Likes and Dislikes (Quick Product Reviews)

Live-Aboard/Cruising History:
We took Mary T, our 1984 Morgan 38-4, from Annapolis, MD, to Halifax, NS and then back down the coast to as far south as Long Island in the Bahamas in 2007-2008.
Additional cruises include:
2009 Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
2010-2011 Bahamas
2012 Maine
2013 Florida
2014 Nova Scotia and Newfoundland
2014-2015 Florida, Mexico, Belize and Guatemala
2016-2019 Rio Dulce Guatemala

Several other cruisers have asked us about the equipment we had and how we liked it. Here are our opinions going first, horizontally from bow to stern. Then, we will cover various products from the top of the mast to the bottom paint. We may not cover every item, especially what came with the boat when we bought her in 2003.

From Bow to Stern
For our first trip, we upgraded our 35 lb CQR to a 45 lb Suncor Plowmaster. The intention was only to get a larger CQR but the Suncor was for sale online at the right price. We had only one unnerving anchor dragging event which we attribute to our lack of attention to the weather forecast. Otherwise, the Plowmaster worked well on both the brait.jpgnorthern and southern trips. We had 100 feet of 5/16 high test chain spliced to 300 feet of 5/8″ Yale nylon brait. The splice proved to be problematic after a few weeks. We’re not sure why but it would not go down the anchor rode hawse hole without manual assistance. Our windlass is a vertical electric Lofrans Progress II.windlass-lofrans.jpg We believe that the route the rode must follow with the vertical configuration has too many bends in close proximity for the splice to move appropriately. If we had an horizontal windlass, it probably would not be an issue. As it is, we may re-do our primary rode, probably going to 150 or even 200 feet of chain with a splice to the brait. We have enlarged the hawse hole somewhat, but that didn’t make much difference.

Manson_Supreme_8.jpgSo, in 2010, we got 200 feet of 5/8″ chain spliced to 200 feet of Yale brait. Now, it would have to be a rather extreme situation where we would go beyond the splice. We’ve saved the old rode as a backup. We sold our Suncor plow and are currently using a 45 lb. Manson Supreme. We considered the Rocna but the shape of it’s stock would prevent a good fit in our bow roller. We have a very low roller furler drum that does not offer much room for angled stocks.  Anyone researching anchors on the Internet will no doubt find extensive pros and cons written about the Manson. Our experience, however, is very positive.  So far, after going to the Bahamas and back, along with a summer in Maine and another voyage to Newfoundland, we’re very satisfied with the Manson. Our only problematic situations were in the Bahamas. One was at the southern end of Rock Sound, Eleuthera, where to bottom is very marly. It took us several tries to find a spot that was soft enough. The other was at Grand Cay where the kelp was too thick and kept our anchor from getting a good enough grip.

We found that we rarely had to use more than 140 feet of rode. The remainder that we carry is for extreme occasions. The long rode was handy when laying out a second anchor. We could just feed out more of the first anchor rode to the point where we could then drop the second one off the stern and then bring the line up to the bow.

windline.jpgWe really wish we had a second bow roller. We managed with a Windline rail mount anchor bracket for our 25 lb Danforth. We initially mounted it on the pulpit and kept the rode in the port side cockpit locker but later moved it to the stern rail and mounted the rode on a horseshoe buoy holder next to it. This was out of the way but very inconvenient. The second rode consists of 25 feet of 5/16 high test chain and 150 feet of three-strand nylon. In addition, we had a 35 lb Delta stowed in the portside cockpit locker and 250 feet of 5/8″ three-strand nylon rode stowed in the space aft of the forward water tank in the V-berth. There is another rode in the cockpit locker but we don’t remember the length.

Our typical scope was 5 to 1 and we would pay it out slowly and back down on it revving the engine to about 1500 to 2000 rpms. In the Bahamas, we would either use our glass bottom bucket or dive down to inspect the anchor. The bucket was well worth the $25.00, or whatever it was, that we paid.

dscn1780.JPGOur Lofrans windlass is mounted on the deck anchor rode locker with the motor located in the locker. This allows the rode to fall straight down to the deepest point in the lower rode locker but renders the deck locker inoperable. That was a trade-off we made reluctantly at first but aside from the splice issue mentioned above, our rode moves in and out without snags. We may add a 5 or 6 inch screw in access hole to regain some of the space in the deck locker.

