Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Flashlight Winners!

We have some winners! First, a bit about our process. We looked at all the suggestions for flashlights and came away with two conclusions. First, for catching attention over a distance, a strobe is the right tool, but for pinpointing your location to a visible rescuer, a flashlight works well, and since that was the focus of the analysis, we stuck with those for the analysis and contest. Second, there are many, many, many varieties of flashlights out there. We compared six of them online like a shopper would looking at standardized qualities like Lumens (brightness), effective distance, size, and other features. We treated it like an aggressive research and buying campaign, and publications like Practical Sailor and Consumer Reports might go a bit farther in their research, but we came to some conclusions, and a recommendation. You can see the complete analysis by downloading this Excel spreadsheet.

When it comes to the ideal flashlight, someone asked "how much is your life worth," but we didn't think a very expensive or bulky flashlight would save your life if you couldn't afford to buy it, or found it too big to actually carry on your lifejacket. For example, the best combination of brightness, implied durability, size/weight, and all-around life-saving potential has to go to the Sure Fire LED Titan, but at $250 per light, it just doesn't seem realistic that many average sailors will go pick one up, when for safety purposes, a strobe and personal EPIRB will also compete for a sailor's dollar. The MagLite XL50 is very cool, offering a very bright light that dials back to 25% power with a click -- and with a third click, turns into a strobe -- but seemed too bulky to live on a lifejacket at almost 5" long with 1" diameter. It seems good as a boat or car light, but not a personal one.

Instead, we chose the Pelican Tracker 2140. It's average size for a "small" flashlight but its Xenon bulb throws light an estimated 80 meters -- and made a visible spot on the sail loft wall 120 feet away in daytime. It's not round but oblong with a plastic casing, and powered by two AAA batteries. At $19 (less on Amazon) it's priced so anyone can afford one or two, and it's small enough to live permanently on a lifejacket or harness, as well as in a pocket. For the purposes of this analysis, it seemed the best bet.

So, we have two prize winners, the first chosen randomly from all our Facebook friends, the second, from those who submitted suggestions. The first is Shannon Ayer of Plantation, Florida. The second, from submissions, is Steffi Schiffer of Fort Lauderdale. Thanks for "liking" and helping us, and we'll hunt around for another fun contest! Stay safe on the water, and have fun.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flashlight Submissions... so far!

The list so far of safety flashlight submissions from our Facebook post gives a gadget freak a big reason to smile. I've consolidated and summarized what people sent, either on the Facebook page or direct in e-mails, along with links to the manufacturers' sites for your browsing pleasure. We're cross-checking some of these with some other public-source tests that have been done to narrow the list for some recommendations (and awards!). Though our focus was/is on flashlights after the Wing Nuts stories, dedicated strobes seemed smart, popular, and we figured we'd include them in the research (but not the contest!).

CMG/Gerber -- Infinity Ultra 22-80012
Sure Fire -- T1A Titan
Maglite -- XL50 LED Light/Strobe, and 2AA Cell Version
Pelican -- Super Sabrelite, Mytilite
Peak LED

ACR -- Firefly, Seastrobe
Maglite -- XL50 LED Light/Strobe

Also, chemical light-sticks available at any hardware or camping store, and small signal mirrors were also recommended as essential, affordable, and reliable products. Stay tuned for further insight on our main focus here, the flashlights themselves.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Torque Rope Test Run

Loose-luff furling sails have grown in popularity with the rise in quality of torque ropes. Torque ropes refer to the category of rope that does not rotate (or not much) under tension. When you pull it tight, and turn one end, the other end turns. In a headsail application, this lets you use it in the front of a jib without a permanent furling unit with aluminum extrusions up the forestay, the kind almost all furling systems use. Instead, a Code Zero furler is used, either the continuous line variety, or a more traditional single-line style. The furling drum shackles to a spliced loop (reinforced) in the rope at the tack of the sail, and its counterpart head swivel shackles into the loop at the head. The only thing connecting the furling parts is the torque rope, enclosed inside the luff of the sail. While less-expensive low-stretch rope options can be used on a continuous line furler that wuill still roll up the sail if you're going to take it down immediately, if you're going to leave it up and furled, torque rope is the only way to make sure you get a tight roll, especially at the head, which can sometimes stick out unfurled and tempt the breeze to pry it open and unfurled.

