Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harness vs. Bosun's Chair

In honor of today's Hot New Item, the Harken Bosun's Chair, we're going to be delving into the advantages of a harness vs. a bosun's chair. For some, this may seem elementary -- but the best way to get up a rig is a popular question for the guys in Customer Service, so we put our heads together and made up a quick list for each.

Bosun's Chairs tend to get a bad rap; modern versions are incredibly safe now, whereas older versions (such as the one pictured to the right) were utter deathtraps. Anyone who goes up a rig on something like that should be arrested on attempted suicide charges, committed and banned from procreating.

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh... but with the safer options that are available in bosun's chairs, there's no reason to be using the ol' plank and webbing. Modern chairs such as the Harken Bosun's Chair incorporate a number of safety features such as dual attachment points for increased stability, an adjustable safety belt with a leg strap and a downhaul attachment to provide further stability. Unlike a harness, a properly used bosun's chair is almost impossible to flip upside down when you're aloft.

That being said, the bosun's chair is great for calmer conditions where you'll be spending an extended period of time aloft -- it's much more comfortable. We wouldn't recommend going up in one when there are rough seas; the ascent/decent could be very "bumpy". Also, they normally provide a great deal of storage for tools and gear, making it easier to perform some tasks.

One point that we kind of went back and forth on was whether or not the bosun's chair was easier for a beginner to use -- we settled on yes, but just barely. Basically, if you have a crew of novices and may need to send someone up the rig, they may find it easier and less intimidating to use a chair.

However, the disadvantages of a bosun's chair tend to be the advantages of a harness. Because of your upright body positioning in a harness, affording you greater use of your arms and legs, you gain the ability to use it in rougher conditions. This also allows you to assist the guys on deck who are busting a gut to get you up the rig, as you can actually climb and pull/push yourself up.

Also, due to the attachment point being at your waist instead of above your head, you can complete tasks above the sheave your being hoisted on with a harness. A harness is less cumbersome, as you don't have to worry about the arms of the bosun's chair being in your way or eyeline (see photo, right - Jon Downey, bow guy for the Donovan 27 Remedy, is able to get above the top of the mast to look down on the aerials).

Finally, for racing purposes, the harness is a faster method of getting up the rig if it's already being worn -- just grab a halyard, tie it on (never just rely on the shackle) and up you go. If you don't have someone on the boat that is wearing it during the race, it takes up less space on-board and is lighter than a bosun's chair.

Each product has a wheelhouse -- for versatility, quick trips up and down the mast ( especially on the course) and overall range of motion, we'd overwhelmingly choose a harness. For extended periods of time aloft, beginners and dockside work, we'd recommend a bosun's chair.

Tomorrow, we hope to complete a review of the Harken Bosun's Chair. We'll also take a look at the Crewsaver version as well, if we can. On Monday, we'll take a look at the only harness designed specifically for sailors, the Spinlock Mast Pro Harness.

Either way you go, try out both and make your decision based on what makes you feel safest. Walk around the docks and ask neighbors what they use, the pros and cons, whether you can see it, try it, etc. Every time I go up a mast, my first thought is that this would be a really stupid way to die -- but knowing that I have tried all sorts of options and settled on the harness that I have tends to quiet the fear. A little...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hands On: Gill Compressor Vest

The Gill Compressor Vest is a new buoyancy aid geared towards the high performance dinghy and sport boat market. The vest has minimal padding and is very thin throughout to maximize mobility in the boat.

Unlike most life jackets the Compressor Vest is made primarily of neoprene and cut for a tight fit around the torso. The neoprene stretches to compress (hence the name) the gear worn beneath and provides a fit similar to a rash guard. This is excellent for preventing lose gear from snagging on hardware as you move about the boat.

The Compressor is a pull over style vest with a partial zipper on the left side and a buckled waist belt. Since it's a pull over it takes a little doing to get into if you have a lot of gear on but I didn't have too much trouble.

The shoulders are smooth neoprene with no extra bulk - ensuring that what is often a troublesome area on life jackets won't catch on the boom as you are crossing the boat. Some of the reduced bulk in the Compressor Vest comes from the fact that it is a buoyancy aid and is not a US Coast Guard approved life jacket. The vest is CE (European) approved.

The Compressor Vest also makes you look a bit like a superhero. Individual results may vary - damsels in distress have told me I have a natural hero-like physique to begin with. So the vest is a little unusual looking - the separate panels do make it look a little bit like something Batman or a swat team member would wear. Friends might be inclined to punch you to see if it hurts or not (generally it doesn't - it's pretty solid foam).

I think some people would not find the fit of the Compressor Vest to their liking - it really does compress like the name suggests and if you don't often wear rash guards or wet suits in your sailing this probably isn't the vest for you. If you do this is a great compliment to your gear. I think it's perfect for boats like the 49er or 5O5 and it could be good for some Melges or other sport boat sailors too.

If you're in the market for a new life jacket and you want low bulk and don't need it to be US Coast Guard approved the Compressor Vest should certainly be one for you to consider.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Video Blog: NewSwift

Continuing our features about some of the lines we carry here at APS today we're going to discuss Maffioli's line NewSwift. Now NewSwift isn't so new anymore - it's been around for a little while. We're doing some new things with it here at the shop that are pretty cool and I think it's a line worth turning the spotlight on.

NewSwift is available in four sizes and three colors. It has a great hand feel similar to the Swiftcord and doesn't flatten out under load. The downside is that NewSwift is stiffer, but it does become a bit more flexible with use.