We had to ship the motor back to Imtra in the fall of 2011 after it stopped working on, coincidently what was our final sail of the season. The motor came back about a month later and has been working fine ever since.

We also had a Windline anchor lock which we had to replace. On several occasions we forgot to take the pin out when pressing on the retrieve button of the windlass and bent the pin so it jammed.chainstopper.jpg This mistake required a hammer and chisel to rectify. We have sinced installed a Windline chain stopper in its place. This item allows the chain to come in but, when deployed, stops the chain from going forward.

Also on the wish list is a crash bar under the pulpit, in front of the anchor. We hit a piling un-docking in very windy conditions that deformed the pulpit slightly but enough to make the life lines on the port side sag. A crash bar would have helped us glance off.

We added a retractable inner forestay when we had the windlass installed. This is for use of a storm jib in winds above 30 knots or whenever we feel that a partially furled genoa is inappropriate. We then bought a used sail from Bacon’s in Annapolis that seemed to fit when at the dock but was terrible under windy conditions. It just didn’t set properly. We learned this after only a few days out but kept the sail in hopes of finding someplace where we could get it re-cut. It wasn’t until our second visit to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, that we were fortunate enough to have Andreas Josenhans of North Sails come out and evaluate our sail. He informed us that it was not sturdy enough to begin with and would require adding new tracks to get it to set properly. His recommendation was a high cut storm jib that could use the current inner tracks. We eventually bought one from North Sails a couple of months later at the Annapolis Boat Show. We are fortunate that we didn’t encounter any conditions that called for a storm sail. Actually, a lot of our good fortune with the weather was the result of not having a schedule. If strong winds or other unfavorable weather was predicted, we would stay put.

While we like the comfort of the inner forestay option, it did not really earn its keep. When we did use it, it was more just to use it because we had it. We could have gotten by with a furled genoa. The inner forestay is kept on the starboard side attached to the base of the aft lower shroud and pulled forward and taught by a small line that is attached to the base of the forward lower shroud. This arrangement worked well and did not require any additional hardware except for a special ring welded to the clevis pin on the aft lower shroud. The inner forestay is not in the way and does not hit the spreaders. It could be removed totally if we went up the mast and un-did it from its keyhole fitting.

All our rigging work and more, was done by West River Rigging. We’ve been very pleased with their service and quality and highly recommend them (unfortunately, they went out of business in 2011).

Moving aft, we took two 5 gallon Scepterdieseljug.jpg jerry jugs for diesel on the northern part of our trip but didn’t really need them. We had fashioned a lashing board that we mounted with U bolts to the stanchions amid ship where the life-line gates are. This was good for balance and movement around the deck but they were in the way of the deck fills for the water and holding tanks if on the starboard or the diesel fill on the port. We tried both the starboard on the northern portion and then the port on the southern voyage. We added one gas and one potable water jug for the southern trip. We used all four jugs regularly in the Bahamas. We bought a second gas jug but didn’t really need it when all was said and done. We would have been better off with another water jug. We did have two 5 gallon collapsible jugs for water but they are not as easy to transport long distances which is necessary in the Bahamas. One collapsible developed pin-hole leaks but was still usable.

eu2000i.jpgThe gas was necessary for our Honda EU 2000i portable generator. This was stowed on the stern and locked with a bicycle U lock to the stern rail. We saw these on probably 60% or more of sailboats in the Bahamas. Even boats that had wind generators and solar panels had them. We believe that this was one of the best pieces of equipment we had on board. We purchased ours from when we had returned to the Chesapeake from the north and were re-provisioning for the southern trip. We ran it when at anchor, for about two hours a day. Our main consumer of power is our Frigoboat refrigeration system. But wait, our tour of equipment has jumped to the stern. Let’s go back forward and inside.

