Sunday, May 7, 2017

100 Best Buys--Chapter 1

What follows, spread over many installments, will be a listing of products I've found that really work and are good values. Some are artifacts of Practical Sailor testing. Some spring from my own experiences, good and bad. Most will be sailing gear or supplies, but I may sneak a few climbing items in here and there--there are probably cross-over applications.

I think of this as an adjunct to my book "Keeping a Cruising Book for Peanuts," although certainly there will be overlap. I could organize them by subject, but I think a miss-mash will be more fun. I also predict this project will extend well past 100 over time. I've tested a lot of stuff. Many of these items were mentioned in some prior post--use the search function to find more information.

While you're at it, subscribe to Practical Sailor Magazine. They do a lot more product testing than I do, including topics I avoid, such as electronics, insurance, and boat reviews. The product descriptions are better, there are comparisons and options, and the test methods are explained. One good find--or bad purchase avoided--and it'll be the smartest $39.94 you'll ever spend.

I use a Dyneema leader with a tubular webbing chafe sleeve, just to make it lighter yet. Try doing this with a 35-pound anchor and 20 feet of chain.

1.  Fortress Anchors. Without question, the best anchor for very soft mud, the bane of Chesapeake Bay sailor's existence. I have a Fortress FX-16. I have actually used this 12-pound aluminum anchor to drag my Manson Supreme 35 during testing. Does this make it the best all-around anchor? Not by a long shot. I like all of the new scoop anchors, and for all around use, I like them better than the Fortress, but if you need grip in mud or you need to row and anchor out, Fortress is the trick.

Fits an industry standard 2 x 10 filter housing. Doesn't restrict the flow.

2. Pentek FloPlus 10 Carbon Block Water Filter Element. Perfect for final filtration on a boat, the fine passages of this carbon block element remove particles (and cysts and bacteria) down to 0.5 microns, earning it an NSF 53 rating. Unlike other 0.5 micron carbon block elements, the FloPlus 10 does not restrict water flow. Like any carbon element, it removes most tastes and large amounts of chlorine. Read this post on drinking water filtration for the complete story on how to provide safe, high-quality water on your boat. Fits any industry-standard 2x10 filter housing.

 Davit tackle is just one of many applications. about 1000-pound WLL.
Practical Sailor Spoiler Alert: Notice how this tackle is reeved at a 90 degree angle,rather than square? They tun much smoother this way, In fact, many tackles are best reeved in some counter intuitive manner. This will be discussed in an up-coming article.

3. Wire Gate Climbing Carabiners.  Great for climbing... and just as useful on the boat. The simple bent stainless steel wire and anodized finish makes them practically corrosion proof, they are 1/3 the weight of their marine counter parts (won't chip the deck when you drop them) stronger, and MUCH better tested. They are polished and refined such that they never catch on a rope--climbers won't buy a biner they can fire on and off the rope with a single hand, with gloves on, blindfolded. Finally, they are much cheaper, the result of mass production--there are more climbers than there are sailors, and they buy a lot more biners.There are many excellent brands--all are suitable if they are CE and UIAA rated. Camp offers a good value, as do Trango (illustrated) and Mad Rock. I've never seen any real advantage in premium brands.Yes, in the most severe applications they will corrode before all-stainless biners (I use some near the waterline for mooring), but they will still last a decade or more, providing better performance the whole time. I've taken all of the stainless biners off my boat.

DEET top, nepetalactone (catnip) bottom.

4. For Biting Flies--Catnip Spray.  Sounds silly and "herbal." I'm a chemical guy. But in research for a better fly repellent, this is what the USDA came up with for horse flies, and they were testing it against DEET and other chemicals. It turns out that the key ingredient in catnip is similar to DEET and is just the thing for flies. It doesn't last long, but it is cheap, easy to apply, and isn't nasty and messy like DEET. It won't ruin plastics, so you can go nuts. There is no smell, and our cat did react to it on our legs when we came home. Any pet store should have it.

Still 180F after an hour. The WonderBag will hold a pot of stew over 150F for 8 hours, and actually has higher average temperatures than a crock pot. Google it!

5. Retained Heat Cooking. Simply put, if you boil the food and then place it in a well-insulated container, it will continue to cook just as sure if it were on the flame. Perfect for rice--never burned, never dry. Soups and stews work well. The real beauty is that you don't have the heat and humidity in the cabin, and that you don't have to watch the stove--you can go play and it will never burn. Google "retained heat cooking" for loads of information and recipes. The Wonder Bag works well, and they donate one into the third world for each sale. The Shuttle Chef by Thermos is a good choice for monohulls--it is sealed and thus can be used underway. 4-8 layers of fleece blanket also work well.

And there we have it. Five of my favorites, in no particular order. I'll be back with the rest, 5 at a time.

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