Things that have worked (and some things that haven’t)

Well since I’ve just spent the last week or so hanging around La Paz with my friend Davey, and am going to spend the next few weeks hanging around the same area reading/spearfishing/eating/napping until it’s time to go to Matazlan to meet Emma/Mal, there isn’t really much to talk about. So I’ve decided to do a brief summary of the bits of kit that have stood out, either because they are fantastic or because they are stupid clown trash I regret buying. Starting with the good stuff and then RANT TIME

Decent Stuff

Jiggle Syphon

If there is one thing I’d basically tell everyone on a boat to get, it’s this thing. It allows you to transfer stuff out of jerry cans without trying to pour it from a heavy jerry can on a swaying boat, or getting a mouthful of diesel while trying to prime it (I save that for weekends)

Instead, you just put the jiggle end in the jerry can and move it up and down and it creates the syphon and then off it goes. I have two, one for diesel and one for fresh water.

Seriously, at 10 bucks if you don’t have one of these you really should have.

Get them from this link – Safety Siphon (amazon affiliate link)

Engel M60 Combi

This thing is expensive but well worth it. I got it 5 years ago to replace the old rusted out cold plate system in the uninsulated ice box and it’s kept on chugging since. Reliable, rugged (it ended up across the cabin more than once before I strapped it down properly) and power efficient, and having a bonafide fridge/freezer is a luxury that I’m glad I have – allowing me to catch bigger fish and freeze them for consumption over days/weeks.

Also Ice cream.



Garhauer Rigid Boom Vang

Gudge came with a very basic running rigging setup – no cunningham or (more importantly) vang. For those who don’t know, a vang is a bit of kit that pulls the boom down towards the deck and helps with sail trim – it’s one of those items that I never missed till I got it, and now I use it basically all the time – it’s essential. I went for a solid vang, which is a metal tube with a spring in it that holds up the boom when you are not sailing. This meant I could get rid of the topping lift and add an extra reef line in through the boom.

I got this from Garhauer – bit of a turn around (6 weeks in my case) but you aren’t going to find anything better for the price.

Very, very solidly built.  If I’d had more time I would have replaced my traveler system with theirs as well.

New Sails from Precision Sails

Everyone loves new sails, but I feel I got an excellent deal here from Precision Sails, coming in at half the price of other lofts in the area when I managed to snag their autumn sale a couple of years ago.

The difference from my old obviously-off-a-smaller-boat foresail and my bedsheet-imitating mainsail was pretty incredible, meaning that I’ve been able to hang with the slower race boats in the few races I’ve done in Gudge (before things went horribly wrong at least) and beat to weather in all kinds of crappy conditions up through BC and down through Mexico. And three reef points!

And they are holding up very well – I still get the comment ‘new sails hey?’ at marinas when I’m putting them away, despite them having traveled over 4000 miles and being over 2 years old. Plus, when I screwed up the measurements they made me a brand new foresail for free, which is pretty incredible.



Fleming Auxilary Windvane

Ugh this makes me so sad. So I ditched the Hebidrean Wind Vane I’d spent hours and hours on because I decided I wanted a windvane that could act as a backup rudder if the main one broke as there seems to be a rash of boats being abandoned due to loss of steering recently.

I wanted a Hydrovane but so does everyone else, so I was unable to find any second hand. Running out of time before I left, I found a 2nd hand but never installed Fleming Auxilary Windvane (the fact it was never installed should have been my first hint). The guy really didn’t want to budge much on the price and I ended up spending over what I wanted to, but it looked good on paper – it’s a combo servo/aux rudder model, meaning it has two paddles – a servo one which moves the aux rudder paddle. Both could be swung out the water as well! Sounds great eh? It’s not.