We have a Raritan PHII head that we had to do a minor rebuild on while in Maine. We had the kit that includes various valves and washers and found that the task wasn’t too onerous. It did make a big difference when completed. We had also installed, before we left, the Raritan Concentrate marine toilet deodorant cleaner and lubricant kit before we left along with replacement of all head hoses. The concentrate really does make a difference and we highly recommend it. The daily use of the head does take a toll on the various valves and other parts no matter what you do and so replaced the entire pump assembly upon return to Annapolis. We believe it’s very important to stay ahead on head maintenance.

force10seacookstove.jpgWe still have the original alcohol stove and find it adequate. Amy does most of the cooking and has never been thwarted by limitations of the Galley Maid. We have had many fabulous meals, too. Acquisition of stove fuel was never a problem. We also have a Force 10 Sea Cook stove mounted on the interior bulkhead to starboard as you come down the companion way–right where your head would be if you sat at the nav table. The mount is detachable so we could move it when not in use. It was used for quick cooking of soup or boiling water for coffee. The Sea Cook, along with the Honda EU 2000i were two of the most valuable additions to the boat. Finding the 16oz propane canisters was somewhat tricky in the Bahamas but we never ran out. Originally, the cans were stored in a PVC tube that we made and attached to the stern rail. Sailor’s Solutions ( sells them but they are easy to make yourself. We lost ours on the way back from the Bahamas in a very bad disembarking from the St. Augustine Municipal Marina.

sonyshortwave.jpgWe purchased and installed a single sideband radio during our month long return to the Chesapeake between the northern and southern trips. We had read so many articles that recommended an SSB for any trip outside of US waters that we were convinced. In retrospect, while it’s great as a safety item, we could have gotten by just fine with our Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM Shortwave World Band Receiver with Single Side Band Reception. ssb.jpgIt picked up the Chris Parker Bahamas weather report as well as the ICOM 710 we bought. Since we didn’t use our SSB much for talking with other cruisers, we could have saved a lot of money. But, if we had had a real need for two way  communication, we would have been kicking ourselves for not going with the SSB. So, we think of it as insurance. We have since bought a Pactor modem. This item, plus a SailMail membership,  allows us to use our SSB for e-mail. True, there are other, less expensive  options for e-mail, but this setup has a lot of time-tested success and reliable coverage outside the US.

While we are talking about radios, let us tell you about all that we have. Our VHF was an ICOM 422 mounted next to the nav station. And although it was working perfectly well, we replaced it in April of 2012 with a Standard Horizon with built in AIS. We then wired the SH radio to our Raymarine C80 chartplotter so we could see the AIS targets there, as well as on the radio. This is much more informative. We added an on/off toggle switch for those times when we’re in a crowded harbor in daylight and the alarm keeps going off.

We also had an ICOM floating handheld that really did float. Unfortunately it went in to the drink at a very inopportune time while we were locking through at Great Bridge. We could only watch it float as we had to move our boat in a hurry lest we incur the wrath of the lockmasters. We kept looking as the next group of boats were locking through but never saw it again. Hopefully, some other cruiser was able to rescue it and use it wisely. We had gotten it for free anyway. It was a promotion from Winslow that we talked our way into even though we had bought our life raft prior to the promotion.

We also have a Standard handheld and ordered a second ICOM that a friend brought when he visited us in the Bahamas. The Standard is our dedicated dinghy handheld and the ICOM is our backup.

So, what life raft did we get? We went with a six-person Winslow standard offshore with inflatable floor. It’s probably the most expensive item that we hope we never use. Like the SSB, it’s insurance.

ed_compact_portable_pump_kit.gifSpeaking of insurance we used to have BoatUS insurance but have since switched to IMIS as they insure you if you go beyond North America and the Bahamas. Like BoatUS, they let  you pay as you go.

We do continue to buy unlimited towing insurance from BoatUS, which is a very worthwhile. We have used it multiple times in our cruises south. None going north. Two other major emergency items that we bought were an ACR Globalfix 406 category II EPIRB and a big Edson portable bilge pump.

As mentioned earlier, we had a Frigoboat refrigeration system installed into our ice box. The  compressor is located on a fabricated shelf in the port cockpit locker. A divider was added at the point where the two lids meet. We have the icebox on the outboard side and the frig on the inboard. While we wanted to do a complete re-make of the box, we didn’t have the time or money. reflectix.jpgSo, we glued in four layers of Reflectix (foil covered bubble wrap) which has served us so well we won’t be replacing it anytime soon. We also used two layers of this stuff in the ceiling between the liner and the deck. It’s very easy to work with as it cuts with a scissors. There are much better ways to insulate but Reflectix is serving us well enough for now.

