Good and Bad Gear


These items are among those which we value highly. We would replace any one of them immediately if it were were lost, broken or stolen. The listing order is not significant.

Aries vane gear – after the mast and sails, this is the most important and highly valued piece of equipment we have. Solid as buggery, Mr Aries never complains.  I’ve had this one for nearly 40 years and it has had one rebuild, in Scotland last year. It is not happy in light winds if there is significant swell but the stronger the breeze the happier it is. Under bare poles in the Southern Ocean our Aries steered us down wind at up to 17 knots.  Rebuild kits are available still, from Nick Franklin’s daughter in UK. Our paddle was once attacked by a big Mako shark in the Tasman and has the  tooth marks to prove it. The paddle survived.

50 m reels of 10 mm spectra line – for general replacement of all halliards and for emergency standing rigging replacement.

Petzl head torches – these make deck work at night so easy. We have 4 of them hanging on a hook inside the main hatch and they can be reached from the cockpit.

Tides Marine Sail Track – this transformed our mainsail handling. The fully battened main drops to the deck rapidly, even when let go running downwind. Much cheaper that Battcars and, I think, better. The poly extrusion slides up into the mainsail luff track an new slides are attached to the main. So simple.

I have Schaeffer batten shoes and they have one problem – the stainless slides screw into the polycarbonate housing and the the thread in the housing can strip. This has happened 3 times to us. There is a simple fix – welding a longer screw onto the slide, which can then go right into the housing and a nut can be attached to it inside the housing. I have told Schaeffer about this but they reckon it would be too hard to re-tool their factory. Our main has seen some heavy weather but we’ve always treated it with care. I don’t think this problem has been our fault.

Walder boom brake – has saved many a potentially damaging gybe in strong winds. I wouldn’t be without it. Or something similar.

Walker Bay dinghy with inflatable skirt – this is a gem and for years it has been dragged over razor sharp oyster beds and rocks with little complaint. the inflatable skirt transformed the dinghy and you can just about stand on the gunwhale without capsize. Expensive but worth every penny.

D400 wind generator – silent and powerful, especially in fresh winds. The only problem with this lovely piece of engineering is its weight. We had to beef up the tower to support it.

Honda generator – I cannot imagine not having this little unit on board. It is very quiet, compact, light, and it starts every time. We use it for all our 240 volt tools as well as charging dead batteries. Our big diesel (Ford 80hp) has no valve lifters so dead batteries mean a dead engine. It is very reassuring to have the Honda in the cupboard as backup.

Vesper AIS transceiver – I cannot recommend this little instrument highly enough. It is easy to set up and transmits its information via wi-fi throughout the boat. We use it with an AST 2000 antenna splitter so that the Vesper shares our masthead aerial with the VHF radio. It works flawlessly.

Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker – Ian’s not-so-secret weapon. Some of the most splendid curries have come out of it. Beautifully made.

Music – Our Bose QC1.5 headphones are just superb. I can listen to Wagner leaving the crew in peace. With padded ear enclosures they are more comfortable than those which just sit on the ears (headphones I mean, not crew). In addition to wired speakers in the saloon we also have a Bose Air bluetooth speaker which we use often. Again, superb.

Stektronic LED masthead trilight – this is the all singing and dancing model and I love it. Auto turn off and on anchor light, morse SOS, slow and fast strobe and even port and starboard nav lights! Beautifully made and USCG approved.

Removable cockpit awning and side curtains – together these create the shed, as Dave calls it. A wonderful hothouse in high latitudes, our shed doubles the size of the boat. We don’t often sail with the side curtains down unless things are really bitter. The awning is left up permanently however and the only problem is awkward access to the dowsed main to put on sail ties.

Open CPN navigation program – Highly recommended. Easy to use and, best of all, open source. Very good with AIS, by the way.

iSailor chart program – We have found this to be excellent on iPhone and iPad. The Russian inland waterways charts, downloadable from the iSailor store, cost about $500 for the whole journey from White to Black Sea. I have XGPS 150 bluetooth GPS units, one each for the iPhone and the iPad. They are very good units too.

Bose Air bluetooth speaker – Tainui is a boat of music lovers. This is a gem of a sound unit. If it got lost I would buy a replacement immediately.

Cameras –  I have 2 Nikons (d200 and d300s) which haven’t let me down. But top marks go to the little Canon s95. It is a wonderful toy and more and more of my pictures are taken with it. It is superb in low light and I never use flash. I’d buy another immediately if it were lost or stolen.

Force 10 cooking stove – This is a good stove but it only gets a qualified tick for a couple of reasons – first, the gimbals are pathetic and you need to fabricate heftier ones yourself. The gimbal pivot point is too high also, and that can’t be altered. In bad weather I use shock cord to dampen the swing. The fiddles are inadequate but we were able to adapt the beefy ones from our old Richmond Ring cooker. Lastly, closing the over door is a two hand operation, which is a nuisance. But for all that, it is well built and produces reliable hot flame.

Yellowbrick GPS tracker – This little unit is not cheap but it is robust, reliable and simple to use. You can choose the frequency of our position reports and they are plotted on the yellowbrick website. It keeps those at home from worrying needlessly about our silences.

SmartCafe coffee cups – an odd entry, I know, but all new crew marvel at these. Made in UK, they’re insulated plastic coffee cups with an inbuilt filter plunger for the coffee. In Australia I buy ours at Barbecues Galore in Alice Springs. If you can’t get to the Alice, I know they’re available on line. They make great little gifts for other yachts, too.

PHD thermal gear – designed for mountaineers, this outer wear is absolutely the best you can get. Unreservedly recommended.

CPT autopilot – a wheel mounted belt drive unit, the CPT autopilot has served us well for the last 15,000 miles. It is quiet and eats less than 2 amps. You need to  balance the boat and strong quartering seas are sometimes more than it can manage, but otherwise it is a very useful and reliable autopilot. Apart from one broken belt, it gave us no problems until, after 30,000 miles, salt water corrosion got the control box. An expensive repair is now needed. A shame.

Kindle Paperwhite – What an absolute gem of an item this is! I now cannot imagine watch-keeping without having it with me in the cockpit. An absolute must.