edgestar runs on 12V when the yacht is at sea, and 110V when connected to shore power. I don’t have to worry about changing power connections as part of a docking routine, etc. Likewise, when the yacht is running on generator power or when the inverter in engaged, the Edgestar runs on AC, and seamlessly switches to DC power when they’re shut off.

Inside, there are two stout baskets, which are another nice feature if you want to see what you have or where a certain item is located,  and the basket wall keeps frozen goods from sticking to the fridge/freezer’s inner walls. One is as deep as the interior and the other about two thirds that deep to allow for the unit’s machinery below. We have yet to fill the unit, even when planning an extended voyage.

The Edgestar has performed flawlessly to date. It’s everything I hoped it would be and more (heavier duty and well-built). Even unplugged, you can expect items to stay cold or frozen as if they were in a top quality ice box. It’s so quiet that you can plug it in next to your bed in a hotel room, and you don’t have to worry about noise in a favorite anchorage either. So far, I can’t be more positive about the Edgestar 43, and I make sure to include it in every voyage and major road trip these days.

NOTE: Edgestar and Engal brand portable refrigerator/freezers are real refrigerators. If your shopping for a ‘cooler’ there are several brands out there (Wagan, Koolatron, CoolTech, etc.). These units both cool and warm their contents, and they base the temperature they can cool to on the ambient temperature (for instance, the 29qt. Koolatron unit will, over time, cool ‘up to’ 40 degrees below the ambient temp; if you have temps upwards of 100F like we do in CA, that soda is not going to be very cold!). While certainly a convenience (and much less expensive), thermoelectric ‘coolers’ are not the same category of appliance as an Edgestar, Waeco or Engal or other brand of portable refrigerator is.

***** TEST UPDATE: The Edgestar kept our frozen food frozen solid for three days and nights (in 100+ degree weather) during our recent voyage. In the final hour before we removed the food, the yellow ‘battery low’ indicator came on. We ran the freezer on two Interstate, class 74, marine deep-cycle batteries, strapped together, and connected only to the freezer (not to any sort of recharge device).

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Great source for marine electrical cabling and connectors

Savvy yachtsmen know they should only use marine-grade cables and connectors in their vessel’s electrical systems (your safety and security rely on it), and the proper grade of cable (and the right size) can be quite expensive at their favorite chandlery.  We’ve found a web based business that offers a great selection of quality cables and connectors at the best prices we’ve found, thanks to a reader in Olympia, Washington (sending gratitude your way, Mr. Robb!). The folks at also offer marine assembly services (from $1) and free shipping to US addresses. They have quite a selection of welding and automotive cables, custom connectors, quick-connectors, switches, inverter cables and battery clamps as well. Take a look at their website, and let us know if you’re as pleased as we are to find this resource. Visit them at:

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WeatherTrack’s GRIB System for iPhone, iTouch and iPad makes real cruising weather conditions accessible!

If you’ve got an iPhone like I do (or iTouch or an iPad), Weathertrack’s GRIB weather viewer may just be the best option for you as a cruiser/navigator. Weathertrack gives you simple, accurate information on everything from wind speed and direction, currents, wave height and direction, sea temperature to barometric pressure, precipitation and severe weather detail. It even offers a Meteogram feature which gives you an easy-to-understand graphical representation of weather and trends.
Weathertrack and your phone’s GPS let you get a snapshot of weather in your region, so you’ll know right away if it’s safe to push off. You can also get a complete picture of your enroute weather (including wind, currents, etc.) and the weather conditions at your destination.

Weathertrack makes a level of information available to the mariner (or the individual going to a picnic or the ball park!) that has not been available before without an expensive subscription (read: Sirius Weather), and this has made a big difference in how prepared you can be. Use Weathertrack before you ever leave home, and you’ll have more weather, current and wind information at your fingertips than you thought possible.