Scott Loomis from our Stuart loft just installed a torque rope jib on an Aerorig that had no forestay. Rather than add metal weight, the owner chose a torque rope setup to hang the jib between the end of the forward boom and the top of the mast. The following photos show the result.

Here, the sail is at full deployment, sheeting nicely to the single-point sheet location.

Here is the sail furling:

And here is the head of the fully-furled sail:

Torque ropes have evolved nicely, and allow loose-luffed headsails without permanent stays. They need certain rigging changes, like (ideally) a two-to-one low-stretch halyard to prevent luff sag, and a strong attachment point on deck. With these, torque rope sails can serve as inner heavy-weather jibs behind a genoa on the forestay, or as Code Zeros or light genoas forward of the forestay. Both could be left up and furled when not in use, or easily removed for added safety.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Second of Two Killer Articles

Like Ed Baird, I've sailed all my life, though at a slightly less competitive level. As the father of kids moving into sailing, though, my priorities have shifted somewhat. His explanation mirrors mine, but like his racing, so much better.

Ed Baird discusses priorities as a sailing father.

Monday, February 14, 2011

First of Two Great Interviews

The first interview online caught my eye because he's a client -- Buddy Stockwell, with a Lagoon 38, proudly flying a Doyle Spinnaker. His interview on the fun and perils of cruising his cat around the Caribbean makes for a great read. Here's a sample:

Those “Blue Lagoon” dream destinations are still out there, but with the growing cruising population, in some areas down south cruisers have now moved in, become liveaboards, and are there in such numbers that they obscure the local culture and diminish the authenticity of what once was. Also, it is of note to mention that cruisers are now as diverse as the people in your subdivision back home. They run the gamut all the way from what we all usually envision as “nice folks out cruising” to dangerous criminals and the mentally ill. That is why one should be very cautious about become “fast friends” with new acquaintances while cruising. Just because someone lives on a boat does not mean anything at all as to what kind of person they are or whether you should allow them on your vessel or go aboard theirs. When you head out cruising, take you streets smarts aboard with you.

Interview with Buddy Stockwell, Indigo Moon

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sexy Squaretops with Downplayed Dangers

Lagoon and other catamaran manufacturers have begun offering square top mainsails with their boats. As a sailmaker with long experience with catamaran mainsails, I'm concerned the allure of these is blinding some people to possible risks. Comments about how the square top head adds light air performance and allows the sail to de-power in heavy air are technically correct, but there are potential down-sides no one's talking about. Like any innovation, such as early roller-furling units and in-boom furling systems, time will tell. Here are the issues of concern to me.

The flat head of the sail is supported by a diagonal batten that is not (easily) removable. If the head ring stayed against the mast, it would stick up out of the Cradle Cover, or Lagoon's lighter version of it, like a dorsal fin. Lagoon's OEM sailmaker, Incidence, has developed a system that allows the head ring to fall back away from the mast when the halyard is loose.

It uses a low-stretch cascading line that loosens when the sail comes down, and this slack allows the head ring to drift away from the headboard carraige so the head of the sail can be stowed. In reverse, when the sail gets to the top of the mast and the luff of the sail is pulled tight, the tight line pulls the head ring up against the headboard carraige, into proper position. This is just like a tack-area jackline used on some older boats, it's just located at the head.

Here is a photo with the head very loose so it can enter the cover:

Here it is getting closer to the spar:

Here it is tight against the spar:

In theory, this all works great and they may have have made it happen well in practice. I have supplied one sail in the manner and quickly realized that the system depends on the integrity of the line. You want a very strong, chafe resistant line on one hand, because it must bear the load of the second-heaviest corner of the sail, and it has to run through the stainless rings, and sit in the same place over and over. But you want it skinny and slippery so the line actually moves and allows the head to fall back when the sail is down. Even when this compromise is achieved, and Lagoon/Incidence may have done so, I caution people to carry a spare of that line, and check it frequently. If it did begin to fail, it's easily replaced. Even without the right line, it could be temporarily lashed or shackled to the head car(s) in a pinch. But in my experience, too many sailors just don't check things like this, and will only find out about the danger when it breaks while reefed and the head pulls back away from the mast in 30 knots.

