These reviews will probably not be very objective since it is only our impression of the equipment we've used on Little Cruiser. However, since none of it was given to us, we are free to tell what we thought about it without any qualms.
Sea Anchors and Drogues
Low Power Lighting
We can't stess the need for good anchors enough. Buy decent anchors and carry at least two of them since they are your main insurance against disaster. For your main anchor choose a model that is at least a size heavier than what is recommended. On Little Cruiser we usually carry three anchors. Our primary anchor is a standard 9 lb danforth which is a good all purpose anchor. The deepset version would be a better choice, but it is a little longer and wouldn't fit in our our bildges. In the past we have also used an 11 lb bruce as our main anchor, but it was rather awkward to stow below so we moved it to our bow roller. Unfortunately, we found that the extra weight up forward caused Little Cruiser to plow through rough seas instead of riding easily over them. Therefore, we now carry a 4 lb Fortress or a 4 lb Bruce copy/Claw on the bow roller as our second anchor. Our third anchor, which is used for storm conditions, is a 25 lb Paul Luke take-apart. This may be one of the finest anchors around in our opinion. We stow this three piece monster below where it serves as ballast until it is needed.
In terms of performance, we found that the Danforth works well in the mud and in the sand, but can faulter in eel grass and on rocky bottoms. The Fortress performs similarly to the Danforth once it has dug in, but it did have a tendency to skim along the surface like a sting ray if we just threw it overboard while we were still moving. The Bruce on the other hand sinks to the bottom quickly, but it also has difficulty penetrating through eel grass.The Fisherman style anchor (Luke) works nicely in many conditions and it excels on difficult bottoms. Once when we were dragging badly on our Danforth in a 40 knot blow in Nassau harbor, we tossed the BIG BOY in, and it dove right through the rags, boxes, conch shells and other junk that prevented our Danforth from taking hold. The Luke held us securely for two more days in that blow. Probably the only problem we can think about with the Luke is maybe the possibility of wrapping the anchor line around one of the flukes when the boat swings around. In terms of cost, the Luke is a bit pricey at around $250. The 11 pound Bruce runs $128, but a generic 13 lb version called a Claw can he had for around $38. The Fortress Fx-7 will set you back $80, but it does break down into a small package which stow down below. Our favorite anchor has got to be the 9 lb Danforth, which costs around $24. All these prices are in U.S. dollars and were taken from various marine store catologues for 2002.
last comment we'd like to make is that the way you deploy your anchor is
just as important as the type and size of anchor that you use. When we
come into an anchorage we try to pick our spot carefully. In waters as
clear as those found in the
Get two of them if you are going offshore, and preferably get different brands/models in case one dies. You don't want both dying for the same reason at the same time. We've used both a Garmin 50 and a Magellan GPS 5000 for years. This year we bought a Garmin eTrex Mariner. They are relatively cheap at a little over $100 for the basic models. We have used ours alot to judge velocity, distance and our position. Obviously, these are just an "aid to navigation," and we use our compass, our charts and our EYES... It might be a good idea to get a cigarette lighter adapter if you have a 12 volt battery onboard. Finally, remember electronics and salt water don't mix so keep your units well protected even if the maker says they are waterproof. Better safe than sorry.
Below is a picture of our old Garmin 50, the ancient Nav 5000, and the eTrex Mariner. The main difference between the old and the new models is that the new models are much smaller, many are WAAS enabled, and they often have built-in map capabilities. WAAS (wide area augmentation system) when available improves accuracy from 10 meters to 3 meters.
Disclaimer: Making your own adaptor or running this hack may void your warranty or damage your GPS.
Though not absolutely necessary for the short offshore passages we make from island to island, we do bring a sea anchor along just on the occasion that we might encounter severe weather or we need to check our drift. Though we have never used ours yet in a official capacity, we carry one as part of our emergency equipement. The nicest one we have carried is a nine foot Para-Tech (R) Parachute Anchor which is good for boats up to 25 feet. When we tested this anchor in the Bahamas in 30 knot winds and 5 foot seas in the Exumas, we found that it stopped Little Cruiser's drift entirely, and it kept us nicely headed into the oncoming seas. If we ever were caught out in the open ocean in a gale, this is the anchor we would want. Unfortunately, this anchor took up a little too much space in our tiny boat despite the fact that it fit into a 7" x 9" bag. Therefore, we replaced it with an inferior but functional 3 foot military surplus munitions parachute. It was not nearly as effective in preventing our drift, but it could keep our bow or our stern to the seas in moderate conditions. This parachute is made of lightweight nylon; it has webbing reinforcements; and it fits into a package the size of a coke can. You may still be able to get these inexpensively at your local army surplus store. The markings on them say PT.NO. 49J7161. MFD JAN. 1972. MILLS MFG CORP. [M30]. One caution about this little parachute is that I wouldn't trust it in severe conditions since it is not that durable looking, but for our limited use it may suffice. More recently, we bought another military surplus parachute, this time a 5 footer which we paid $15 for. It is part no. 2604749-2, manufactured in 1973. It came packaged in a 30" x 6" cordura bag with all the lines tethered neatly. The orange chute appears to be some sort of semi-porous ripstop nylon, which is moderately lightweight and durable. The canopy is reinforced with white 1/2" tubular webbing, which is very strong. Twelve 1/4" braided nylon shroud lines are spliced neatly to the 1/2" webbing, and then they all terminate at 4 plastic thimbles. (spliced there too).
In comparing this chute to our 9' Paratech parachute we noticed a few similarities and some differences. Overall both chutes look alike in shape, and they are both open at the top. They also use the same strong white 1/2" tubular webbing to strengthen the canopy; however, this webbing is used for the shroud lines as well in the bigger chute. The Paratech chute uses heavier zero porosity white nylon so we would imagine that you would drift less with this fabric. Overall, the construction is a little nicer on the Paratech and it is probably stronger, but this is what I would expect out of a custom product that costs almost 15 times as much. We have to admit, though, that we really like the 5' chute for boats the size of Little Cruiser and Paradox. It appears to be more than tough enough for the job, and it is small enough to stow aboard without giving up any valuable space.
In addition to parachute anchors, there is also the option of using a simple drogue. Our own experience with these anchors are that they are less effective in preventing drift than the parachute anchor. They are really intended to be towed astern in big following seas, where they are effective in keeping your boat speed down and your vessle orientated to the waves. This kind of anchor looks like a cone with an open end. The Para-Tech Delta drogue is a new high tech version of this anchor which is suppose to be more effective than the traditional model.
Finally there is the Jordan series drogue, probably one of the best drogues around according to some sources like the USCG. This anchor is really a long braided line with LOTS (say 50-100+) of little drogues on it. It supposedly produces less shock and it could be more effective than other sea anchors since there are always some of these little drogues in undisturbed water. In theory the parchute anchor could be in turbulent water at times, such as in a breaking wave, which might cause some jerking or provide less resistance just when you need it. My main problem with this drogue for OUR USE is that it is time consuming to make, expensive to buy and looks like it might take up more room that we are willing to spare. On the other hand, if you need the ultimate offshore insurance in drogues, this is the one to get.
In conclusion, you may never need a parachute anchor or a drogue if you are coastal cruising or island hopping like we do, but it's nice to have just in case you get "caught out" in a blow, and you never know when that will be. You can investigate the Para-Tech (R) anchors more closely at their site or at Defender Industries .
Below is the Para-Tech (R) Anchor, 3' military surplus, delta drogue, 5' military surplus
LOW POWER LIGHTING
Low power lighting is just what you need in a small boat with small power reserves. We only carry one 32 amp/hour gel cell for all our electrical needs, which includes the running lighting, the interior lighting, the VHF radio, our GPS, the LCD color TV and our cd player. We store this non spill battery on it's side under the floor boards, and we charge it with three Solarex 10 watt solar panels rated at 0.5 amp/hour each. Mindy and I buy these batteries at surplus prices for around $20 a piece at our local Amateur radio flea markets, but they can be bought new for around $70 at most major marine retailers. In addition, we also carry several portable lights for working on the deck at night and for finding small objects in the dark recesses of the boat.
