Tag Archives: boating


West Marine Green Product of the Year Contest - Win $10,000

“Green Product of the Year Award” Recipient to Receive $10,000 Award

West Marine, the largest retailer of boating supplies, is pleased to bring its first annual “Green Product of the Year Award” contest to Seattle, Washington, and encourages local residents to enter its first annual contest online at www.westmarine.com/green

As part of West Marine’s mission to support the protection of the local marine environments and to promote sustainable practices in the communities in which it does business, the company will honor one grand prize winner award with $10,000 – to be presented at the 2010 Miami International Boat Show in Miami Beach, Florida. West Marine’s competition is open to manufacturers, distributors and/or inventors of boating products throughout the United States.

“West Marine is fully committed to sustainable business practices that guarantee the future of our oceans and fosters innovation throughout the boating community,” said Chuck Hawley, West Marine’s VP of Product Information. “Through this contest, West Marine plans to attract all local marine innovators who are equally committed to West Marine’s ideals of sustainability and innovation.”

Judges confirmed for the first annual West Marine “Green Product of the Year Award”:

  • Mike Sutton from Center for the Future of the Oceans
  • Dr. Randy Kochevar from Stanford University
  • Ruth Wood, President, Boat US Foundation
  • Chuck Husick, President, Owa, Inc., former President of Cessna Aircraft and Chris-Craft Boats
  • Stan Honey, Ocean Racing Navigator, Founder of Etak and SportVision, Inventor of the “First Down Line”
  • Randy Repass, Chairman and Founder, West Marine

The panel of judges will evaluate entries based on how well the product actually improves the marine environment (and reduces pollutants) whether or not it is cost effective, how big of an impact it will make on the environment, and the degree of innovation involved.

Applicants can view the complete rules and entry requirements and complete an entry form online at www.westmarine.com/green. All product entries must be received by November 1, 2009 at 5 p.m. PST.


Layering for Comfort and Safety

What They Do
Layers of special clothing for active boating, such as foul weather gear, fleece jackets and long underwear, help keep us warm, dry and comfortable regardless of changing weather. We can’t always depend on the weather being balmy and inviting when our schedules allow us to spend a day on the water. Boating weather may range from freezing conditions for New England frostbite to very hot and humid tropical weather for offshore fishing in Miami or cruising in Baja California. Staying comfortable means staying safe. If you are shivering and using your body’s energy to keep warm, if you have cold hands or numb toes, or conversely if the interior of your foul weather jacket feels like a steam bath, your ability to function and make sound decisions may suffer. You may have difficulty gripping a line or maintaining your balance on a bounding foredeck. Fortunately, wearing the right kind of layered boating gear helps you maintain a pleasant “microclimate” around your body by controlling temperature and moisture.

How They Work
At rest, your body gives off about 1/4 cup (2 oz.) of sweat per hour. With moderate activity like sail trimming, that amount increases to about a pint per hour. With heavy activity-changing a sail in rough weather or fighting a powerful fish, for example-output increases to a quart per hour and heat becomes a factor, too. Since water absorbs heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, so that wet skin gets cold faster than dry skin, staying dry is a key goal of any system of layered boating clothing. Proper layering helps keep the moisture migrating away from your skin, insulates you appropriately for the conditions, and allows you to shed layers to stay comfortable when you increase your activity level.

Modern clothing systems consist of three layers, used in lots of combinations to control heat transfer and manage moisture. Some combination of layers will be right for just about every condition, whether it’s a complete system of wicking and insulating layers worn under waterproof, breathable offshore foul weather gear, or a simple T-shirt and jacket combo using a wind- and spray-proof shelled jacket. In extreme cold and wet conditions and at varying activity levels, comfort can be improved dramatically through proper layering. Several carefully selected layers of clothes are warmer and more versatile than a single heavy layer.