Second, halyard tension is critical. If the halyard is loose from stretch, slippage, or just lazy hoisting at full sail or when reefed, it means the head of the sail will be lower, and the head jackline will be loose. This will let the head ring drift aft a bit and increase the load on the batten fitting and surrounding sailcloth just below it. This could lead to premature failure of the batten fitting or odd stretch to the head of the sail. Again, proper halyard tension prevents this, but in the real world, such things don't always happen.

In general, when one of my clients wants more area, I just increase the girths of the sails, exaggerating the width of the sail to provide the same area. Technically speaking, a higher-aspect flat-top will be more effective upwind -- but let's face it, these are large, heavy catamarans, and I don't yet believe this marginal aerodynamic improvement will mean much compared to a standard sail, and certainly not to an increased-roach sail, on a boat this big and heavy. Also, for the argument that says they de-power in light wind, that's also technically true, but when they de-power they are spilling breeze by twisting back to the profile of a normal roach sail. If there's little benefit in the flat-top in light wind, and it offers the same benefit in heavy wind, there's not much of a net benefit at all -- other than they look very cool.

On balance, this is something new and sexy that many people are rushing for, just like a beautiful woman at a bar. But like in that case, too, getting what you want sometimes has associated consequences you might not learn until nine months later. Incidence and Lagoon may have it figured out, and if they don't break, the concerns listed here are unfounded. They deserve to be commended for trying something new, and I can tell it sure helps sell boats, so just keep your eyes open!

Just make sure when you drop your main and the head cascades neatly away from the mast, it calls into a Doyle Cradle Cover!

I encourage anyone with more time sailing with these to post your experience, good or bad, to share what you know so we can keep making this product better.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grab This!

One of our clients Anne Stewart, CS 33 s/y Grey Ghost uses mountain climbing ascenders for grabbing lines. You can even use two hands.

I thought I'd seen it all from what we refer to as uses from other industries.

This is the bomb

"Problems"? No! Rewards.

In response to concerns on the Lagoon message board by someone thinking of buying a boat but not wanting one with “problems,” Dave Wheeler had the following response I found particularly insightful for its honesty and accuracy.


I have to jump in here and say this. I have owned a Lagoon 410 for three years, a 38' twin diesel motor yacht for five before that and a 34'
Gemini 105 for 5 years before that. Living on the water in florida most of the times I have had two boats. A small runabout for socializing and a bigger boat for trips.

Boats aren't much different from houses. The bigger and more elaborate the more care they need. But if you are fixing up a house or boat you are going to be looking at more work and more problems. However don't just by the boat with all the gadgets thinking all is good. Most of the stuff will be the wrong equipment for your use, installed wrong or just plain junk. When pricing and buying boats it is important to ensure it fits YOUR needs. The price of the survey is the best insurance and really really go over it with the surveyor . Your shopping needs to start at what are you going to use the boat for and what are your plans. I would not own a boat with a mast over 65 feet because in our cruising area, it is important to have the option to stay on the Inter Coastal Waterway vs getting beat up outside. But that is the east coast of the US. Your situation may be different.

Bottom line with average TLC you can maintain a boat pretty easy. But when you are doing upgrades, replacing engines or equipment it can get pretty complicated and expensive, Also some folks (even on here) love to work on their boat as a hobby. Is it 100% necessary ? Not to maybe you or me but to them it is. Priorities always have to be on safety, comfort and sail ability and with that we could fill the user group up on what that entails. I like to do all my work myself because when you are out sailing or on a trip , help may not be available, so being able to depend on yourself gives piece of mind. Big question is what are you going to do with the boat and how far from home are you going to travel and the type of sailing. Like most things in life, the reward sometimes out weighs the work and sacrifice to get there.