Weathertrack is available at the iTunes App Store for $19.95. One well-planned cruise – or weather system avoided – ought to make you feel that it was worth it! Learn more at

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Bazooka Bailer Boat Hook – Hook, Bailer and Power Washer …

I remember playing with a boat hook one sunny afternoon in the Deception Pass State Park and remarking to Lee Ann that it would be really cool if iBOAT HOOK BAILER COMBO    5'                        728963t held water so that we’d have spare fire extinguisher aboard. I should have guessed that Taylor Made, a decided leader in marine gear, had already developed a triple-purpose device that is proficient at that and two additional tasks.
This afternoon a fellow Rosborough yacht owner in Vermont e-mailed me about the “Bazooka Bailer”, pointing out that it works beautifully in bailing out a particular catch basin in the cockpits of our boats that collects water. She related her experience and told me how she’d come across the Bazooka Bailer when another Rossie owner she had met at a rendezvous introduced it to her. She asked me to consider putting it on because it’s such a great tool, and so here I am sharing it with you. Thanks to the crew of “Cloud Nine” for recommending this unique product to all of us.

The Bazooka Bailer is a high-quality boat hook (with a locking mechanism that works better than the twist and lock styles; especially as those age), an effortless bailer and a wash down/cleaning device.  It collapses to roughly half its extended length, features an anodized aluminum shaft, two foam hand holds and quality fittings and hardware. The locking mechanism automatically engages when the boat hook is fully extended, and it firmly stays in its extended position until released by the user.

The result is that the Bazooka Bailer proves to be an exceptional boat hook, and you don’t have to worry about a twist-lock coming loose at a critical moment. When it’s time to bail, simply put the hook end in the water to be removed and extend the Bazooka Bailer. The 8’ model holds about a quart per pull. It’s that easy. Last, how many times have you needed to wash off the anchor, or anchor line, or rinse off a seat, or clean footprints off the cockpit deck … and had to pull out a hose to do so (if you have a water outlet). No more! Short wash down jobs are accomplished beautifully with the Bazooka Bailer. Water comes out at approximately 36 times the device’s operating speed and has an effective range of 50 feet. Cleaning off debris and anchor sludge is a breeze, even from a distance. And, it functions well as a squirt gun in those moments where you need … well … a Bazooka!

Taylor Made makes two models of the Bazooka Bailer; a 5’ model and an 8’ model. Which one you’ll choose will be depend on storage space on your boat (remember, the Bazooka Bailer replaces a boat hook, so additional storage is unnecessary) and how you’ll use it. My bet is that anyone who uses it as a bailer, washer or ‘blaster’ will go for the larger (1 quart) capacity unit which is about $10 more. The Bazooka Bailer is available at most marine stores, but I’ve noticed that it varies in price between the outlets. You should expect to pay between $44 and $61 for the 5’ model, and between $54 and $71 for the 8’ model, plus shipping.

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Time For Trintec

by Steve Reeves

I’ve kKokomo Gets 3 New Instrumentsnown since Kokomo became ours that I wanted to put a nautical clock in the boat, but I was unprepared for the vast number of choices I’d be faced with when I began looking at models within the size range that would fit in/on her center overhead panel. I knew that we could accommodate only about a 5.5″ overall size, and that I could just fit three instruments on this panel.

I looked at every imaginable configuration of clocks … including those which have a barometer and thermometer built in. Those with all of the instruments on a single plank of wood were interesting, and I thought I’d found one that looked nice until I got a close look at it and learned a portion of the bezel on the clock was plastic (vs. brass). Wanting something that was low-maintenance and rugged in construction (like the boat, a Rosborough RF-246), I waited and looked.

In a West Marine store in Oakland, I saw a line of Weems & Plath clocks that looked like they were well built. In handling the model, I found a Canadian maple leaf on the rear of the box, and thought to myself that it would be kind-of-nice to honor the lineage of the vessel (she’s built in Nova Scotia) with a clock that was also Canadian.

So I came home and did some online research and found the company that built the Weems & Plath models I’d seen. And I visitedTrintec thermometer, tidal clock & barometer their website, which featured a nice selection of nautical clocks … built right … with five year warranties. I found an online dealer (OK, it was on eBay!) that offered the models I wanted, and ordered one each of the Coast Line tidal clock, thermometer and barometer. These were to be my Christmas gift from my wife … perfect!

I installed them this week and couldn’t be happier with the Trintec instruments. They seem to fit the boat perfectly and the price – which included all four of the instruments I want on the boat (the clock has a tidal clock built in) – was less than one of the fancy brass clocks I was looking at before.

