Friday, May 26, 2017

100 Best Buys--Chapter 4

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.


With any sport, the most vital gear is that which controls your point of contact:

Rock Climbing
  • Shoes
  • Chalk for fingers
Ice Climbing
  • Crampons and boots
  • Ice axes
  • Gloves
  • Glove
  • Cleats
  • Shoes and cleats
  • Padded gloves
  • Padded shorts
For the sailor this no different. Proper gloves make gripping lines easier, and smaller, smoother lines run through the blocks better than thick, fuzzy monstrosities.  You can grab a wire stay when the boat lurches with impunity and no fear of injury. Proper shoes keep your feet glued to the deck. The rest of your clothes are just a fashion statement in fair weather.

The same goes for the deck. Designers like graceful curves, but they can be treacherous. One bad fall, resulting in serious injury, could erase all the fun of a 30-year sailing career in an instant. And a good sticky deck makes sailing more fun.

Technically, this step under the helm seat should get a more aggressive non-skid treatment, but the recycled teak/holly steps was so pretty I couldn't bring myself to cover it. It really is not a fall area, since you are still in the seat, behind the wheel.

16. Salted Varnish. One of the most traditional non-skid finishes is simple sand or some other grit deposited onto still-wet paint. The problem is that the grit comes loose, is rough on clothes, and is tough to sand off to refinish. You can achieve nearly as effective a non-skid surface with salt. When it is time for the last coat, mask it off (leaving the the edges shiny looks neat), lay on an extra heavy coating, and then sprinkle liberally with coarse salt. A grinder works well. You can't really over do it. The salt will create a rough surface after it dissolves. There is no effect on color or longevity, and it sands off easily for recoating. And it's free.

However, this is not a very aggressive non-skid. It's perfect for cabin soles and places where looks matter, but not for heeling decks, steps, and critical areas. For those, there are better products.

The wide section is 4-inch tape neatly fitted edge-to-edge. It's 7 years old at this point.I liked the way I was able to hide it within a per-existing area of black gelcoat.

17. 3M Grip Tape. Where grip really matters--the edges of steps and on steep slopes--there is no substitute for the aggressive grip of 3M Safety Walk 600. I wouldn't use this where people sit--it will grind their pants off--but it's saved countless falls. Expensive, but durable and much cheaper than hospital bills. A roll is expensive, but maybe you can find someone to split it with. I got a leftover roll from a trucking company; they considered it a trivial left over after their annual fleet maintenance, but for me, it was plenty.

18. Kiwi Grip. When the molded-in texture fails and the grip could really use a little refinishing. Kiwi Grip has repeatedly been ranked number one by Practical Sailor and other sailing magazines, and user experiences have been very positive. Mix well, apply with special roller, and expect ten to twenty years of good service, depending on use (you may need to touch up high wear areas, but that is easy). The non-skid on my PDQ 32 is very similar (gelcoat applied with the same roller giving the same finish) and I really like it. It is also easier to clean than molded non-skid.

Aging Sperry Harbor Masters. I rubbed a hole on the upper wear I brace against the cockpit, so I slapped on some Sunbrella with 3M4200. The repair will outlast the shoe.

19. Sperry Harbor Master. Yup, I had to throw in my favorite shoe. I like solid shoes that give grip, all-day support, and toe protection. I do wear Choco sandals in very hot weather and Vibram 5-Fingers in my kayak, but deck shoes are the work horse, summer and winter. The Sperry Sea Kite line is very good too (same sole, dressier upper).

20. Cleaning the Non-Skid. The problem, invariably, is algae and lichen, not just dirt. These organism put down roots, and the easier way to break them loose is to kill them first. In a few days to a few weeks, they lose their grip and come off easily, often with the rain. You can try to remove them more immediately with scrubbing and remove the stains with bleach, but it's hard work and they will come back sooner, since the roots aren't dead. Instead, hit them with an algaecide containing benzalkonium chloride, and come back later, either a few hours (good) or next week (better). Then scrub with any deck soap. It will come much cleaner with less work.

And that is how I keep from sliding around. Pretty cheap, 3M tape excepted.

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