Back forward and insulation related, we had condensation form under the V-berth on our northern trip. We guess it was due to the cold water we were sailing in. So, upon return to the Chesapeake, we order HyperVent condensation preventer from This took care of that problem. We used the leftover scraps to line various storage compartments that were under the water line.

slamhatch.jpgSpeaking of storage compartments our head had two screwed and caulked panels covering valuable storage space. One, behind the toilet, the other under the shower seat. We removed those and put in Tempress slam hatches which required cutting on one side to enlarge each hole by about an inch. The space gained was very rewarding for the effort. We can store all head related items and more in those spaces. We do not keep anything that can be ruined by moisture in the area under the shower seat since some shower water does find its way in there.

Back at the V-berth, Mary T has narrow shelves on each side of the berth. These are OK for short cruises but for our extended voyage we wanted to better maximize the space. So, we ran netting the length of the shelves and supported it with shock cord clipped to hooks in the overhead liner. This was very effective in keeping clothing and bedding up on the shelves no matter what the sea state. We also have small gear hammocks on each side.

We brought one of our two Dahon Mariner folding bikes on the northern part of our first trip. When we were in a good biking location, we would rent a second one. The Mariner was stowed on the stern tied to one side of the split back stay. It was in a storage bag that helped to somewhat preserve it. We brought our other Mariner on the southern portion of the trip thinking that there wouldn’t be as many places to rent. This was true especially in the Bahamas. Our feeling about the value of having the bikes is mixed. They weren’t a “must have” item like the Honda EU 2000i and they took up the entire quarter berth. They also started to fall apart for no apparent reason. That is, we did not abuse them yet the spokes started breaking on one and the steering column lock on the other broke on only the fifth time it was used. And, even though they were stowed below on the southern portion of our trip, they each developed rust spots. But, when they were in full working order, and the location lent itself to biking, they were great to have. When all is said and done, however, we don’t recommend Dahon bikes.bodumcolumbiafrenchpress-thumb.jpg

We both love good coffee and had a plastic, insulated French press for the northern trip. After it wore out, we ordered a stainless steel Bodum. Our only complaint is the shape it’s not the most storage-friendly but it works great and is indestructible.

In 2009, we re-did our dodger and bimini adding canvas for a full enclosure. The work was done by Canvas Creations. This was one of the best upgrades we’ve done. We originally thought we’d only use the side panels when it was very cold out. But, we’ve since found that we can sail with the windward side closed in all kinds of weather and stay quite dry and comfortable. Deploying all the sides allows us to use the cockpit in temperatures down in the 40s as long as the sun is shining. It’s like a sun porch. We chose a very light color of Sunbrella called parchment, which we now regret somewhat. It is very prone to mildew under the horizontal surfaces of the bimini and dodger. Perhaps a shade darker would have been better.

We added two 100-watt solar panels in the summer of 2010. Canvas Creations modified our side panels and also made the panel supports above the bimini. We did the rest of the installation ourselves. The decision to buy two 100-watt panels was made simply by measuring what would fit over the bimini and getting the largest possible panels.

In the fall of 2011, we replaced all our standing rigging. We hired Atlantic Spars and Rigging for this job as we don’t feel that the rigging is something you should try to see if you can make it yourself. Lots of people do and live to tell you about it, but we felt better hiring professionals.

We also re-did the head plumbing including replacement of the hose from the holding tank to the deck plate, replaced the electronics for the autopilot which had given up on us during our 2011 trip to the Bahamas, replaced out stereo/CD player/iPod player, and added an Ubiquiti Bullet WiFi booster antenna.

Some products we think are useless include West Marine’s “Hose Lube.” We bought it out of desperation while re-doing our plumbing. Normally, we use plain old dish detergent to lube the hose before fitting it on the barb. However, we were having no luck with one particular hose, so we bought this product. It didn’t work either, and appears to be nothing but dish detergent. Has the same consistency, anyway. We’ll try it on our dishes sometime and see how it does there.

Marinco’s Zip Sleeve Cable Cover is also a piece of junk. Although it does it’s job well, it does not hold up to the Chesapeake Bay sun and weather. The velcro started giving out, the zipper broke, and the material started disintegrating after about two years.

Kudos are in order for the following:
Gill, who replaced, without question, Amy’s foul weather jacket and Kenney’s gloves (free).
Caframo replaced our small dehumidifier that was making a little too much noise (free).
LL Bean replaced Kenny’s lightweight raincoat who’s zipper bit the dust (free).
VacuWash did a great job on our bimini and dodger which were very mildew-stained (reasonable price).
Concorbium–a liquid you can apply to fabric to help prevent mold and mildew–so far, so good (reasonable price).

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