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Is your DITCH BAG ready for anything?

by Steve Reeves

Revere 80 Ditch/Abandon Ship Bag

If you’ve been boating for any time at all, you’ve heard the warning “Don’t forget to have an up-to-date ditch bag onboard!” over and over … and now let me say it again: before fancy toys and other expensive onboard luxuries, a ditch bag (also called an “Abandon Ship Bag”) is critical.

For some reason, owners of smaller boats often think they don’t need this vital item (I’d say it should be mandatory, if that didn’t require another law) but the end result of an emergency can be either manageable or disasterous based on whether it’s available. If you don’t have one, the following may be helpful to you in assembling this key item in your emergency gear (which I recommend you do BEFORE you take your boat out again). If you do have a ditch bag, this list may help you update it.

Use a bag that is designed for marine use. I’ve seen dry bags of all sorts used successfully for this. The bottom line is that your Abandon Ship, or ditch bag should (1) have ample positive flotation (dedicated ditch bags have flotation material sewn in, but sealed air-filled gear bags inside can achieve the same thing), (2) be waterproof (not simply water resistant, which means “splash proof”), (3) be large enough to carry all of your emergency gear, (4) be labeled and stowable, (5) have the right sort of reinforced grab handles, and (5) be light, bright-colored or feature reflective material that can be easily seen at night, presumably with a flashlight. A number of ditch bags are made by marine gear manufacturers, and they’re reasonable in price and ideal for careful, safe stowage of your emergency gear.

The contents of your ditch bag will have a lot to do with where and what climate you’re cruising in, but there are some critical items that are universal in their place in your emergency stores. They are divided into two categories: “Rescue” and “Survival” items. We recommend you carry some version of all of these in your bag.

ACR 2273 Ditch/Abandon Ship Bag

Rescue items should include (1) a registered, functioning E.P.I.R.B. (Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon) or P.L.B. (Personal Locator Beacon) with a current battery certification and N.O.A.A. registration. I wrote an article 10+ years ago about preparing your ditch bag, and didn’t feel right about including this expensive item in it, but prices have come down (you can buy the McMurdo 210 for $249, the SPOT II for about $100, or less) and we’re living in an ever-more-electronic world that has more and more capacity for locating you via a device like this, whether hiking in the mountains, snow skiing or at sea, (2) a hand-held VHF radio that is either waterproof or in a waterproof enclosure, (3) a variety of flares and smoke signals (both hand held and aerial – with parachutes – flares) (4) strobe light, (5) whistles (I recommend a loud one, like the storm whistles sold in marine stores; don’t rely on the one that came with your PFD), (6) a signal mirror, (7) two waterproof flashlights with spare batteries and (8) a handheld GPS with current, applicable charts (and spare batteries).

Survival items should include (1) water in individual packets (available through your marine store) or in sturdy jugs; take at least twice what you think you’d use in a worst case scenario, (2) a water making device, like a solar still or, if you can afford it, a hand-pump desalinating water maker, (3) food; packaged or canned (see the survival section at your marine store) (4) a sturdy can opener, (4) a well-equipped first aid kit and splinting material, (5) a quality all-purpose tool with a knife, (6) a patch kit and pump for your dinghy or life raft, (7) critical prescriptions/medications and spare prescription glasses (suggest you have second set in the ditch bag), (8) lightweight blankets, or solar blankets, for warmth, (9) basic fishing gear (line, hooks, cleaning gear, etc.), (10) sunscreen, (11) a sturdy bailer, (12) binoculars, (13) sunglasses, and (14) a broad brimmed hat.

Columbia Compact Ditch Bag

With this level of preparation, you and your passengers will only need life jackets and outerwear if you need to abandon ship quickly. If you have time (remember, the safest place for you is on your boat, even if it is filling with water; deploy the well-lashed life boat/dinghy and tie your ditch bag into it; wait until you can’t wait anymore to abandon ship) and dependent upon the safety of doing so, I suggest you gather additional water jugs, the ship’s flares, documentation (including passports) that may be need when you reach shore, additional food, etc.

Remember, the preparation of the ship’s ditch bag “is critical when it becomes critical” … you won’t have that “sinking” feeling that you’ve left some important piece of emergency gear behind if you attend to it now and inspect it annually and before each long voyage.