  • The installation involves 4 legs installed in pairs, that have to be an exact distance from the transom/each other as well as at a 45 degree angle. This was a huge pain to do, and I had to get the boatyard to help me, costing me $$$.
  • Despite what the guy who sold it to me said, it’s actually designed for the size of boat it’s bought for. So the main ‘tube’ was too long and had to be cut down and machined to size. More $$$
  • When it was all installed, I found for god only knows what reason, doesn’t have any way to lock the auxiliary rudder straight. Meaning if you try motoring/sailing with the two paddles down, they instantly turn against the flow of the water, reducing your speed by 1-2 knots. Seriously. This means you have to fold them out the water everytime you don’t want to use them, which is a HUGE hassle, involving hanging off the back and a number of ropes tied haphazardly on holding everything out of the water.
  • And then, actually using the thing is basically impossible. Once you lowered and locked both paddles (not an easy task in itself), you then have to somehow hold the servo paddle so it’s aligned in a straight line, hold the auxiliary rudder paddle aligned in a straight line (no easy feat since it instantly wants to turn sideways) and tighten the clutch connecting the two. At the same time. While hanging off the back of the boat. If you are thinking ‘isn’t that a three-handed job’ then congrats, it is. It’s basically impossible to do if the boats moving or if there is any kind of seaway (which being the ocean, there obviously is) or if you don’t have three hands. If it’s even slightly out of alignment it won’t hold course. And you can’t leave it locked down in position and aligned once you DO get it set up, because of the previous point.
  • Even then, when after an hour of dicking around everything is mostly lined up, it doesn’t even seem to keep that good a course (the fact the dude I bought it off had lost the vane it’s supposed to come with meaning I had to build my own probably doesn’t help).
  • Oh, and you can’t use it as an emergency rudder out the box, you have to make/attach your own tiller.
  • Oh yeah – it’s huge and looks like an oil derrick hanging off the back.
  • Also the company who make it seems to have gone out of business.

Wow, that’s quite a rant. Please someone trade or give me a hydrovane kk thanks so I can ditch this untested piece of junk.

Seawater Pro Watermaker

This ones on me – buying a suspiciously cheap water maker (cheap as these things go – it was still 2000 CAD) is probably a recipe for disaster.

However I liked the idea of assembling the pieces and stuff – except it’s not designed to be permantly mounted, has a lot of bits and takes up a ton of room. It’s aimed for the non-tech savvy florida powerboat crowd, and I imagine it’s great for them.

For a small sailboat with not much room and a dude who hates plumbing, really not ideal. I haven’t even set it up yet. It also appears kinda tricky to use. Not a total waste, but I wish I’d spent a bit more money and picked up a proper marine unit second hand.

edit: They seem to have more options now so maybe they’ve fixed some of my issues with it

Pressure Water

Oooooooh, bit of a controversial one this one. When I was living at a marina, it seemed natural that I HAD to have pressure water, right? Allows you to have hot water, as well as water on demand – no brainer, right?

Well, no. In fact, I dearly wish I’d ripped out the whole system and put in a saltwater/freshwater footpump in instead. Why? I’m glad you asked!

  • There are always leaks. ‘But Matt’ you may say, looking smugly at your lovely boat, ‘mine doesn’t leak!’ Well it does my dude, you just haven’t found it yet! Millions of hoseclamp connections and vibration/rocking/slamming means there will always be at least one tiny leak you can’t find
  • Which leads to wasted water. Even worse, if you forget to turn off the breaker for the pump then there is a good chance when you go sailing you’ll get an airlock, or a tap will get knocked open and poof – there goes your water
  • I don’t even really use hot water anymore anyway! I wash all my dishes in saltwater to save water, and even in freshwater I am using cold water. I don’t shower inside either so no need for that – I either shower in the cockpit with a solar shower or go for a swim.
  • PLUMBING GODDAMN SUCKS and the less of it the better.


Anyway, that’s all I can think of now – I’m off to have a beer, watch the sunset and then have a nap.





  1. I want to say something smug about the windvane but so far I am holding it in… 🙂

    Interesting about the pressure water. I guess I am just going to have to try some tropical sailing before I become a believer. Great stuff. Good luck on your crossing.

    • That’s what I get for being TOO fancy, hey?

      And I started a thread on CF about the pressure water thing – seems to be about evenly split, though the people with pressure water are talking about 1000 litre tanks etc, which suggests they are on way bigger boats than me.

  2. I saw that giggly siphon thing on a delivery and thought it was genious! Didn’t know they were so cheap. Will buy from your link 🙂 also, so so glad I don’t have water pressure! I’ve never understood them as they seem to have so lany issues. Foot pumps are awesome and really save on water consumption! It takes me 2 months to get thru 75 gallons.

    • Thanks – and yeah for the price basically a must have!

      I started a thread about water pressure on CF which got some interesting responses about hybrid systems that got me thinking. Though installing a foot pump is sadly pretty pricey if you don’t have one already :+(

      • Hmm, interesting! I guess when I got Coconut ALL the plumbing had been removed so I got to start fresh and the foot pump was the cheapest option as the pressure / hot water systems had been removed too. You’d just need hose from the tank to the pump to the faucet right? I left the faucet and hooked it up to the “cold” side.

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