Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SPEEDPUCK


Introducing the latest innovation from the folks at Velocitek; the Speedpuck. For those not familiar with Velocitek they currently offer the SC-1. The Speedpuck is basically a slimmed down version. It will give you speed, heading & a graphical wind shift indicator (the little bars on the top of the display). You give up some of the fancy extras you can get in the SC-1 like distance to line and VMG in favor of a smaller, easier to operate unit. I wouldn't exactly say it fits in the palm of your hand, but the picture on the right gives a pretty good idea of the size. There's only the one button on the unit; hold it down to turn it on/off and push it to change from speed to heading mode. There have definitely been some KISS principles applied to the design here - and I think the result is pretty sweet.

The unit is powered by 3 AA batteries accessed by unscrewing the back of the unit. The USB connection is also accessed in the same way. The guts of the unit are sealed off in a separate compartment to ensure watertight operation - see below. Just like the SC-1 you can connect the Speedpuck to your computer via the USB port and download the GSP file. You can then view your GPS track in a suitable viewer. It also has a recall for maximum speed for....well, it's pretty much just good for trying to impress your friends.

These GPS speed displays have come a long way in the past few years - when they started it was pretty much just about some Moth guys bragging about how fast they went but now they're a replacement for your old compass and much more. For those who really want the nifty features found in the SC-1 like that handy distance to line function (being OCS becomes the computer's fault instead of the bowman) then this probably isn't the unit for you. For the guys who just want to know which way we're going and how fast we're getting there, the Speedpuck is perfect. The smaller size and single, easy to use button are perfect for getting the data you really need, when you need it.

At $339 the Speedpuck isn't exactly stocking stuffer material - but it's pretty cheap even compared to other digital compasses and even some old school compasses. We're pre-ordering some and expect to have them before Christmas. I don't know how many "some" will be yet and supplies will be limited until after the Holidays but keep an eye out for more information to come on these.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Sailing Haiku

The following is a haiku from our very own Customer Service Representative & Poet Laureate, Aaron Freeman. We're going to let the great literary scholars of our time debate where this effort resides in the pantheon of haiku's, but it does sum up the weekend nicely.

First though, a little background information for those of you who aren't familiar with the topic of the haiku, the Turkey Bowl. It's an annual J/22 Regatta here in Annapolis, held in conjunction with Thanksgiving, where the winner of the event actually wins a turkey (a 23-pounder this year). Personally, I think it would be much cooler if the award was a live turkey, but early reports indicate that Butterball had taken the spryness out of this particular bird.

So anyways, 17 boats registered for the event, but only 10 brave (possibly insane) teams actually ventured out to the race course on Saturday morning. Temps hovered just above freezing and there was a fairly sporty breeze of about 20-25kts; when all was said and done, it was APS' very own Warren Richter and Aaron Freeman (along with Gene Peters) winning the event.

Oh yeah, the haiku... right. So here it is, an Aaron Freeman original:

Turkey Bowl race day
It’s cold blowing dogs off chains
Masts hitting water

Warm in Bora boots
R1 and Musto toasty
Extreme gloves hands cold

Boats fast giddy-up
Three great races thanks RC
Happy Thanksgiving

Aaron Freeman is a member of our Customer Service team and is also the unofficial Team Gear guru for those of you looking to do an embroidery/dye sub/screen/heat transfer order -- reach him at 800/729.9767, ext. 113.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite Gear - John Maloney

In the span of just three years, I’ve gotten married and have two kids. Our first is self sufficient (at least within the confines of our house minus cooking, bathing and making a living) and our second is about five weeks old. While still a little hectic, things are now calm enough that I can finally break out the winter dinghy gear for the first time in quite awhile!