And so without further gilding the lily and no more ado; here's today's video.

APS at Key West -- Wrap-up

Warren did a great job sending updates in from Key West while he was down there. However, due to the miracle of e-mail junk filters, we didn't find his last report until yesterday. Brilliant technology you've got there, Microsoft -- start filtering something that you've let through about 93 times before, while giving the ol' "Ole!" to various offers for pharmaceuticals and invitations to exotic MySpace pages.

Anyways, here's Warren's final accounting of the regatta's events:
Following Day #3 and a fantastic team effort for 2 bullets, team L’Outrage was only one point out of first place. We started off Day #4 well and had good pace, rounding the top mark in second. Tangent was slightly ahead and Seefest was slightly behind. We sailed well for the run and the next beat, with Seefest still just slightly behind, having made up time on a shift. On the run we were fast, but not fast enough to catch Tangent, or cover our time on Seefest and we finished in third corrected.

The next race went well with a great start and excellent teamwork all around, but we once again were unable to stay in touch with Tangent and thus we could not cover our time on them, finishing second in the race and overall.

Ian and the team sailing on Spank Me had their best race of the week with a second place in the Race #8 on Thursday, to help assist in their ascension up the scoreboard.

Friday was the nicest weather that we had seen all week and we were looking forward to getting some sun while sailing. The first race on Friday took place in moderate breeze, about 12kts - 15kts, with the warmest temperatures that we'd seen. We were close and in-phase with Tangent up the whole first beat, rounded just behind them. We had a good run and a good second beat, but Tangent was able to squirt away on the second run and beat us by 9 seconds corrected. The second race saw us start well again, having sailed a good, sound race by all accounts, but we still lost by 41 seconds corrected to Tangent, putting us solidly in second for the week.

Warren and L'Outrage finishing the last race for 2nd Overall at KWRW.

Onboard Spank Me, Ian and the team posted a 4-4 to take the daily third place trophy on the final day, sliding them up the results to 8th place for the week.

All in all, I had a fantastic time and a lovely week in Key West, escaping the cold Annapolis weather. I would like to congratulate the team onboard Spank Me; Bob, Kristen, Christian, and Ian for sailing well in a tough One Design Fleet.

I would also like to thank my team Bruce(and Lisa), Kenny, Jon, Jess, Stuart, Mike, Ron for a great week of sailing. Thanks to everyone for my first trip to Key West.

Signing off for the last time from Key West.


Monday, January 26, 2009

The London Boat Show

With Rob working on our 2009 Catalog full-time, his role at the Stern Scoop has been scaled back a bit. In addition to pimping us out in certain places on the Internet, James and I rely on him to feed us any cool products or information that comes across his desk as the APS Marketing Director. This morning, before our weekly planning meeting, he tossed us some pictures from Gill's booth at the 2009 London Boat Show.

The first pictures weren't all that interesting. Sure, Gill's booth looks pretty sweet, but that won't pull in the readers to the blog. And yeah, the pics with the British military brass, where Gill is playing up their alliance with the British Services Transglobe Expedition, are nice but not groundbreaking.

(Note: The BSTE is actually kind of a cool idea; they are pitting the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force against each other in a transglobal yacht race aboard Challenge 67's. It's supposed to be a big ol' team building exercise that takes place over 13 legs of racing -- check it out.)

Hope was not lost for a good blog post though -- the last three pictures in the email from Rob were money. They were pictures of the Gill Fashion Show, which for some reason brought an immediate chuckle to me. Naturally, I flew to Google to find more.

At first, all I could find were pictures of Kelly Brook, some English model who was opening the London Boat Show. Yeah, she's not bad looking, but she supposedly was engaged to Billy Zane at one point, so I immediately lost all respect for her.

Then we struck unintentional comedy gold -- YouTube videos of the fashion shows from Gill, Henri Lloyd, Puma and Musto. We're asking you to tell us who's got the best/funniest show (vote via the poll on the right side of the screen) -- be sure to let them all wash over you before making your choice. Take everything from the ladies' unique base layering options under their bibs to the musical accompaniment into consideration. And we're just guessing here, but it's idiot commentary like this that keeps these kind of shows from occuring here in the States.


Henri Lloyd:



Friday, January 23, 2009

APS at Key West Race Week IV

Yesterday we mentioned that Key West has apparently not been living up to it's reputation as a tropical retreat. APS staff member Lynn has reported that the past few days have seen sailors bundling up with gear that more closely resembles frostbite attire than Carribean cruising gear. With highs not even breaking 50 degrees they might as well be here in Annapolis (no palm trees or Mount Gay sponsored parties here though so I don't think they have it so bad).

Fleeces, beanie hats and frostbite style gloves have been more popular than the shorts and T-shirts I'm sure some were hoping for. After zipping around in an rib all day doing support for the Melges 32 Flat Stanley Lynn says her Musto Windstopper gloves have been doing a great job keeping her hands warm.

This is actually Ian (2nd from the right) -- didn't want him to feel left out.

Warren also let us know what gear he was wearing to keep dry and warm in the unexpectedly cold temps:

My gear combination for today was fantastic. I bought a new Musto MPX Gore-Tex smock, and combined with my Prowik shirt underneath I was dry and comfortable throughout the day even when working hard and getting wet. I also adore my new pair of Ronstan gloves that I bought on Friday, as they are wearing very well with me trimming main and saving my hands.