The Base Layer: Constructed of nonabsorbent stretchy, double-knit synthetic fibers, the base layer or wicking layer is worn next to the skin. Capillary or “wicking” action of this “hydrophobic” or water repelling fabric facilitates the transfer of moisture away from the skin. Wicking allows the body’s natural evaporation process to maintain body temperature and preserve a layer of warm, dry air next to the skin-a very important part of staying comfortable. Polyester and polypropylene are the primary fabrics that are used to create hydrophobic (water repelling), slippery, sheer and very light material. Fabrics such as Dupont’s CoolMax and Henri Lloyd’s Fast Dri are designed to move moisture away from the skin. Our selection includes both short and long sleeve tee shirts, and short and long pants.

The traditional fabric, cotton, is inferior to these synthetic fabrics at removing moisture. Wearing a cotton base layer, which absorbs up to 25% of its own weight in water, reduces the effectiveness of high-performance outer layers.

The Insulating Layer: Worn over the wicking layer, the insulating or mid layer acts as a buffer between warm skin and cold air or foul weather gear fabric. Its job is to reduce heat loss from convection by limiting air circulation, trapping a layer of warm air near the body. Wool, since it retains some insulating ability even when wet, is the traditional insulating layer. Modern synthetic fibers like fleece are even better insulators because they are lighter, dry quickly, pass moisture outward and don’t mildew. Densely woven fabrics, like the Polartec® family of polyester fleeces maintain a warm layer by trapping air within themselves. The insulating mid layer can be removed as conditions warm up.

Insulating layers are available in three varieties. Windbreakers are very lightweight, and can increase the warmth of layering systems, but have little insulation. Shelled fleece garments combine the wind and water protection of a windbreaker with an inner layer of fleece for warmth. Fleece garments, made of 100% polyester, are ideal insulators. Fleece is soft, lightweight, and has a high warmth-to-weight ratio. Even better, fleece doesn’t absorb water, dries quickly, and stays warm, even when wet, making it an exceptional thermal midlayer. It doesn’t itch or chafe, so you can wear it next to your skin. It’s washable and shrink-proof. A miracle fabric? Almost. Fleece is not windproof or waterproof. However, some fleece fabrics are now produced with coatings or laminates, such as Polartec Windbloc®, that make garments windproof for added warmth. Others, like Polartec Wind Pro®, are made with a tighter weave to block wind penetration. Shelled jackets combine the benefits of windbreakers and fleece. They provide protection from wind and water, and provide warmth. They have style, too, which makes them both popular and useful boating garments and casual wear. The insulating inner layer is usually fleece and the outer “shell” is usually nylon treated to reduce wind penetration and repel water.

The Weather Protection Layer: The outside layer keeps water and cold air out of the inner insulating layers, and aids them in preserving the temperate microclimate inside your layering system. Your choice of an appropriate exterior layer depends on whether or not rain, snow, spray, or wind is a factor. Stopping wind penetration is relatively simple with the use of a tightly woven material, a coated fabric or a fabric with a wind blocking membrane. Stopping moisture is far more complicated..

Non-breathable foul weather gear keeps water out, but it also traps perspiration vapor inside. Breathable foul weather gear will allow moisture from inside your layering system to pass through to the outside, keeping you dry and comfortable.

Choose a set of breathable foul weather gear that matches the kind of boating you do and the typical conditions you encounter during the season. Do you use your boat only during the day, or do you spend time on deck or in the cockpit at three a.m.? If you regularly operate your vessel on overnight excursions in nasty weather you should consider Offshore-rated equipment, but for daytime-only use, Coastal or Inshore gear may suffice. Highly breathable gear that is easy to adjust is especially important, as perspiration can easily overload your foul weather gear’s capacity for shedding moisture when you engage in intense activity. Afterward you will feel cold and clammy. Look for hoods, zippers and cuffs that are easy to adjust.

Recommended Additions
The extremities, especially the head and neck, are where most of the body’s heat loss takes place, so protection is critical for the head, neck, hands and feet. The layering principles apply here, too. Bulk can be a serious negative factor, especially on the hands, so garments combine the functions of several layers. Cold weather gloves use a waterproof, breathable nylon exterior, and are fleece lined for insulation. Palms are reinforced with amara, a synthetic leather that does not curl, shrink or harden, and Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.

