New Gear – March 2006

Going Soft

Walker Bay’s rigid polypropylene dinghies are a common sight around the country’s waterways and coastlines, where they’re used as sailboat tenders and fun boats. Now the company hopes its attractive new inflatables will meet with the same success. Its Genesis line of RIBs have light but strong plastic hulls and either PVC or Hypalon removable tubes; some of them have folding transoms for easier stowage, and all have built-in wheels. Prices range from $1,749 (8-foot, 10-inch model) to $3,799 (11 feet, 2 inches). The Odyssey series of air-floor and slatted-floor soft dinghies starts at $999 for the 7-foot, 11-inch model. Walker Bay; 604-682-5699;

Push My Button

Labor-saving devices like headsail and mainsail furlers and powered anchor windlasses have become commonplace on sailboats as small as 30 feet, so it’s not surprising that the quest for an easier life is extending even further. Powered sheet winches have long been the rage on cruising boats of 50 feet and up, but this technology too has filtered downward. Lewmar’s L34 lays claim to being the world’s smallest electric winch, and it’s aimed at sub-40-foot boats. Install a pair of these, and short-tacking up a narrow channel actually will become a laughing matter. Lewmar Inc; 203-458-6200;

Furler with a Box

Facnor says that lessons it has learned installing custom gear on top ocean-racing boats have been applied to its new headsail furlers for boats from 20 to 90 feet. The LX has a “bearing box” at the drum and head swivels, each containing two polymer bearings that reportedly spread loads evenly. A rotating tack fitting allows the furler drum and head to turn before the twin-groove luff extrusion, so that material in the middle of the sail is furled before the head and tack are, thus taking some of the fullness out of the reefed sail. The LS model has fewer features. Prices for units to fit a typical 30-footer: $1,601 (LX), $1,353 (LS). Charleston Spar; 704-598-1105;

Feeling Blue

There’s a recurring theme with modern sailboats (and many not-so-modern ones)—a lack of stowage around the cockpit for those small items that are part and parcel of the sailing life: sunglasses, paperbacks, sunscreen, candy bars, winch handles, odd lengths of string, cruising guides, and so on. The Dutch-made Blue Performance line of sailboat accessories addresses this problem and many others. The Cockpit Combi Bag ($40) they sent us was well designed and solidly made; also in the line are cockpit awnings, sail ties, chart bags, winch and outboard covers, and much more. Blue Performance; 888-234-0771;

Stanchion Collar

This is one of those handy little gizmos you never knew you needed before you saw it. The stainless-steel Stafford Universal Mounting Collar can be clamped onto a tube or pipe and has a countersunk, tapped hole so that things can be screwed to it; it’s a much more pleasing solution than the usual duct tape or hose clamps. It’s available in six sizes to fit up to 2-inch tube (from $11.95). Stafford Manufacturing Corp.; 800-695-5551;

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