I'm told the weather for today is a bit more tropical with highs expected to be in the mid 60s and plenty of sunshine for the final day of racing.

Video Blog: Marlow Excel Fusion

A couple days ago Chris talked about the awesome features of Paraloc's unique line. The next line we're featuring here on the Scoop is Marlow's Excel Fusion 75. Excel Fusion is a line we added to our selection last year and we have been extremely happy with the performance feedback we've received from customers about it.

Fusion is an excellent lightweight sheet line for dinghies up to sport boats. It won't absorb water and won't flatten out under load. We carry Fusion in four sizes - 6mm, 7mm, 8mm & 9mm. For those not metrically inclined that's 1/4" all the way through 3/8".

Aaron, one of the customer service representatives here at the shop, uses Fusion as his Laser mainsheet and raves about it. He likes it so much that when it was stolen along with his blade bag just a few weeks after he bought the sheet he went and bought another one the next day (even with an employee discount two Laser mainsheets are not exactly cheap so he must really like it).

Since I've been voted best looking in front of the camera (I might have made that part up) here I am with today's video:

Look for Excel Fusion 75 to be used in many of our custom one design rigging options this season including Lightning jib sheets & tapered M24 spin sheets.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

APS at Key West Race Week III

We went all day yesterday without a report from Warren in Key West and the Stern Scoop team was starting to get worried he might have spent a little too long in the bar the night before. Warren came through in the clutch though with a recap of days two and three. I guess he didn't fall asleep in the bar after all. Here's Warrens report:

Tuesday started out breezier than Monday. We sailed better as a team with tighter boat handling especially around the corners; but there is still room for improvement. After working especially hard to run Tangent down, we lost to them by 1 second, which goes to show everyone out there that literally every second counts in a close race. The second race was more of a drag race and despite our best efforts against Tangent, we were only able to manage a second, 51 seconds behind them.

Ian and the team on Spank Me sailed better on day two than day one pulling up a 9-7 from their previous scores.

Day 3 came and with it a forecast for dying breeze. With temperatures around 55, most of us had all our gear on, as it felt like late fall in Annapolis. The first race we got a great start and sailed well, but unfortunately with Tangent still ahead of us. As we rounded the bottom mark and dropped the spinnaker the jib halyard shackle popped open, so the call was made to drop it and bring it up on the spare halyard. Our venerable tactician Kenny got us back in phase and with some helpful shifts we came to the top mark overlapped outside Tangent.

A premature spinnaker hoist saw our spinnaker hit Tangent's spinnaker so we quickly dropped it and did our circles, but the question was did we do them quickly enough to still save our time on Tangent. We pushed very hard and with a good run we beat Tangent by 13 seconds. Mother Ocean, an O'Day 40 in our class also snuck in to beat Tangent by 1 second to assist in us in making up points on Tangent. Our trimmer Jess took the job of going up the rig to retrieve the lost halyard between races and make sure all of our sail change options were available.

Race 2 saw Tangent involved in a start line incident with the J/29 Seefest, and them spinning circles afterward. This allowed us to lead through the first mark and just barely keep them behind us on the first run. Kenny kept us in phase with the shifts and ahead of Tangent at the top mark again, but Tangent was charging fast behind us. Again Tangent was one boat length behind us at the bottom mark. We stayed on top of them to take the gun and the win by 2:24. So two wins today finds us with 10 points, one point behind Tangent with four races to go.

Standing by in Key West.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Look: FSE Robline's Dinghy Control Line

FSE Robline is a manufacturer out Austria of whose lines have been becoming more commonplace on US boats in the past few years. They offer a wide range of lines from dinghy sheets to high tech PBO halyards. For 2009 APS will be adding their Dinghy Control line to our offering.

Dinghy Control line is made from a SK75 Dyneema core with a polyester cover. The cover is a hard wearing 32 carrier braid that I think feels like some of the most durable cover I've ever held. It accomplishes this durability without becoming stiff - even with the tightly woven cover the line remains quite flexible.

The Dyneema core is color coated - enabling the cover to be stripped back for reduced weight and water absorption. Dinghy Control is available in red, blue, green & yellow - all with the same white/color checker pattern shown in the blue line pictured above.

I think this line will make an excellent control line for boats up to 30 ft or so. I know, you could have figured that just from its name. So FSE Robline isn't exactly into fancy names - that's a good thing I say. The cover is super durable and easy to grip. The ability to strip the cover and have a coated core offers extra advantages to the go fast guys who need to trim weight whenever possible.

Look for this line to be available from APS starting this spring and to be used in some of our custom one design rigging. We'll be offering it in both 5mm and 6mm.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Look: Ronstan Series 30 Orbit Blocks (Updated)

Update: The Series 30 Ronstan Orbit Blocks are now available on our website:

Ronstan has "officially" released the Series 30 Orbit Blocks today; they've been advertised a little already and they were on the Ronstan website last week (maybe longer). Anyways, we're working on getting them up on the site, but here's an image of the whole lot:

Just like a Wendy's menu, you have the traditional singles, doubles and triples in the Series 30 line. Incidentally, how does someone order a biggie-sized triple hamburger meal and have the audacity to ask for a Diet Coke? Really? I digress...

There are a couple of unique blocks in the Series 30 line. They have a Dyneema linked pair of single 30mm blocks, which is a slick, lightweight alternative to linking together to blocks with clunky, metal shackles. The clew ring is also a nice piece, with a high strength stainless steel ring that is going to work on a number of smaller boats.