The first piece of gear that I went to "resurrect" was my personal favorite, my Kokatat Drysuit. Having left it in a “cool/dry” place (as the manufacturer insists) over the past few years, I still didn't expect to find the drysuit to be in the condition it was. All of the seals were in perfect order! As I'm sure you can understand, I was pretty excited not to be pumping any repair money/time into this suit, along with avoiding the psychedelic fumes of the adhesives during the repairs. This suit is going on six years and is still as air tight as an old Volkswagen Bug (a VW Bug floats, right? Like a witch...).

Having gone through many low end suits in my tenure, I can’t stress enough the saying “PAY NOW OR PAY LATER!”. The Kokatat Drysuit is made of Gore-Tex and is, yes, more expensive than the others -- but rest assured that you absolutely get what you pay for. So Chris, ye lover of Gore-Tex socks, I’ll concur and am prepared to enjoy my INTEGRATED Gore-Tex socks standard on the Kokatat! The one regret I have about this suit is not having a relief zipper installed which is actually standard on the current suits.



As far as under layers, I have always enjoyed the warmth of my one-piece fleece under my drysuit. The times are a-changin' and I'm being pulled by my current frostbiting colleagues into the present when it comes to under layers. He may not know it yet, but I plan to take full advantage of James' product knowledge to help me decide on the proper layers for the conditions ahead. It's amazing how many combinations you can come up with, so it's really easier than ever. I’ve heard it’s going to be a pretty harsh winter so James, set me up right!

Anyway, to sum up on this, the Kokatat Drysuit is plainly and simply my favorite piece of gear. It does what it claims: it breathes when it’s a little warm for the winter and it’s warm when it’s freakin’ freezing out there. Complimented simply with some base layers, a pair of warm socks, boots and gloves of your choice, a hat, maybe more than a hat(!) if you’re in the North, the Kokatat Gore-Tex Drysuit is simply the best. Set yourself up so in the middle of February you don’t want to come in! Why go out there if you’re too uncomfortable to STAY out there! Oh yeah, tough guys, you know you’re freezing too and just won’t admit it so enjoy hypothermia.

John Maloney is APS' Boat Sales Manager and a member of our Customer Service team. Thanks for the post John!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Favorite Cold Weather Gear

Newsflash: it's getting cold out.

While the Winter doesn't technically start until December 21st, Mother Nature held a dandy of a dress rehearsal last weekend. The temperature never broke 50° on Sunday and the wind gusts topped out over 30 knots. Now, I went to a public school, so I've never been really good with numbers, but I think that put the feel-like temperature somewhere around -79°.

Yeah, yeah... call these guys:


Anyways, Sunday's are a busy day on the water around here -- Annapolis Yacht Club runs a PHRF Frostbite Series with over 100 boats registered, Severn Sailing Assoc. runs a Laser Frostbite series with about 15-20 boats and AYC's Opti and 420 Teams are out practicing in the rare, but welcome, heavy air.

My place in all of this? I was out there coaching the Opti kids, starting at 10:00am. By the time 1:00pm rolled around and the two Frosbite series' were taking to the water, my hands were basically useless and I could neither confirm nor deny that I still had ears. Which is why I was truly grateful I had grabbed my all-time most favorite piece of gear before leaving my house that morning: socks.

That's right... socks.

Specifically, Rocky's Gore-Tex Socks.

These things are, for lack of a better word, awesome. For those of us that can't afford a pair of Dubarry or Musto boots, these socks turn any pair of boat shoes, sneakers or cheap ol' Chuck Taylor's into a waterproof, windproof haven for your feet that keep your socks dry and warm.

Now, try to get past the shock that a guy working in the marine industry doesn't have the money to buy Dubarry's, and focus back on the socks. Since they're made of Gore-Tex, these things also help to move sweat and moisture away from your feet if you pair them up with the right pair of socks (something that also moves moisture, like a Smartwool or CoolMax sock).

In my humble opinion, they're the best piece of gear that you can buy under $50.00. They are sized in whole shoe sizes (10, 11, etc.), but to ensure that you can get them on, I'd highly recommend going up a size. Unlike a normal cotton sock that has a bit of elasticity, Gore-Tex has almost no give at all, so it's much better to err a little bigger.

