Sunday, May 14, 2017

100 Best Buys--Chapter 2

This will be a weekly feature for the next five months. I figure a goal will keep the pressure on.

I think of this as an adjunct to my book "Keeping a Cruising Book for Peanuts," although certainly there is some overlap. 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. The product descriptions are better, there are comparisons and options, and the test methods are explained. They research stuff I avoid, like electronics. One good find--or bad purchase avoided--and it'll be the smartest $39.94 you'll ever spend.

Pointed aft, the Borra helps move the AC around, point towards the heater (right), it spread the heat. Very quiet.

6. Cabin Fans. The Caframo Borra is my new favorite, after I had three Hella Turbos fail in a two week period, one with flames and two with smoke. The four was moved to the helm position, where I figure I can keep an eye on it. The Borra got a "best" rating from Practical Sailor, it is quieter than the turbo, moves more air, and the direction is easier and the setting more secure. They have done a superior job of both cooling and distributing heat and cold. In nine years there have been no glitches (the Turbos failed at 11 years, so I guess I should cross my fingers).

[A reader, below, reported trouble with the switch within a few years. The PS test in 2009 noted one failure. My understanding is that the switch was redesigned, but perhaps problems persist.]

7. Home Depot Caulk that Works. Locktite PL S40 is a polyurethane caulk with physical characteristics and durability that match 3M 4200 for one third the price. Like all polyurethane caulks, humidity is the curing agent. Additionally, it is messy to work with, so always mask the work area, wipe thin with a finger, and then peal the tape before it skins over. Available in Black (PL S30) and other colors.

A strong jackline anchor with no new holes. The webbing protects the lashing from the sun. There is a backing plate on the underside. 

8. Stainless Steel Climbing Bolt Hangers. My favorite hard point for attaching deck cargo, anchoring  jacklines, and clipping safety tethers. They are well-tested, clip carabiners smoothly, and best of all, require only a single mounting bolt. This means I can often mount them by simply removing an existing mounting bolt and inserting a 3/8-inch bolt in its place (required to meet rated strength). Metolious is one of my favorite brands, but any climbing gear with a UIAA stamp is safe. Like wire gate climbing biners, the secret of low price is mass production and simple, rugged design.

9. Star Brite Cleaner and Degreaser. I'm usually the first one to say "formulate your own" or buy something from Home Depot, but this one has saved my bacon a few times, powering black oil and grease out of porous gelcoat. I'm almost out and need to buy more.

These really save your ribs when you take a long stumble.

10. Dynamic Climbing rope, 8mm. Perfect for shock-absorbing traveler control lines (mine are ~ 55 feet), shock-absorbing safety tethers (2 x 11 feet), and shock absorbing bridles/snubbers (2 x 38 feet, for boats under 36 feet) . That's only 150 feet, or just 79 feet if you skip the bridle. The Beal Rando (UIAA 1/2 rope) is available as a 30 meter glacier rope, or you can buy it by-the-foot from Mountain Equipment Coop. I did all three, using a lightly used 150-foot ice climbing rope I had just retired.


  1. Drew, I'm surprised you have had such good luck with the Caframo Bora fans. I bought 4 based on the Practical Sailor review and 3 of them had switch failures within 2 or 3 years. The switch is the grey button in the middle which you push to change speed or turn the fan on or off. I ended up splicing in a simple on/off rotary switch in the power line, but the fans are no longer variable speed. They all 3 default to the highest setting now. I guess it's better than bursting into flames, but I was still a little disappointed.

    Chris Willis

  2. From your Metolious link to Amazon

    "Not for use in marine environments"


  3. Re. "not for marine environments."

    There have been a few failures in sea cliffs, where the combination of rock chemistry and repeated wet/dry cycles caused corrosion. However, these bolt hangers are made from the same 316 stainless that most marine fittings are made from. Stainless can always fail around saltwater--your standing rigging, for example--but this warning is specific to installation in specific rock types and is not relevant to boats. I have not seen any deterioration in those installed on boats, and I have been using them for two decades. I just pulled and inspected (two days ago) several that have been in service for 12 years.