Ronstan also released a Series 20 block with the Series 30 line. Yes, it's technically its own series, but since there's only one, it gets the middle child treatment. It's a cool little block, capable of loads up to 250kg (550lb) while weighing a just 9 grams. It has an integrated stainless grommet/hub to accept a lashing attachment, or it can be used as a through-sheave becket -- it suits up to 4mm (5/32”) lashing.

One note is that these blocks were engineered for easy fitting of a stainless shackle; it's an advertising point for Ronstan. I'm still working to figure out if they actually include the shackle with the block; I don't think so, but I'll work on that.

The Series 30 blocks are a solid options for most dinghies and small keelboats, and we expect that they'll start making their way onto Lasers, 505's, etc. in the near future. Ronstan looks to be targeting them at the sub-16' boat market, but there are obviously going to be applications on boats in the small keelboat (Melges 20/24, J/22, J/24, etc.) range.

Orbits are still being touted as the blocks with the highest strength to weight ratio, that are more compact than the competition -- by the numbers, they're right. The final test will come when they get into widespread use, but if they're anything like the Series 70, Series 55 and Series 40 blocks, they should perform well and experience solid popularity.

APS at Key West Race Week II

Warren checks back in with a recap of Day #1. It was a good day for Warren and the kids on L'Outrage, taking a pair of second place finishes. Unfortunately, they were outdone by Tangent, a Cape Fear 38 also out of Annapolis, who took a pair of bullets in the wild weather of Monday.

L'Outrage hopes to change their day around on Sperry Top-Sider Day -- who wouldn't want a free pair of shoes? Tomorrow is Mt. Gay Rum Day, where they normally give out a bottle of the really good stuff to the class winner; so look for Warren to be extra motivated to win tomorrow.

Anyways, here's Warren's Day #1 Recap:
We headed out early on Day #1 to get another look at the sails and practice in some actual breeze. The crewwork was great, cemented by several minutes of continuous jibing to make sure that we could get ourselves out of any situation we wanted to.

This is my first rodeo at KWRW, but the first race was, by all accounts, one of the craziest races ever. We started in about 13kts with a rather typical beat, but we could see the squall line coming at us. The squall brought a moderate increase in breeze, but it was the line of driving rain and an almost 45 degree wind shift that made things sporty.

A quick gybe was in order once we got the kite up and we were were quick to the rail as the boat was sailing with the spinnaker pole right on the headstay. As we made our way to the leeward mark, a conservative call was made that saw the bow team switch out headsails, plugging in the #3 and ditching the Heavy #1.

As soon as everything was sqaured away, the #3 went up because we were barely hanging onto the kite, boats were rounding up in front of us. All this manuvering paid off and we rounded the leeward mark in first. As we started to go uphill the breeze dropped off considerably and the #3 left us underpowered. Our main competition, Tangent, got around us and stretched out a lead that allowed them to take the race while we were able to hang on for second.

Headed to the boat for today's races: stay tuned for Race #2 and Today's write up when we get back in.


Monday, January 19, 2009

APS at Key West Race Week

I wish that I was writing this from the warmer climates that are afforded by the southernmost point in the Continental United States, but alas, I'm stuck here in the stupid cold of Annapolis fighting off the bubonic plauge. Well, it might also be rickets, dysentery, or leprosy... WebMD was a little vauge, and I'm a bit of a drama queen.

Luckily, there isn't much that I'll need to do for our Key West thread; a lot of the writing will be done by someone else for this. In fact, I'm going to start now with an intro written by Warren Richter, one of our Customer Service reps who is going to be reporting live to us.

"Several APS staff members are making the trek south. Ian Coleman is sailing on the J/80 Spank Me as a trimmer, Lynn Bethell is on the shore support team for the Melges 32 Flat Stanley, and yours truly is sailing aboard the Beneteau FC10 L’Outrage as Main trimmer.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Bruce and the crew of L’Outrage for winning the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race with the Best in Class and Best in PHRF Fleet honors.

Back to Race Week - with turnout at the lowest it has been in recent memory, this event is still shaping up to be very interesting. The regatta is down nearly a hundred boats, likely due to the significant expense of getting a crew and keelboat down to the Keys in a "down" economy. This shouldn't dampen the competition though, as the scratch sheet still reveals a slew of big names and well-sailed programs."

And Warren, ever reliable, got to typing on his iPhone right after practice on Sunday, and here is his first report:

"Saturday night was a blast; hit up Schooners and had a team dinner at the house with prime rib and grilled swordfish.

Sunday we got to the boat early, fixed a few items and then went out to practice at 10:00am. Practice went great - the wind was hanging in around 5kts, so we looked at a few new sails. We took a look at a recut of the old Heavy #1 that was turned into a #2, hoping the depth will help in the waves. We also checked out the new main and a new runner kite. All of the sails looked great and after ironing out the crew work, we headed in to fix the last two items on the to-do list.

We headed to lunch at The Hogfish on Stock Island, with fresh fish for all. Following this, we rested up at the house and are currently headed to the first night of the rum tent (Editor's Note: you lucky bastard). Then it's off to watch the AFC championship afterwards: Go Ravens!

Standing by in Key West.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Video Blog: Paraloc

Having given you a nickel tour of our cordage selections, we're going to start focusing a little on our most interesting types of line. Everyone knows the most popular brands like Yale's Crystalyne, New England's Endura Braid or Maffioli's Swiftcord, but we have some very interesting options that tend to fly under the radar.

