Transatlantic Personal-Gear Test
I'm back at my desk at Cruising World after a 30-day transatlantic passage from Antigua to Italy via Sint Maarten and the Azores, a distance of about 4,600 miles. Along the way I had a chance to put to the test both new gear and some that I've previously written about in my New Products column.
I started in Antigua, where the boat, a Swan 651 called White Knight, was competing in Sailing Week. It was hot, especially for someone coming straight off the plane from a chilly New England spring. A pleasant surprise was how well the Harken Rash Guard ($40) worked. This comfortable, long-sleeve top has an S.P.F. rating of 50, and I was actually cooler with it on than off. Made of nylon and Spandex, it's not particularly flattering for those of us whose physiques lean more toward a keg than a six-pack, but cruisers will find it a good bit of kit for tropical sailing when away from the public eye.
|Harken's Vortex and Sperry Top-Sider's FIGAWI2 Mesh shoes kept the crew's toes happy as clams.|
I also tried a pair of Harken's new Vortex Deck Shoes ($85), and they were comfortable right out of the box. The sure grip of the sole and the light weight made them the choice over bare feet during the races and whenever there was likely to be deck work on our passage. I found that they dried quickly, and even better, they don't stink at all! One member of my crew, Annie Caswell, was similarly impressed with her Sperry Figawi2 Mesh shoes ($90). They didn't absorb water and drained quickly through ports on the sides and the sole. She liked the toughness and comfort of the shoe so much that she bought a second pair to wear off the boat as she walked around our ports of call.
While sailing through a cold front a few days out, the wind came up suddenly, and I leaped to the wheel. I was wearing my Gill ensemble: Escape Quick-Dry Shorts ($56), Sonar Polo shirt ($42), and Inshore Sport Jacket ($120). The rain started coming down in buckets, and I was underdressed, but I was surprised to find that the mesh-lined tropical-weight jacket was perfectly waterproof-and I would've known had there been the slightest leak-and the hood was more than adequate; the fast-wicking polyester Polo made a good underlayer, and its collar kept my neck comfortable as I watched the rest of the crew tucking in a reef. Rivers of rainwater ran off my jacket and onto my shorts, which, though they got soaked, didn't get at all cold and clingy, as cotton shorts would have. Earlier, in the sunshine, those same shorts had proven cool and comfortable.