Light Bulbs- To keep our power consumption to a minimum we have used trailer tail light bulbs in the past for all our interior lighting needs and for our anchor light. These bulbs consume very little power (around 150 ma) and they can be installed in vanity light housings. We usually buy our bulbs and the vanity light assembly at our local AUTO ZONE where they are very inexpensive. Recently, we have begun using white LED lights since they consume even less current at around 20 ma at 3 volts per bulb. The main differences we noticed between our old bulbs and the new white LEDs is that our old ones project a little more light per bulb, and that they radiate this light in all directions. The LEDs, on the other hand, are more focused, and they requires a few more bulbs to make up the same light intensity as the trailer lights. Combined as a set of 4 bulbs, we found the LEDs to be ideal for a flashlight as well as for a reading light, and they use around 1/2 to 1/3 the power of a regular bulb in our application. For our last trip we made up an LED set with five bulbs pointing in all directions so that we could use it for our anchor light. For our 2003 trip we made a new 8 element light which may be bright enough for our masthead light. The LED bulbs run around $1.00 a piece from here . We are also excited about the LEDs since the life span of these bulbs run around 100,000 hours, so they should never need replacing. You can see some larger pictures of these lights here .
Along with our fixed lighting we carry several portable flashlights. For deck work at night we use a 3 LED head lamp(Matrix) made by Princeton Tec. This light runs for over 100 hours on 1 lithium battery. For spotlighting we have two types of flashlights that use halogen bulbs, the Princeton Tec 400 Sport Lite and the Ikelite PC Lite. These are very bright lights; however, they are power hungry and run for only a few hours on four "C" sized alkaline batteries. Therefore, we use the Matrix head lamp for general use while the halogen lights are best utilized to illuminate markers or for lighting our way at night. We have to admit that as brands go we love the Princeton Tec. They carry a lifetime guarantee and have a "no hassles" return policy. Mindy and I had two older Tec 400 lights which died after four years of hard use, including a Kayaking trip to Belize and a couple of trips to the Bahamas. We called Princeton Tec about the problem, and they said that they had experienced difficulties with the switches and to just send the old ones back to them. In return for our beat up lights, we got two brand new Tec 400's with the new and improved switches including a fresh set of alkaline batteries. They even went through the trouble of matching the "his and hers color scheme," sending neon and purple lights to replace the original neon and pink ones. What more can we say. They stand behind their product and they HAVE OUR BUSINESS FOR LIFE. Our newest acquisition from this company is their AURORA LED headlamp. Mindy was so impressed by mine that she went ahead and bought herself an LED headlamp too. The Aurora uses three LEDs but it is MUCH brighter than the Matrix. It is also more compact and offers a few more features for less money than our earlier model. It has 3 brightness levels as well as two strobe settings.
We have tried all kinds of stoves aboard Little Cruiser but our favorites remain the backpacking variety since they tend to be relatively inexpensive in comparison with the marine variety. Moreover, they are very compact and quite fuel efficient. When we first started cruising in Little Cruiser we used an old MSR XGK multifuel stove because we already had it, and it could burn just about anything. Clean kerosene (mineral spirits) worked out the best since it was readily available throughout the Bahamas, but it was kind of smokey, the jet required frequent cleaning, and the flame height was hard to control. As a backup we also carried a MSR Whisperlite. Eventually we got tired of these stoves, and we bought two GAZ brand propane/butane stoves which we really prefer. Now, our main stove is a GAZ Tristar 270 ($45), which is simple to light, burns cleanly and is easy to adjust. The backup, a GAZ Turbo 270 ($25) works equally well. The main drawback to the GAZ stoves are the one pound gas cylinders which cost $5.50 a piece. However, they are extremely compact and fit our bilge perfectly.
(From left to right MSR XGK, Century Trail Scout, GAZ Tristar 270, GAZ Turbo 270)
A more economical solution is the Century Trail Scout which costs only $20. We actually installed one of these in SWAMP THING for Dave Gatan, and he likes it very much. As it turns out, the generic 1 pound fuel canasters (blowtorch variety) can be purchased just about anywhere in the world for very little. Our local K-Mart carries them for only $1.68 a piece. There are quite a few other types of propane/butane type stoves on the market that would work equally well A good site to look at them is REI.
(In regards to how much fuel to bring, we have found out that we burn about a pound of propane a week cooking twice a day. If you plan to cook more often then we would recommend 1 1/2 pounds per week.