Check them out here:
Rocky Gore Tex Socks

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome to "The Stern Scoop"

Welcome to APS's new spot on the Internet, The Stern Scoop.

So, what's the point of the The Scoop? Well, the idea of starting up a blog isn't a new one for us... however, it only recently took off after a meeting of the APS Brain Trust, made up of this blog's three "esteemed" editors and the president of the company.

We decided it was time to launch this donkey because APS gets hit with new/exciting information all the time, and it's time for us to share that info with you. Also, the three of us really enjoy acting like we know something, despite years of evidence to the contrary.

Expect to see posts about why we like/dislike a certain product, customer feedback on new or existing items, how a product has worked for us, information from our suppliers (read: new products will be "leaked" here), regatta reports from our staff, technical information, etc.

We're also developing ideas like posting video of our staff training sessions every Wednesday morning, so you can know what we know. Basically, it is our intention to throw out information and posts to help you make better decisions about gear for yourself or your boat. It's also our intention to have some fun in doing so, usually at the expense of each other's pride/dignity.

The three characters who will be doing the majority of the posting here are:

James McKenna
Storefront Manager

For those readers who have been to APS' retail store over the past half-decade, you have probably met James. Our Elf Lord of the cash register, he's well versed on virtually every product that we carry. It's actually a little scary sometimes; James has one of those minds that remembers details and picks up concepts at a rate usually reserved for CIA agents and folks putting satellites into space.


Rob Beach
Marketing Manager

The mind behind our catalogs and advertisements, there isn't much that goes on at APS that Rob doesn't have his hands in. At the beginning of every year, he's part of our product selection process and he's always on the front lines of the new products that are coming to market. His humor can be an acquired taste (be sure to check the weather in Annapolis before reading), but his product knowledge is pretty much unrivaled.

Chris Teixeira
Website Manager

You'll forgive me if I feel a little weird about saying much about myself. I work on the website for APS and I know some stuff about some things. I'm a big fan of eating ice cream and I really enjoy a nice pair of slacks. Like Rob, my humor can take a little while to get used to... unlike Rob, that's because my humor is at a 3rd grade level, at best. Oh, and I have a distasteful amount of vowels in my last name.

There you have it -- we're going to do our best to make this blog informative, interesting and occasionally humorous for you. We do ask that you always keep in mind that we are sailors, not writers; there's a reason that we're writing for a totally unknown, niche blog and not for the New York Times. That criticism of our literary skills aside, be sure to check back often and tell your friends (I get a bonus if enough people show up, so get to it).

Oh, in case you're wondering about the name, The Stern Scoop, here's how it came about. On the way out to the race course, there are always "those guys" that stand in the back of the boat and shoot the breeze while the rest of the crew actually does something productive and rigs the boat.

These conversations on the stern usually range from really dirty jokes to thoughts about the rigging and gear. Since that's the kind of blog we're planning on having (minus the dirty jokes -- sorry, blame Legal), and Rob prefers to stand on the scoop at the back of the boat when he's being one of "those guys", we went with The Stern Scoop.

Yeah, there's also that play on words with "scoop" and us dropping new info here, but that's not as good a story.

Cheers!

Clearly an Improvement...


If you follow the same daily yachty news feeds I do (like Scuttlebutt) you'll know that Henri Lloyd just won a DAME award at METS in the crew gear and accessories category. If you don't follow those feeds have a look at the picture at left and Google "Henri Lloyd Shadow 2G DAME" for more detail about it. I'm not going to extol the virtues of what winning that award means. But, what I can tell you is that I am likely one of a very few people this country that have actually had this jacket on. It's the next generation of the popular Shadow range being introduced for 2009. So what's new from this gear geeks perspective? Someone has finally taken the blinders off!