One of those options is Paraloc by Mamutec. Mamutec is based out of Switzerland, a country known for its quality products. These are the people that brought you Rolex, Swiss Bank Accounts, the Swiss Army Knife, Swiss Cheese and, appropriately on a day where it's unsafe for anything short of a polar bear or penguin to go outside, Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate. That's a murderer's row of cool stuff, so you know Paraloc is going to follow suit -- and they do.

We're going into our third season with Paraloc, and the more we work with this line, the more we like it. In broad strokes, Paraloc is the next generation of line; it is manufactured such that core and cover fibers are parallel braided and interlocked with some of the stress-bearing core fibers braided into the cover and vice versa. Through this process, technical fibers of the core and sheath are also reinforced by cross fibers.

As a result, the rope structure forms an integrated whole so that individual elements cannot move relative to each other, and the cover is prevented from slipping or being compressed. All other covered lines on the market start with a separate core (braided or parallel) then braid a cover around it; neither is connected to the other so covers can slip and bunch. Paraloc eliminates this and in turn, many other problems found in traditional lines.

Over the past year, we've really seen a jump in the popularity of this line. Some of that has to do with time on the market -- it's been around for awhile now, and people are getting familiar with it. Personally though, I chalk a large part of this increased usage up to our understanding of how to work with Paraloc now.

Obviously, one of the issues with weaving the cover and core together is that splicing becomes a nearly impossible challenge. With time, we've come up with ways of splicing Paraloc -- for instance, we can use a brummel splice with this line, which weaves the line in on itself creating a solid eyesplice that won't pull out. Unlike a normal splice though, Paraloc estimates that you'll only retain about 70%-75% of the normal breaking strength when you do this.

The other option that we commonly use for Paraloc is applying a tippet. This involves milking a 12-strand line over the Paraloc, whipping and siezing it down, and letting the old Chinese Finger Trap effect firmly connect the 12-strand and the Paraloc. I've had customers question this method, but we've used it with great success on halyards and outhauls.

This is supposed to be a video blog though, so let's get to the video. James was off getting his hair did, so I stepped up to introduce you to Paraloc and its four different options. In spite of this, watch anyways...

Keep an eye on Paraloc in the future -- it really is the next generation. Let us know if you have any questions!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hands On: New Gill Keel Boat Gear

Gill has redesigned their Keel Boat (KB1) line of foulies for the '09 season. The KB line consists of a jacket, hooded smock & salopettes (the kind of pants that come all the way up to your shoulders - no suspenders). All three pieces are geared towards inshore or near shore day racing - they are best suited for active buoy racing boats from J22s and M24s to Farr 40s. They all have minimal extra features and an athletic cut which keeps them very lightweight.

The '09 season brings some changes to the line but nothing drastic. The cut is a little roomier than it has been in the past to accommodate drinking a few extra beers after racing. The jacket and smock are available in both black and white while the trousers are black only. Both have some accent colors - the red stripes on the white jacket are not my favorite color combination of the year but the black looks very nice.

The other significant change is a move away from the uncovered waterproof Riri zipper to a velcro flap over a more traditional zipper on the jacket. This should ensure water stays out even if you spend all day hanging over a lifeline.

Here's a short video review of the changes in the trousers:

After filming that I learned that the official name of the innovative gusset I mentioned is the "Mr. P" gusset. So kudos to whoever came up with that nifty idea.

Overall the new Keel Boat jacket, smock & trousers are a welcome update to an excellent set of gear. At around $285 for each piece it's by no means cheap gear, but it's definitely the right stuff to have if you want lightweight & totally waterproof gear that will hold up to heavy use.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Video Blog: The APS Line Selection

Hey, hey! We're back with a new video blog entry that absolutely nobody asked for!

Yeah, just kidding. Our last video about the Velocitek Speedpuck actually got picked up by the manufacturer and Santa (read: the boss's MasterCard) upgraded our camera, got us some new lights, and picked up an editing program that I have almost no idea how to use. In the future, we can and will be posting these in crystal clear HD... just as soon as I figure out how to do that while keeping the file size down.

So, with our shiny new toys in hand, James steps in front of the camera again to show you our in-house selection of line and cordage. Along with James' post yesterday, we're kicking off a number of posts regarding cordage and rigging, to coincide with our January Rigging Sale. And... I was tired of writing about weather.

This is also a great opportunity for us to shed light on choosing the right rigging and cordage, which is actually harder than it sounds. I've worked here for almost four years, and every time we go over rigging in one of our staff meetings, I learn something new. We're hoping to pass some of that information along...

So, here we go -- take it away, James:

So now that you've gotten a crash course in our cordage options, we're going to start diving into particular types of lines, lesser known information, etc. Stay tuned...

Oh, and tomorrow we're going to have another video blog post with our Storefront Assistant, Ian, running through the details of our most unique line of cordage, Paraloc.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

APS Rigging Department

Since we're having our Annual January Rigging Sale I thought this would be a great time to show everyone a little behind the scenes look at our rigging department here at APS. All the custom rigging we produce from the split-bridle mainsheets to stripped halyards to life lines is made right in our shop. Our two dedicated riggers - John Lund our rigging manager and Jarrett Hering our assistant rigger - make everything we send out.