Wearing insulating head protection can reduce the risk of hypothermia and is essential for keeping warm and comfortable on a cold watch. The West Marine Orca Hat, for example, has a DWR (durable water resistant)–coated Taslan nylon shell, so water beads up. It is lined with Wind Pro® fleece, which is tightly woven so it blocks wind four times better than normal fleece.

Many boaters have no incentive to spend more for high-tech synthetic socks, and will instead wear cotton. The problem with this approach is that cotton retains moisture, and it is this moisture that causes friction and blisters. For years, many in the healthcare field recommended all-cotton socks to prevent foot problems. This is the biggest myth out there! Cotton absorbs moisture and in socks, that moisture stays next to the foot creating an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to grow, and for blisters to form. Stay away from all-cotton socks!

Modern socks, like our Fox River Wick Dry® socks, work just like other base layer clothing. They move moisture away from your feet, using hydrophobic yarns (like CoolMax) that won’t absorb perspiration vapor next to your foot, and hydrophilic yarns on the outside to draw moisture out to where it can evaporate, keeping feet warm and dry even during active sports, or while wearing clammy boots.

In Conclusion
Wearing layered clothing helps keep you dry and comfortable, because each layer is only required to do one thing well. A hydrophobic wicking layer of long underwear worn next to the skin disperses perspiration outward. A middle insulating layer traps warm air, providing a barrier from cold outside air or fabric, and helps funnel moisture to the weather protection layer. The breathable outside layer uses hydrophilic, water vapor absorbing coatings or microporous membranes like a heat-driven water pump, allowing water vapor molecules to escape. Solid water molecules are blocked, along with wind, from entering. With each layer performing its designed function you stay dry, warm and alert, however hostile the outside environment.

View our current selection of Light Weight Underwear >>

Protecting Your Boat From Freeze Damage by Heating

Avoiding Winterizing or Freeze Damage49828
Guess which state had the highest number of freeze-related insurance claims. Michigan? Minnesota? Try California, according to the marine insurers at BoatUS. Folks in the deep-freeze states take their bitter winters seriously, but in the more temperate states like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and California, mild climates lull boaters into ignoring the forecasts for the occasional freezing weather. Cold snaps can do a lot of damage to your boat, but in another week the temperature may climb back into the 60’s—perfect for boating. How do you protect your boat from a cracked engine block or other damage and still go boating when the weather warms up?

Engine compartment heaters, like those from BoatSafe and XTreme, are a safe and effective alternative to winterizing your engine (or engines). They cycle on and off in temperatures between about 40°F and 55°F and are safer than home space heaters or a constantly burning 60W light bulb. Those “quick and dirty” alternatives have caused many fires and sunken boats.

Engine heaters work best when you place covers over your boat’s bilge blower vents. The best method we have found is to have a canvas shop or an upholstery shop make a set of simple, inexpensive “snap-on” covers to fit over the vents. When you are ready to use the boat, simply remove the vent covers. When you leave the boat, snap the covers back on. This will keep the cold, damp winter wind out of the engine compartment, and keep the heat in.52530b

Remember that a boat stored out of the water loses heat much faster than a boat in the slip. If you store your boat suspended on a lift or on its trailer, you should also cover the outdrive unit, in addition to covering your bilge blower vents. A similar snap-on cover or a heavy-mil plastic garbage bag slipped up over the outdrive and tied at the top will prevent the engine compartment heat from dissipating through the exposed metal.

When a freeze is forecast, you can also put your boat back in the water, since water provides greater insulation than air. Boats stored in the water can use de-icers (see our Maintenance section) to circulate the water below your slip to prevent your boat from freezing in.

Heating the Cabin52523c
A good cabin heater makes life onboard much more pleasant in the early or late season. Boaters in temperate climates may require only minimal heating. During summer boating we use our West Marine Portable Cabin Heater for only a few minutes when we climb out of the V-berth on our Newport 30 sailboat in the morning. That, and a galley stove, are all we need to heat the cabin with outside temperatures in the 50°F range.

Extending your comfort range and your boating season requires a real heater. Boaters often choose a heater that uses the same fuel as their galley stove or engine for safety and convenience. How much BTU capacity do you need? One simple rule of thumb to maintain a 36° temperature differential (68° inside the boat when the outside is freezing) is to multiply the cubic volume of the interior by 15 (for powerboats) or by 12 (for sailboats) to get BTU capacity. Our 30′ sailboat with about 800 cu.ft. would need about 9,600 BTU, for example.