I am one of those people that can't stand hoods. I can't stand the bulk or feeling of being trapped. Give me a good foul weather hat and I'll deal with the water running down my neck. However, that attitude might end right here and now. Henri Lloyd has done something really smart here. They've given me my own stow-able dodger! Yep, the material is a bit like vinyl dodger window material but when I asked about scratching and whether or not HL would be offering a new bottle of window plastic scratch remover with each jacket they assured me it wasn't necessary. According to our esteemed HL contacts a whole mess of testing has been done to ensure it wouldn't scratch or mar. Time will tell on that one but what I can tell you now is that when you try it out you'll be impressed. In any case, with it on I didn't feel trapped at all and while it's certainly not like looking through a glass window my peripheral vision was pretty good. No doubt water and salt will stick to these windows but what this really offers is the ability to see big things moving that you wouldn't have seen before. Ships overtaking, booms coming, etc...clearly an improvement.

The new Optivision hood will not only be on the Shadow range but also on the Gore-Tex offshore gear too. Look for it first on the Shadow...then watch the rest of the gear builders chase HL to come up with something similar. To be the first to get yours be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our Hot New Items page or sign up for our weekly E-list and expect to see them State-side in little over a month.

The One Design Sailing Symposium

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to the One Design Sailing Symposium. The Symposium is a yearly conference put on by US Sailing to get together people involved in one design classes across the country including fleet leaders, class officers, sail makers, industry leaders and really anyone who is interested in coming. Many of the head honchos at US Sailing were there including several members of the Board of Directors. It was held at the Atlanta Yacht club, which was really neat club on lake Allatoona northwest of Atlanta. I really enjoyed the symposium and picked up a lot of good ideas to use in my own Jet 14 fleet here in Annapolis as well as making contacts with other classes that APS focuses on.

It was a pretty standard setup, a number of different sessions going on at the same time and you pick the one of interest to you then do it again an hour later. A few of the interesting sessions I heard were about the Lightning boat grant program, a good talk about sponsorship by the new Marketing Director at US Sailing and some interesting ideas about coaching from the Thistle class that they do at their Midwinters. The Lightning program is one of the most interesting class development programs out there. They basically give new boats to a team of young sailors (college or just out of college for the most part) for a year and pay for their registration fees and help with travel expenses. It's been going extremely well and I hope other classes adopt similar ideas so we can be sure to get more young people into OD classes.

Dave Perry was there and gave a talk about the new rule changes Sunday morning. Some of them are interesting but there aren't a lot of big changes. Everybody is aware I'm sure by now of the change from a 2 boat length circle to 3 boat lengths for determining overlap at mark roundings.They've also removed rule 18.4 when rounding at a gate and in general changed around some wording in section 18 in an effort to make it easier to understand (it's still not exactly light reading). Hopefully this will make mark roundings go more smoothly but I imagine we'll still have plenty of these:


Perry also gave a talk Saturday night that was pretty hilarious. Lots of jokes and poking fun at people and everyone really enjoyed it. This may have been related to the free rum drinks that had been served before the talk, but I'm sure it would have been very informative even without the booze.

Craig Leweck also spoke Saturday night. For those who don't know he's the guy who brings Scuttlebutt to your inbox every day. He gave a great talk and had some really good ideas to share with everyone about ways to market and grow one design classes. Craig focused on the importance of the internet and getting the relevant information about your regatta out to people quickly. He made a really great point that even if you have 100 boats at your class Nationals, there are likely still hundreds of other sailors from your class who aren't there. They are likely just as interested and involved in what is happening; and we need to provide them with information about what is happening at the event as quickly as possible. Scuttlebutt also has a great page about regatta press releases including an email list of major sailing publication editors for you to send your press release to.