John & Jarrett hard at work in the rigging department:

Our rigging shop has measuring tapes laid out on the work benches so the riggers can custom build jobs accurately every time (more on the importance of proper measuring next week). They take pride in their work and in producing some of the best custom rigging out there. John is always developing new and innovative solutions for customers whether it be an extreme taper to 1/16" Spectra for a 2.4mR or a M24 lifeline package ready to attach to your boat with no splicing required.

Since this is the unofficial "Rigging Month" here at APS we plan to have a number of posts over the next few weeks about the different lines and rigging options we offer. Look for a video tomorrow staring yours truly with an introduction to our rope wall.

If there are any particular questions anyone wants us to address about lines and rigging leave us a comment and we'll try to work it into a post.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hands On: Weather/Wind References, Part III

I'm not sure if this is going to be the last post or not... I didn't plan on this whole series going past one post, but I'm going to give it the ol' college try at finishing things here.

The last book for weather/wind that I'm going to write about is authored by one of the true authorities of sailboat racing, Stuart H. Walker.

I have a genuine respect for Dr. Walker -- this man knows more about sailing than I'll ever hope to, in large part because I don't have the meticulous discipline that he does. He comes into the shop every now and then, is a nice guy and I can only hope to be as active as he is at his age. You'll understand my need to write all of this in a minute...

Anyways, of all of the books and resources that I read during this odyssey into weather and wind, Dr. Walker's "The Sailor's Wind" is BY FAR, without any doubt, the most complete. At 362 pages, it's basically the bible for those of you that really, really want to understand what's going on with the wind.

But, holy crap it's boring...

No joke, I've read technical manuals about Dell servers that had a more lively literary style. In large part though, that's what makes this such a good resource (and addiction-free sleeping aid); Dr. Walker doesn't seem to care if you like the way that he writes. As I see it, his goal was to create a first class analysis of the wind that puts together personal experience and lots of meteorological data (the bibliography for the book is four pages long). And to that end, he accomplishes his mission with flying colors.

"The Sailor's Wind" does some interesting things -- specifically, it ties concepts together with specific locations, allowing you the ability to visualize and better understand what you're reading, provided that you've actually been to these places. And while I'd be lying if I said that I actually read each word of this book, I can say that even if you just glance over most of the material, you'll come away with a greater understanding of the topic. The supporting illustrations for a given topic are really quite good; no pictures, but detailed illustrations that truly compliment the material.

Make no mistake -- this may look like any other hardcover book, but it's a science textbook no different than the one you used to carry around with you in middle school, in your LL Bean backpack along with your Trapper Keeper. Everything from the wording to the illustrations give you that feeling from the first moment that you start reading.

So... I haven't hidden my feelings on this one -- it's boring and difficult to slog through, but awesome for its detail and possessed knowledge. I can't say that this book is my particular brand of vodka, but it may be yours. I certainly recommend it, but don't carve out a day thinking that you're going to knock it out. You'll re-read a number of paragraphs a couple of times, as I did (Note: I'm by no means a genius, but I'm not diving into the shallow end of the pool either) to actually understand some of this stuff. If you finish this book, you'll feel an amazing sense of pride -- after which, you may chuck it into the first available fire. As such, I'd highly recommend taking notes while you read, so you can easily go back over the information in the future as a refresher.

Overall Grade: B
Information: A+
Readability: C-

PS: Dr. Walker has also put together smaller, 40-ish page guides for certain venues that I highly recommend. Down to the yellow cover, they are Cliff Notes for an area and really do help. They are available for the following venues:
● Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay
● Long Island Sound
● Kingston
● Miami
● Rochester
● Mountain Lakes
● St. Petersburg
● Savannah
● Narragansett Bay

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hands On: Weather/Wind References, Part II

For the second installment in my look at books to help your "pump up" your wind/weather game, I'm going to take on the only other book that I feel is in the leauge of North U's "Weather for Sailors".

Other examples of pumping up: Reebok Pumps, a terrible Christian Slater movie & Hanz and Franz.

"Wind Strategy" by David Houghton and Fiona Campbell was kind of a surprise for me. I can't really explain why I expected less from the book when I first picked it up, but I'll certainly be chalking this one up on the ol' "My First Instincts Failed Me, Again" list. And yes, that's a pretty long list with a slew of epic failures in race strategy, women and cell phones (the Blackberry Storm sucks out loud).

First, a profile of the authors -- Houghton has over 30 years of forecasting for the Met Office (UK's version of NOAA, but with a better website) in addition to serving as a Coach/Adviser to Olympic, Admiral's Cup, America's Cup and Around the World racing teams. Campbell was the Met adviser to the British Olympic Team and the GBR America's Cup Challenge. So, much like the North U. book, these folks have forgotten more about wind strategy and weather than almost anyone you'll ever meet.

The target audience for this book appears to be your near-shore racers, making it a great reference for the majority of sailors out there. This book is a good bit shorter than "Weather for Sailors", so it's a little less descriptive and covers concepts in broader strokes. That's not necessarily a negative though -- this book does a great job flirting with the line of providing too much/not enough information for you to understand what's going on.

The book covers all the standard stuff, like gradient breezes, sea breezes, how land masses and the shore affect the wind, wave patterns, etc. I was pretty happy with the chapters dealing with the effects of the time of day (afternoon or as the sun goes down) on the wind. A nice chapter was also the one about how to form a wind strategy at a regatta, away from your "home water" comfort zone -- the book basically lays out a checklist of things to do.

Finally, they have some summary sheets at the end of the book that they encourage you to laminate and bring with you on the water; they're a nice touch and good for reference on the way out to the course, although I'm not sold on them necessarily being practical for between race use.