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ZF 2800 Drive For Smaller Yachts

Have you been aboard one of the big yachts and admired the joystick docking control at the helm? Wish you could put the efficient drive, joystick control and positioning control on your smaller vessel? Well, if you have a repower in mind, ZF of Italy (one the leaders in the manufacture of these systems) has the product you’ve been looking for.

ZF Marine 2800

The new 2800 series from ZF Pods fits boats with horsepower up to 450, and is ideal for yachts 30′ to 48′ feet in length. The revolutionary system reportedly gives up to a 15% better cruise speed and a 15% higher top speed. ZF says that this translates into a fuel efficiency enhancement of 30%.

The system (which is mounted vertically through the floor/hull) consists of a transmission, steering unit, and counter rotating  propellers governed by an electronic control system (called the SmartCommand System by ZF). The joystick is part of the JMS (Joystick Maneuvering System), an integrated system that works as a component of the SmartCommand system to provide easy, safe cruising and close quarters maneuvering.

The ZF iAnchor function is a GPS controlled option that keeps the boat in a static position (as if it were anchored) at the push of a button. Combined with joystick docking and the one-handed delight of piloting your boat, there’s a lot to recommend in this propulsion system. Add the 30% in fuel you’ll save and factor in the reduced up front costs and reduced through-life expense vs. a shaft and prop installation, and one gets the feeling that soon we’ll be seeing this, and similar drive systems, in many of our favorite new yachts.

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SkyHAWK Sunglasses – The Perfect Gift for a Stellar Captain

(now $14.98 per pair)

I struggled with what to get my old friend on the occasion of our next rendezvous, and settled on a pair of new SkyHAWK sunglasses in the tortous shell frames. He’d been a cruise ship captain on two of my favorite lines, was an Italian (and therefore cared about how he looked), and was fond (as was I) of extending invitations for my wife and I to visit him on the ship’s bridge, join him at the Captain’s table, and sample Grappa wine from his village in the North of Italy.

This cruise the Captain was his positive self, and I presented him with a nicely wrapped gift box when he invited us to the bridge. He seemed genuinely pleased with the pair of Palm Beach blueblockers I gave him, and immediately stripped the tags off them and put them on. He did the usual double-take (not uncommon when people try their first pair of SkyHAWKS) at the clarity of vision he was experiencing, and then was called away by a steward, thanked us and wished us good night and a good cruise.

I didn’t see him again for three and a half years, and we met aboard the newest ship in the line. He and I shared an espresso in the foyer of his cabin, where he told me he was sailing his final season with the line, and would at Christmas time return home a final time to his family, the several grandkids, and his little vineyard. I wished him congratulations and toasted his many years of success. He motioned to have our espresso refilled, and I followed him onto the bridge, and onto the wing where the bright sun was making its way toward the horizon.

The captain set his espresso on the rail and fished a pair of sunglasses from his shirt pocket. I tried not to show my delight when I saw that they were the same pair of SkyHAWKs I’d given him three and half years before, but he noticed that I recognized them (it didn’t help that I was wearing a different model at the time). He told me that the SkyHAWKs had become his favorite sunglasses, that he taken them with him on sea and shore, and that he worried about losing or damaging them and not being able to find another pair.

I explained that I, too, had become a fan of the SkyHAWK Blueblocker sunglasses, had given up a $250/pair Porsche Design shades in their favor, and had (since I made a gift of his pair) bought a distributorship for the line in order to provide them to my Cruise Club clients. Our conversation drifted off to ship stories (I think a major line had lost a ship off Tahiti the month before) and other topics, and we embraced and said our farewells, knowing that we’d probably not see each other again.

I sent the Commodore (he was promoted to Fleet Captain with two months left) a new pair of Aviators upon my return to the office, and stay in touch with him via regular mail to this day. He still has the original pair of SkyHAWKs I gave him, wears them nearly daily, and keeps the new pair in his desk for someday when they’re needed. I’ve filled seven orders for his friends in the village who had to have a pair of their own.

I would be honored to ship you a pair of SkyHAWK sunglasses for 65% off the list price. See the selection in the Marine Store.

