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Is this the marine industry credo?

The following is from an email sent to Port Supply, Wholesale Marine Supplies, on 21 July 1999.  To date no reply has been received.  (Updates as of 12/21/99 are shown in italicized parantheses.)

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TO:  PORT SUPPLY

This deals with my experience using products I have obtained from Port Supply over the past few years and am now using in a liveaboard cruising mode.  I have been actively cruising since 1988 on a 32 foot sailboat, which I completely rebuilt during the period 1993-1998 while working as a yacht broker in Hawaii and Guam.  During that rebuild and upgrade, my source of supply was through Port Supply or West Marine.  I have been disappointed in the quality of some products which you may be interested to know about.

1. Explorer Foul Weather Gear, Model 404209S (Jacket) and Model 404318S (Bib Pants).  Two sets (one for each of us) were useless after six months of wear.  The waterproofing disappeared quickly and mildew stains appeared on the white portion of the material.  The bib pants also have a design flaw .. no double zipper makes relieving the bladder inconvenient.  The bib pants have begun flecking off bits of yellow material which stick to the cockpit teak like glue. I have ordered the Henri Lloyd brand for each of us and hope to find better service, especially at the price for this gear (the price of one set exceeds my monthly Social Security retirement payment!).  (We used them once and they are fantastic ... now it's wait and see)

2.  Morse MJB Control, Model 159964.  The backing plate on this control is made of mild steel.  Likewise for the hardware used to affix the control cables.  Three year's use is the maximum to be expected, even though the mild steel parts were primed and painted prior to installation.  Dissimilar metals in the construction require routine disassembly, cleaning and greasing every six months.  The chromed handles develop corrosion spots and the retaining allen screws corrode into place within a year.

3.  Morse DC Utility Control, Model 160010.  The metal base of this utility control (which I use for engine shutoff) rusts after a few months in a salt water environment.  It incorporates a locking wheel which becomes useless due to corrosion in the same timeframe.

4.  West Marine Removable/Fixed Mount Transom Ladder, Model 519009 (Four-step).  After four months of use the swing-down part of the ladder developed, on one side, corrosion cracks at the point where it was bent 90 degrees.  It has now, after one year, rusted through and will soon be unsafe to use.  (The lower portion was replaced and is doing fine)

5.  Cole Hersee Sealed Rocker Switches, Model 191769.  These expensive switches are waterproof, but out of four I have had to replace three within nine months.  Two (now four) of the switches quit working due to internal failure and one had the spade terminal corrode away.  I sent a failed switch and accompanying letter to Cole Hersee but got no response.

6.  Whale Inline Electrical Pump, Model 226803.  Subject to failure after four to six months when used with salt water.  The impeller rusts away from the motor shaft.  Could benefit from a strainer on the input since it is powerful enough to suck up small fish but no suitable strainer appears available.

7.  AVON Underseat Storage Bag, Model 332759.  Though waterproof, it leaks through the top and fills with water!  A good place to keep fish alive but not good for the contents you want to keep dry.  The zipper should be a YKK plastic one since the original has a pot metal slide which corrodes.  The cushion on top was destroyed by UV within four to five months and the plastic underneath the material became brittle and broke apart.  Totally useless and thrown away after one year.  Also purchased an AVON Bow Bag at the same time but it is no longer listed in the catalog.  It also was destroyed by UV, the material ripped, the zipper corroded and it was discarded after four months use.  (To replace the Underseat Storage Bag, I fabricated a similar but better design from Sunbrella acrylic fabric and a cushion made from layers of a camping mattress pad.  I put grommets in the bottom to drain any water that may get in and covered the zipper to keep out water)

8.  West Marine Rail Mount Outboard Bracket, Model 519884.  It mounts a lightweight 3.3HP motor to the pushpit on our vessel.  The "UV-stabilized polypropylene" advertised in the catalog should also say that it helps it last about 18 months.  It is now brittle and I expect it to break apart anytime.

9.  Perko Hatch Adjuster. The one I have is no longer listed but is similar to model 424319.  The zinc portion at the end corroded and broke after two year's service.  I have ordered a SeaFit SS model 264010 as a replacement.

10.  Navico Tillerpilot TP200CX and Hand Programmer CP600. A total disaster.  This saga began in March 1998.  Suzie Mapes can give you details.  Two Tillerpilots and FOUR Hand Programmers have failed within hours or days of use.  After the last failure mid-way through a six-day passage I threw in the towel and have ordered Raytheon Autohelm replacements.  I sent a letter with the last return to be forwarded to Navico-Simrad concerning the failures up to that point.  (The Raytheon ST1000Plus and the ST600R Autopilot Control Unit are performing well.  The features on these units FAR exceed the Naivico ones ...  and they are a bit less expensive!!!  See warning note under the article "Automate the windvane")

We now have a maxim:  "Anything designed for the marine environment should only be used indoors in the middle of a desert".

Is it beyond reason to expect 'marine' quality products to provide service for cruisers (not those that liveaboard in a marina with plenty of freshwater and only occasionally go to sea)?  Perhaps designating items as 'recommended for cruising' (for the ones that DO work) would be useful to the buyer.  There are some that perform quite well and I'd be happy to say what works OK for me.

Hope this is of interest and use to you.

BR, Terry Sargent
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