The book is well laid out -- there's little searching for important information as it relates directly to sailing. Concepts of weather and racing are tied together well and there is little extraneous information. The supporting images and diagrams are solid -- they're simple, numerous and tie things together well.

There aren't a lot of negatives to the book, as far as I'm concerned. If you're in the US, there are about 40 pages of venue notes at the end of the book that you'll never use (mostly European venues, I think Sydney was in there too). I guess if I'm going to keep comparing it to "Weather for Sailors", "Wind Strategy" falls short on some of the offshore weather elements. "Weather for Sailors" also delves into reading and understanding front maps in much greater detail, and provides a fuller understanding of meteorological concepts, if you're into that sort of thing. If not, there is a lot of information that you might not be into that you'll have to slog through -- that's not the case with "Wind Strategy".

I liked "Wind Strategy" -- it gels with the sailing that I'm doing (a lot of Chesapeake Bay and Coastal stuff) and wasn't all that difficult to get through. I'd definitely recommend it.

Overall Grade: A-

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hands On: Weather/Wind References, Part I

Last month, I took a look at the best resources available for learning and understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing. Continuing with the theme of profiling books and CD's that will help all of us suck just a little less against that local rockstar (or, if you are that rockstar, they'll allow you to beat up on everyone with even less effort, jerk), we're going to be looking at reference materials that deal with the weather and wind.

Oh, and I'm going to be doing this over the course of a few days, so as not to create a mega-super post. I started typing the first review out and it was pretty long -- I'm not nearly interesting enough to expect anyone to read my reviews for more than a couple of minutes, so I'll break it up and spare you the agony.

The first resource that I'll be taking a look at is the North U. book, Weather for Sailors. The book is written by Bill Biewenga, who is a well known weather guru, having owned his own weather consulting firm and currently doing numerous seminars about sailing related topics. He's also a pretty accomplished guy on the water, thanks to a few Whitbread's, several TransPacs and more transatlantic crossings than years I've been alive. Just wanted to get that out there so you understand that it's not just your local Al Roker-esqe TV weather hack slapping a book together, but it's actually a sailor.

It was also edited by Ken Campbell, the co-owner and President of Commander's Weather Corp -- I've actually used Commander's forecasts before at Key West Race Week, and they're good stuff. Usually pretty accurate, predict shifts nicely... always have to grin though when I find the one line that's in all of their reports, saying something to the effect of "the wind will shift to the SE, unless it doesn't".

Having read over the book last night, I came away feeling like I'd taken a bit of a crash course in meteorology. This text covers everything from the formation of tropical systems to reading and understanding weather maps. It also covers important topics like the mechanics of sea breezes and what clouds can tell you about the wind underneath them.

I was a fan of the manner in which the information was presented. The author/editor/et al. did a great job of logically building information on top of itself, much like a good textbook. The book also does a great job of keeping the language and terminology at a manageable level, using the professional "big boy" words only when necessary. This helps the book stay interesting enough to keep reading without making you feel like you're cramming for a final.

One of the areas where I would have liked to see more information was the use of forecasts and knowing what to do/how to react when they're wrong. The book did touch on this, but for like two pages. In fairness to the author, you can argue that reading the book properly should give you the knowledge to figure these things out on the fly anyways, but I held out hope that a book targeted towards sailors would delve into this a little more directly. I'm a fan of direct... take enough shots to the head with the boom, you need direct.

Also, I felt that the book falls short relating the information to the sailing that the majority of us will be doing. It's a relatively small group of people that will be going offshore, so I was hoping that the local/near-shore sections would be the majority of the book -- it turns out that there is a lot of more professional/offshore information, so many of you may not use a solid percentage of the information in this book. The information that you will use, though, is certainly worth finding; plus, when it comes to the weather, there really isn't such a thing as "knowing too much" -- just ask the guesstimators at the National Weather Service.

Overall, I found the book interesting -- it's not a page turner by any means, but if you take the time to read and learn the information contained on its pages, you'll know more about the weather than at least 95% of the guys around you. Considering that it's weather that makes your boat move, that's probably a good thing. It's well laid out and there are a number of appropriate images and diagrams to help illustrate the concepts.

Overall Grade: B+

Available at APS by following this link: North U. - Weather for Sailors

Monday, January 5, 2009

Finale: The Race for the Chops

With a heavy heart (and muffled laughter at the result) we bring you the finale in the "Race for the Chops".

Going into Leg #3, we knew that there was a reality about finishing... we had to cross the line before Christmas, since almost all of us were travelling for the holidays. So with December 25th looming, everyone was racing two enemies -- the Chops and the clock.

Stern Scoop Editor James finished in a convincing first place, crossing the line about 10 hours ahead of fellow Stern Scoop Editor, Chris (yes, I enjoy speaking in the third person). About a day behind us, the battle for the last podium spot was taking place between the Customer Service duo of Aaron and Warren for third place -- Warren would cross the finish line first, taking bronze medal honors by a couple of hours.

With four of us safely across the line, the pressure was on Ian (Storefront), Mike (Fulfillment) and Jarrett (Rigging). Coming up to the 25th, Mike was in the worst position but still had hope, as none of the three had turned the corner for the final straight shot at Singapore. And then, it happened...