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Little Red Screamer

I have the ultimate bilge alarm on my vessel, and another of the same for my security system. A siren is overkill, some may say, but there won’t be any doubt in the event of one of my through-hull fittings leaking or someone trying to break into Kokomo. I have two, marine grade, fire-engine-red mechanical sirens mounted below decks in a battery compartment that wind up to a whopping 139db in an emergency situation.

The sirens are $149 each and are well worth the investment. They are small enough to be mounted almost anywhere (4″ X 4″), tough as they come (and have a warranty to match) and loud enough to be heard above the worst racket imaginable. I came across the siren while touring a friend’s new trawler yacht. The boat came with six of them, and used them for raw water, low oil, leak, and bilge alarms among other applications … I think one of them was mast mounted and was used for a ‘fog’ horn and hailing siren.

I finally found where that trawler company gets them, and offer them here for just $99 each (see the Marine Store). I recently installed one on my truck – it makes an exciting button for my grandson to push – but I really am sold on their marine applications and I’m still finding new and creative ways to use them.

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Propeller Security

Posted on May 10, 2011 by skippersteve

After launching at a major Bay Area marina recently, I watched a 25′ C-Dory launch and prepare to go to sea. The skipper of the other boat rushed around and got his icebox in the cockpit, perched his Bimini-style top (over the cockpit), and generally got her ready. He then parked his rig (small, compared to mine; must be pretty nice to tow) and ran back to his boat. He started up the single Yamaha 115 outboard and let it warm up, then put her in gear.

There was a tone difference to the engine (the product of the transmission engaging), but no frothing of wake at the stern as I was expecting. I was more than a little interested now, as I had never seen an outboard behave this way. I thought briefly that it was a jet, but even a jet produces disturbed water. The skipper gave the engine a quick burst of power, and then walked back and looked at it, evidently as bewildered as I and several others in the area had become.
He went back to the helm, turned off the engine and raised it out of the water. Because of my position about 40′ behind him, I got a first look at the prop shaft. He had no propeller, and at first I thought that he’d spun one off. But, in thinking about it, there had never been prop wash, even for a moment.
I could tell by his face that he was just as surprised to see a bare shaft as I was. In talking to him later, after he’d pulled the boat out of the water again, I learned that he’d just put a new propeller on the boat (after hitting the original one on a rock in an Oregon river this summer) and had spent $600 total to do that. He remembers thinking that “Someone could just steal this!” and then letting the thought go. And someone had. Probably at his home in Redding, California, on the curb where he leaves his boat all day and night, and likely during the day when he was at work. He figures the thief would have taken about 3 minutes to dislodge his cotter pin, nut and thrust washer and remove the propeller … and all he’d need was a multi-tool or a pair of needle nose pliers.
I’ve never had problems with the aluminum prop on my lake boat, and it and Kokomo live at home (which is, these days, well off the beaten path on our own acreage) near Paradise, CA. But I got to thinking that the two props on my boat were pretty valuable (stainless steel, etc.) and would make a thief a quick $1000+ if they were stolen. Aside from the expense of replacing the props, there was the reality of traveling somewhere to use the boat (usually at least a 4 hour proposition) and finding, upon arrival, that your carefully-pampered outboards don’t have what they need to ‘go’ (though I can’t imagine leaving for such a trip without checking the props). NOTE: This fella had traveled 2 hours further than I had (6 hours) to get to the marina, and had no idea where to go to find a propeller and the mounting kit for his boat.
I decided to take affirmative action, and did research on the propeller locks that are out there. I settled on McGard propeller locks, ordered them, and had them on Kokomo the following week. In doing my research, I learned that, in California, one of every 24 stainless propellers is stolen (according to the guy who sold me the locks)! This includes the props on lots of boats that are not trailerable (it’s evidently easy to remove them in the water too, and the thief – who does his work underwater – is less prone to being seen/caught). Alarming. The McGard locks mount in about 10 minutes (once I had the original prop nut, cotter pin and the thrust washer removed) and are designed to simply spin if someone without the “key” tries to remove them. I’m impressed with the quality of these locks, and only a little concerned about operating the engines without cotter pins on the propeller shafts (the McGard system requires torquing to their specifications and relies on other than the cotter pin method to secure the prop). I liked the product well enough that I also purchased one for the prop on my Volvo SX outdrive on the ski boat.


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