Overall I had a really great time hearing about some of the ideas that other classes are implementing. There are a lot of great ideas out there for developing and improving your class and fleet and a whole lot of people willing to help you do it. It was great to see a group of people so motivated to growing one design sailing in the US.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The "Star of Lewmar"

T minus two days to the restart of leg 2 for the 2008/9 VOR. Imagine the flurry of activity going on at this hour! Cases of freeze dried food being loaded, stacks of sails being lumbered on and off, batten tensions being checked, kites being banded and stuffed, rigging being inspected, etc... A myriad of mind-numbing and seemingly menial tasks that could ensure victory or seal fate of defeat. But, what I really want to know is what's being snuck on to swash buckle potential pirates? We've heard about the required security briefings and of panic buttons to summon the Navy but what else? What are the secret weapons? What would you bring? What would you reach for when a one-eyed bandit was swinging from their yardarm into your mainsail? There would probably be no time to get the flare gun from below.

My advice would be to remember the tools at hand...

Literally, surely a winch handle would suffice as a bludgeoning device. Give that scoundrel the "star of Lewmar"!

Ok, ok...all joking aside you want to know what that winch handle is you've never seen before? It's the new Lewmar LiteTouch that Lewmar will introduce at METs this year. Here's what they say about it...(the following content is pirated from the latest Lewmar dealer communications, all rights are reserved by them...or so I'm guessing)...

"Introducing the LiteTouch. A new, lightweight, robust winch handle designed for complete ease of use. The LiteTouch allows you to push the release button and unlock in one quick easy motion - all with one hand. What makes the LiteTouch so unique is that it is made of buoyant composite material, which allows the handle to float if it falls overboard.

• It floats (editors note: people seem to think this is important but in a race are we going to stop to try to fish it out of the water using the spin pole jaws? No, we're not.)
• Lightweight composite material
• One-handed push and release
• Designed for ultimate rigidity
• The world's only replaceable Drive Lug & Locking System
• Power Grip Handle for easy one- or two-handed operation
• Bright yellow cap for easy spotting should it go overboard"

So, there you have it. I can't hardly say that it's really anything terribly new but think of it as the next generation of their very popular Lewmar One Touch model. While I think the floating bit is marketing spin for the cruisers I do like that it's a lightweight composite material. Sure, bludgeoning devices should have some oomph behind them but when it comes to spinning a winch quickly it's all about hand speed and that makes this the new star of Lewmar handles.

Ps. No, it's not yet available but sign up for the APS weekly E-list or keep your eyes on our Hot New Items page to be the first on your dock with them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Patagonia - My Favorite New Stuff

So "new" isn't really the right word for it. APS has been carrying Patagonia gear for over a year now. But I think a lot of you guys don't know about it so I wanted to make sure to get the word out there. This stuff is great and I was really psyched for us to start carrying it. I don't just mean because I get a discount on it now either; I'm excited to be able to offer our customers what I believe is the best layering system.

What makes it so great? You can tell your friends you're wearing "Patagucci" for starters. Really though there are so many options in terms of what you can wear for the condition your in that it makes it easy to be comfortable even in the worst weather you can find. The Capilene baselayer system provides different layering options from 1 - the lightest weight to 4 - the heaviest. Old timers may remember back when these were called silkweight and midweight but Patagonia went to a number system to make things simpler. The Regulator midlayers use the same idea; R1 to R4. They have undergarments too, including these boxers that are colorful enough to make a great Father's Day present.

Patagonia gear is well made and they always stand behind their products. There honestly is something to be said for getting what you pay for. This stuff is not cheap, but it is worth it when we're talking about being comfortable overnight offshore, hiking the Appalacian Trail or sitting in the back of the boat calling tackticks. If you are ever unhappy with a Patagonia product they are always willing to work with you. They will replace almost anything if it doesn't satisfy your expectations for the gear.

If you are like me than the fact that Patagonia is one of the most environmentally responsible clothing companies out there counts for something too. You can recycle your old Capilene through their Common Threads program & most of the products we offer from them contain some recycled content. For instance these sweet gear bags are made of 100 % recycled polyester. If you're like Chris and you'd rather get poked in the eye than recycle something; you'll be happy to know we offer plenty of non-recycled base layers too. Just check out our base layers & mid layers section.