Mike was able to log in and make a final, necessary course correction to get across the line on the 27th. Ian and Jarrett were both without access to the internet, leading these titans of the tiller to make unscheduled stops on the Malaysian shoreline. Analyists noted that this quickly stopped being a race for the finish line and started being a race for a laptop and a Starbucks with free wi-fi. It was an truly impressive stand-off of standing off, neither skipper ready to blink in a battle of pure apathy.

But in the end, one skipper had to accidentally cross the finish line. And that skipper... was Ian.

This left Jarrett from the Rigging Department to feel the brutal sting of defeat... as he'll soon feel the brutal itch of fresh facial hair growth. We'll be taking pictures every two days, following the growth of the chops -- sometime in the future, we'll put together a little photo gallery chronicling the evolution. To Jarrett's fiance', please know that we're very, very sorry; take pride in knowing that when your future husband makes a commitment, he does follow through, as this picture shows:

And for those of you wondering what that might evolve into, here's a sneak peak (that makes him look like a bad stunt double for Wolverine in the next X-Men movie):

Keep an eye out -- we're kicking around ideas for the next leg already. We might even let y'all race against us for a gift certificate... no promises though. Thanks for following the "Race for the Chops"!

Final Standings
1st Place - Scoop Editor, James (Overall: 6,307th)
2nd Place - Scoop Editor, Chris (Overall: 10,347th)
3rd Place - Warren from Customer Service (Overall: 18,536th)
4th Place - Aaron from Customer Service (Overall: 21,065th)
5th Place - Mike from Fulfillment (Overall: 41,000-ish)
6th Place - Ian from the Storefront (Overall: 45,678th)
7th Place - Jarrett from Rigging (Overall: 57,731st)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

APS Staff Profile -- Warren Richter

James has been on a kick to profile our staff, to help our customers put a face with the email address or guy/gal on the other side of the phone.

We took a look around during a staff meeting and decided that we should start off with the newest guy in Customer Service, Warren Richter. We always pick on the new guys first...

Warren is probably the most loveable of the guys in Customer Service -- he's like a big teddy bear. When we had the opportunity to add Warren to our team, we jumped at it and we haven't been sorry. So, without further gushing (we'd hate to make him blush), here's our interview with Warren.

Stern Scoop (SS): Hey Warren, thanks for being volunteered.

Warren Richter (WR): No problem... I think.

SS: How long have you been with APS?

WR: I have been at APS since February, 2008.

SS: Hardly seems like its been that long. Tell the folks what you do here.

WR: I work in Customer Service. I answer the phone, take orders and usually just try to make sure people laugh.

SS: At you, or with you? Doesn't matter. What kind of boats do you sail when you're not at work?

WR: J/22, Soverel 33, Antrim 27... I'm not choosy, I'll sail on anything that floats.

SS: And how long have you been sailing?

WR: I have been sailing basically since I was born. I've been sailing on my own dinghies and the like since I was 8.

SS: Same here... I think I was 10 when I started sailing on my own. You know, I've always been slow. What was your favorite sailing experience of the past year? Throw in the worst one too, if you've got one.

WR: My favorite sailing experience this past year was sailing J/22 Worlds in Rochester. It was a great event, well run, good food, good parties.

Specifically though, going out on the Monday before the event when it was blowing 30kts with 4ft - 5ft rollers, wiping out on a plane was pretty crazy.

Worst sailing experience this past year was breaking the mast on the family Soverel 33 in a squall of about 40kts (Editor's Note: guess it's hard to know for sure when the aerials are pointing at the deck), but we have a new mast now and will be at it again next year.

SS: Bummer on the downed mast. But now that you have a new one, no excuses to lose, right??? Changing gears a little, what's your favorite peice of gear?

WR: My 2 favorite pieces of gear are my Henri Lloyd Shadow Salopettes and Prowik shirts. The Henri Lloyd Salopettes are perfect at keeping you dry, and are cover every weather condition from frostbites to wet summer sailing. Prowik shirts are exceptional at wicking moisture away from skin and keeping you dry no matter the tempreture outside.

SS: That's right Henri Lloyd and Prowik -- Warren likes your stuff. Feel free to send him free stuff for pimping your brand. You know where we are...

So Warren, what's you're favorite part of working here at APS? You know, other than getting to work with me?

WR: My favorite part about working here at APS is helping customers figure out their needs for themselves or their boat, and helping to achieve them. I know it sounds corny, but it is the truth. I love playing with and fixing boats.

SS: Thanks for using the word "boats" and not "dinghy's" -- don't need that lawsuit. Give me a favorite beer of yours, in case a customer needs to bribe you in the future to get something done.

WR: Cold and/or Free.

SS: You're a complicated man... what's your favorite place to sail and what is the best regatta you've ever been to?

WR: Favorite place to sail would have to be Palma, Spain.

Best regatta I have been to is closely tied to the above, but it was the World University Match Racing Games, held in Palma, Spain. It got press covereage from the media there, and was a pretty big deal. The mayor of the island came out for the opening and closing ceremonies, and they treated us like royalty the whole week, no matter what we did...

SS: You'll always be royalty in our eyes -- our little Prince(ss). We're done with you at this point; any shout outs, yo?

WR: I would like to throw a shout out to my J22 and Antrim 27 teams, as they put up with all my antics, and to have the family Soverel 33 back on the water for the ’09 season.

SS: Thanks Warren.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes from The Stern Scoop for the a Safe and Happy 2009!

They cancelled the fireworks in Annapolis due to high winds, so here's Sydney. It's way cooler than ours would have been anyways...