Carbon Monoxide42830d
Discussing combustion heating requires a few words about safety. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, invisible, and very toxic gas. CO is produced by incomplete combustion of a carbon-based fuel—such as gasoline, wood or kerosene—burned in an atmosphere with insufficient oxygen. Every year, malfunctioning or improperly vented heating appliances cause hundreds of deaths or chronic illness brought on by less than lethal carbon monoxide levels that go undetected. Take precautions against this threat.

Look for propane heaters with oxygen depletion sensors that shut off the fuel supply when room oxygen levels fall below 95% of normal (ABYC 26.5.11). Always keep a hatch open when using unvented heat sources, know the symptoms of CO poisoning (which are sometimes mistaken for those of seasickness), and purchase a carbon monoxide detector, located in our Safety section. Then enjoy the warm comfort of your cozy cabin.

Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning Systems
Cabin Mate Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners cool your cabin, and also act as a “heat pump,” running backwards to warm the interior of your boat. They let you extend the boating season into the spring and fall, and are a good choice for liveaboards or cruisers who travel between tropical and cool climates, providing one system that can efficiently cool and heat the boat. Though affected by water temperature, they can cool your boat in 90ºF waters and heat your boat in waters as low as 40ºF. More information on how to select a reverse cycle AC system is in the West Advisor on Climate Control.

Do it Yourself >> Installing Hatches and Vents

Ventilation is essential for the longevity of your boat’s interior and the comfort of your crew. Stagnant, moist air can collect in your cabin and compartments, forming a breeding ground for mildew. Fabrics will rot, electronics will corrode and bubbles will form in your hull’s gelcoat as moisture on the inside forces the exterior finish to delaminate. In other words, if you love your boat—ventilate. If your vents and hatches are deteriorating, replacing them with new ones will add protection for your boat’s interior. Old, warped hatches with decayed trim rings don’t seal well, allowing moisture in and heat out.

Choosing a location

1. Keep structural issues in mind. Hatches and vents don’t provide any stiffness. Be sure to pick a spot that won’t compromise the deck’s structural integrity.

2. Make sure the installation surface is as flat as possible. Lewmar, for example, only allows 1mm of crown for their hatches. If you can’t find a flat spot, plan a build-up pad. You can even make it an attractive addition by choosing mahogany or teak instead of fiberglass, though that adds maintenance work in the long run.

3. Make sure there’s adequate room for the hatch to swing open without hitting hardware or other obstacles. Check your proposed cutout from both above and below deck by measuring from objects with known locations that pass through both sides, like hardware mounting bolts, an existing vent, or a mast. Lay out the outline of your cutout, both above and below. Extra care in the layout and measuring process now will prevent nasty surprises later, like accidentally sawing into a bulkhead.

4. Be careful when you remove your old hatch—pulling out the old bedding compound too roughly can delaminate the deck. Use a combination of a thin blade, solvents, clamps, wedges and, perhaps, a few choice expletives to coax it out.

Cutting the hole

5. Use the right tools for the job: drill and hole saws or spade bits, jigsaw or Sawzall, compass (for marking radii), ruler, felt-tip marker, masking tape, screwdrivers Allen wrenches, hack saw, files or rasps.

6. Use the right supplies: caulking gun and caulk or bedding compound, epoxy and the new hatch or vent with appropriate screws and fasteners.

7. Follow the old adage: “Measure twice, cut once.”

8. Before you saw, be sure there are no wires, gas lines, rigging, plumbing or other kinds of interference in the area you plan to make your hole.

9. Headliners will have to be removed to enable proper inspection of the underdeck area. Be careful not to damage the headliner material if you plan to reuse it. Cut the headliner from corner to corner of your cutout location, fold the triangles of material back, secure them with tape, and trim to the exact fit when the hatch is in place.

