Transatlantic Personal-Gear Test
|Spinlock's deck Vest safety harness and inflatable life jacket draws high marks for light weight and comfort.|
I wore a Spinlock Deck Vest inflatable safety harness ($365) every night and on many days during the passage. It was exceedingly easy to get used to, lightweight, and easy to don and adjust for whatever gear I wore underneath. The quality is as high as it can be. The complementary tether worked well, too, though I'm not a fan of the safety carabiners that are mandated by the offshore-racing authorities. Also from Spinlock was the Mast Pro harness ($175), a marine adaptation of a rock-climbing harness that replaces a bosun's chair. It features a wide, padded belt and even wider padded adjustable leg belts for your thighs. Not only is this much more comfortable to use for long periods while working up the stick; it's also considerably safer than any bosun's chair because you can never come out of it.
One of the coolest things I tried was the SPOT Satellite Messenger ($170). This little device e-mails a daily message you select-mine was "Everything's fine on White Knight"-and at the same time it sends your latitude and longitude and a link to your Google Earth position. I naturally put my wife on the recipient list; she tracked me every noon, calculating how much more time she had to relax and play-I mean, how much longer she'd be missing me. Also on the list, my boss, CW editor John Burnham, knew how much longer he had to farm out my editing duties, and the owner of the boat knew where his pride and joy was every day. There was room for each crewmember to add a contact or two as well. Given the cost, it's a worthwhile device and a good value at $100 a year for the satellite service. Two other functions allow you to ask your listed recipients for help or to alert rescue services to come to your aid in an emergency-sort of like an EPIRB, though the company is very clear that the SPOT is not a substitute for an EPIRB. The folks at home were glad to know that all aboard were safe, and it's earned a spot in my seabag from now on.
|SPOT is a wireless personal tracker that sends limited messages home via satellite.|
I'm not all that old, but when I first went offshore, communications back home were spotty and good cotton long underwear under wool sweaters was the norm. You kept dry(ish) with rubber, nonbreathable gear with snaps to keep the jacket closed. Offshore sailing may still involve a small boat, wind and sea, but the new gear that's evolved allows sailors to be much more comfortable.
Andrew Burton, a longtime delivery captain, is a CW associate editor.
Atlantis Weather Gear:
Gill: (800) 822-6504,
Harken: (262) 691-3320,
Line 7: +64 -9-308-7700,
Sperry: (800) 247-6575,
Spinlock: (401) 845-9700,
SPOT Satellite Messenger: