The recent Annapolis Sailboat Show was, as always, a great way to talk directly to boatbuilders, electronics manufacturers, dealers and plenty of small companies with a wide variety of boating-related products. And during every Annapolis show you can always stop by the Ocean Navigator booth and chat with us! This year the scene was as intriguing as ever with plenty of great marine gear to learn about and but for your boat. Here are some items from the show in no particular order.
• Electronic charts are immensely useful and convenient, but paper charts are pretty useful too. One of the biggest issues with paper charts involves viewing charts easily — a chart that has been rolled up wants to curl again. Enter the chart kit type book that allows charts to be laid out flat. One drawback to these types of chart books is the use of a spiral binding. The binding lets the chart open flat, but it makes the center portion of he chart difficult to use. Now NV Charts, which produces electronic and paper charts, most notably for the Caribbean and European waters, has a chart book product that is well designed to lay flat for better readability. NV Charts has a new edition of this product with a chart book of Bahamas North West, Bimini & Berry Islands, Nassau to Abaco, Grand Bahama. Included is a CD with electronic versions of the charts in the printed book, and the capability to download the charts and use them on a smartphone or tablet with the NV Charts app. The NV Charts folks have made sure that the information along the gutter of the pages lays perfectly flat and is easy to read.
• Can pressure on a fingertip sell you on an anchor? That's what Mantus Anchors does at its booth. Mantus had a table set up with different types of anchor designs. Showgoers were instructed to place their finger under the leading tip of each type. Each of the other types of anchor placed some weight on the finger. The Mantus anchor, however, is formed with a down-angled sharp tip designed to pierce the sea floor through grass and other growth. Not a guarantee that the anchor would always dig in effectively, but the demonstration sure made you want to pull your finger away from the concentrated weight. It's a good demonstration that drives home the setting power of Mantus anchors.
• Standing a watch when it's raining hard or when you're getting regularly doused by spray will quickly reveal the effectiveness of your foul weather gear. It's at times like these when your gear leaks that you may really pine for a dry suit. But most of the time wearing a dry suit is overkill. But what about a drysuit that you wear in "standby mode"? Drysuit maker Ocean Rodeo has models that come with foul weather gear-style pants and a matching jacket. But the pants/overalls are really a drysuit. When worn in "standby mode" the top of the drysuit is rolled down, allowing your chest and neck to breathe. Should conditions worsen, however, and you need the full protection of the drysuit, you can roll it up toward your neck and then pull it over your head. Once zipped up the suit is reportedly just like any other drysuit.
• Feathering props are impressive pieces of mechanical engineering that provide thrust when you want it and then stay out of the way when not needed. One feathering prop company is Featherstream Propellers. Featherstream props are manufactured in the U.K. but have U.S. and Canadian reps here in North America. Adjusting a feathering prop can be an involved task. The Featherstream folks have devised a simple system for adjusting the angle of the blades based on the needs of your boat. A "pitch cassette" which is not a music tape but a curved block with flat stops makes the adjustment. And according to Featherstream, it can be easily changed out and a new pitch cassette fitted in less than 15 minutes.
• Ken Gephardt is the longtime owner of navigation gear supplier Celestaire. Ken was one of the first to bring inexpensive Chinese Astra sextants into the North American market. He also sells high quality German sextants like the Cassens & Plath models along with Davis plastic sextants and a host of other products. One fun product he has carried for a few years is a laminated cardboard sextant kit made in Germany. You punch out the pieces and assemble it and you have a working sextant — the ultimate fallback navigation device. Ken appropriately calls the product "Cheapest Sextant" since it costs less than $25. But it will get you to a landfall in a pinch!