10. Templates are often provided with the hatch or vent. Tape the template down to the deck to trace the cutout outline.

11. Take a deep breath, and make the cuts! For rectangular shapes, use an appropriately sized hole saw or spade bit to outline the radius of each corner, if possible, and connect the four corners by making straight cuts with a jig or saber saw. Make all your cuts just inside the outline to be on the safe side, and clean up the edges with a file and coarse sandpaper.

Finishing the Cutout and Installing the Hardware

12. Seal all exposed edges of the deck, with several coats of epoxy. If there is foam or balsa core material, chisel it back from the edge about half an inch. Prime it with epoxy. Mix a batch of epoxy with some colloidal silica or low-density filler to peanut butter thickness, and trowel it into the cavity. Sealing the deck and core thoroughly is crucial to prevent water intrusion from delaminating and damaging your deck’s core.

13. If you have leftover fastener holes from the old hatch or vent, fill them using a syringe filled with thickened epoxy, color matched to the deck if they will be exposed once the new hatch or vent is in place. Be sure to back the holes inside with cardboard or scrap wood covered with waxed paper to prevent drips from making a mess inside the cabin.

14. Drill the new fastener holes and dry-fit the hatch or vent before fitting it in place with caulk. (You want to make sure everything lines up and fits correctly.) Use masking tape to keep sealant and epoxy from getting on the deck, especially non-skid surfaces, where it’s nearly impossible to remove. If any goo gets loose, wipe it up while it’s still wet.

15. Install the interior trim ring or screen kit to give the hatch a neat, finished appearance.

A vent in your deck allows the compartments belowdecks to breathe. Experts recommend that the air inside a boat be changed completely at least once per hour. Vents and hatches help prevent mildew and damage while underway as well as when moored or at anchor, so we definitely recommend having plenty of them. However, not all ventilation projects are the same. Be realistic about the job and your level of carpentry skill, after all, you’re putting some sizable holes into your boat. While most of us can install a simple low-profile ventilator on a horizontal surface, putting a new hatch or cowl ventilator into a cambered deck, or where there are additional complications such as wiring or plumbing, may be a job better left for a marine professional.


Another great article about Ventilation from MyBoatsGear.com >>

Lowering Your Fuel Cost

Higher fuel prices are taking a bigger bite out of everyone’s boating budget. Grousing won’t help, but here are some take-control measures that will lower your fuel consumption and measurably reduce the cost of every single outing.

  • Keep the bottom clean. A fouled bottom has about the same effect on fuel consumption as towing a room-sized carpet. Moored and slipped boats in salt water require the protection of fresh antifouling paint. Be careful about leaving your normally dry-stored boat in the water for more than a few days as drag producing fouling occurs in an astonishingly short time on an unprotected hull. Keep your running gear free of barnacles.
  • Tune your engine. Gasoline engines deliver their best economy and their best performance only when they are in good tune. Diesel engines are less tune-sensitive, but having the injectors serviced and cleaning or replacing the air filter is likely to boost fuel economy. Changing engine oil every 100 hours increases fuel economy as well as engine life.
  • Drive smart. Handle throttles smoothly, applying only as much power as circumstances require. Don’t be too tentative—getting up on plane quickly actually saves fuel—but pushing the throttle control to the stop almost certainly wastes fuel. Learn to cruise at your boat’s most economical speed.
  • Don’t push water. Proper trim is essential to good fuel economy. Plowing, kiting and porpoising all result in higher fuel consumption. If your boat does not trim properly, invest in trim tabs. Outboard-powered boats can benefit from bolt-on hydrofoils.
  • Check your prop. Unless the blades are perfectly true, the prop will fail to provide maximum thrust. Blades with nicks and dings create power-robbing turbulence. Have the prop reconditioned. Make a test run with your boat loaded the way you use it to be sure the fitted prop doesn’t allow your engine to exceed the recommended wide open throttle (WOT) rpm. From the perspective of fuel economy, a bit too much pitch is usually preferable to a bit too little. If you need to change props, consider a cupped or a four blade wheel for more efficient mid-range performance.
  • Lighten the boat. Hauling around stuff that doesn’t need to be aboard burns extra fuel, so do some earnest housecleaning. Take aboard only enough fuel to provide a comfortable margin of safety for your planned outing, not as much fuel as the boat can carry. This not only lightens the boat and improves fuel economy, but your engine benefits from a steady diet of fresh fuel. You will also get better mileage with lighter fishing buddies, but maybe that is over the top.
  • Install a fuel flow meter. A flow meter tells you in real time exactly how much fuel your engine is consuming. This information allows you to accurately adjust both throttles and trim for maximum economy even as wind and sea conditions change. A flow meter also keeps up with total fuel consumed and it has the added value of providing early warning of developing engine and running gear problems or fouling.
  • Repower. When it comes time to repower, oil supply realities make it prudent to pay attention to the fuel efficiency of the motors you are considering. Do not underpower; a too-small engine works harder and burns more fuel. 4-stroke outboards are generally more economical, but direct-injection combined with lighter weight keeps the current generation of 2-stroke engines competitive.
  • Buy a sailboat. The wind is free.

SPOT Satellite Beacon

What is SPOT?
A relatively new entry into the emergency beacon market is the SPOT Satellite Personal Beacon from GlobalStar. We have to admit that this product is just being introduced as we write this West Advisor, so we’re relying on what we believe is accurate marketing information. The SPOT operates similarly to a GPS-enabled PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), with some important differences:

It uses the GlobalStar satellite network, but doesn’t use the portion of the satellites which have been subject to consistency issues in recent years. We are told that the reliability should be very good with the current generation of satellites, and will remain so with the generation of the satellites over the next few years.

Types of Messages
There are various levels of severity of the SPOT messages. One message is to assure your family and friends that you’re OK, which will send your position and a short message to up to 10 recipients by telephone or email. A second message will request HELP, but only from your contact list. Let’s say you’re riding your bike across country, and you need to summon your sag wagon. This allows you to get help without alerting the world’s rescue services. NOTE: Both of these types of messages are sent by computer, with no operator intervention. A predetermined brief message is sent to everyone on your list.

The most severe level is 911, which is effectively the same as pressing the activation button on an EPIRB or PLB, since it will pass a message to GEOS Alliance, a firm specializing in the security of high-profile people around the world. (See http://www.geosalliance.com.) GEOS Alliance is then responsible for contacting the appropriate Public Service Access Point (like 911 service) that is appropriate for your location, or other rescue services as appropriate. This is entirely separate from the SARSAT Mission Control Center that is the “brains” of the EPRIB network in the U.S., but GEOS Alliance may end up using the same assets (Coast Guard, Air Force Rescue Coordination Center) as appropriate for the nature of the emergency. Incidentally, we’re very comfortable with the people behind GEOS, as they deal with terrorism, kidnapping, and other heavy issues on a daily basis.

SPOT Coverage
The coverage of the SPOT Personal Beacon is very large, but not worldwide. Certain areas are not covered, or have coverage with less certainty based on the satellite orbits and ground stations. In particular, many open ocean areas and much of the Southern Hemisphere are not covered, and if you’re traveling to those places, an EPIRB or PLB might be a better solution. See http://www.geosalliance.com/SPOT_coverage.html for a current coverage map.

Finally, and we don’t yet know how to weigh the pros and cons, there’s the issue of Public vs. Private. The COSPAS/SARSAT system is a result of international cooperation with an established network of satellites, ground stations, rescue agencies, etc. The system works, and has been proven during countless rescues. The SPOT system is currently in its infancy, and while it offers some additional features, you’re also reliant on the companies behind SPOT to continue to be in operation and to uphold their end of the bargain.

Subscription Costs
What about cost? No question, the SPOT option is cheaper at the cash register, with a retail price of about $150 compared to $500 to $600 for a PLB. However the SPOT beacon requires an annual fee of $100 for basic services, and an additional $50 if you want the premium “Tracker” service. Finally, for $7 per year, you can get insurance through GEOS which provides up to $100,000 in extraction coverage, which sounds like an awesome deal to us.

For additional information on the SPOT beacon, Doug Ritter has some thoughts at http://www.equipped.org. For more on Satellite Communications, see the West Advisor on High Seas Communications. For additional info on EPIRBs and Personal Locator Beacons, see the EPIRB West Advisor.