That’s a Wrap! Boat Leather Pics & Video

August, 2014:

To a certain degree, every passage is a shake-down passage.  I mean, it’s rare cruisers pull up to a dock or anchorage after a trying-but-successful passage and say, “Yep, we did everything exactly right.  All of our equipment worked just as we intended and we executed everything with unquestionable precision and skill.”  Please.  If you know cruisers like that, unfriend them.  Nothing ever goes exactly as planned.  There’s always something to learn or take away from a passage.  That’s the beauty of sailing.  It’s all about shaking–shaking things up, shaking them down, keeping the dust and cobwebs off.  There are a million things we learned during our trip last year to the Keys.  We’ve forgotten half of them by now, but most of the important lessons stuck.  There were also many things we learned we wanted to do to the boat to better prepare it for our next BIG trip.  We started keeping a running tally as we were going and then prioritizing–which projects were musts, and which were luxuries.  One of our higher-up items on the list was replacing the old leather cover on our steering wheel.


Yeah, that ratty thing.

While a leather steering wheel cover for the boat may sound like a luxury, we consider it a necessity.  If the auto-pilot will not hold and you’re forced to hold that thing for hours on end, anything that keeps your hands comfortable and less prone to cramp and ache while you’re doing it is anything but a luxury.  Our leather cover had served us well since we bought the boat in 2013, but had suffered a few holes and missing chunks over the years.


And, if I had to hear Phillip gripe one more time about this flap, I was going to rip it off and throw it overboard.


That thing drove him nuts.  Heck, it drove me nuts.  I’m one of those that can’t leave a scab or a wayward cuticle alone.  If it’s snagging and catching on things, or just bugging me in general, I’m going to pick it until it’s a big, infected bloody mess, but at least the flap is gone!  Take that flap!  Phillip had to watch me closely during the Keys trip to make sure I wasn’t tempted to rip this obstinate little piece off (because it would have caused the whole cover to unravel and fray).  Luckily, I didn’t.  This worn, ragged cover made it back home in, well, a couple of worn and ragged pieces, so it was high time we replaced it.

Thankfully, our previous owner, Jack, was meticulous in his care of the boat and he kept all of his receipts, manuals, instructions, etc.  While we weren’t surprised to find he kept the receipt from his purchase of the leather cover, we were surprised to find that he had bought it in 1992!

photo 1 (1)

So, that the ratty cover we were cursing had been on the boat for 22 years!  TWENTY-TWO?!  Do they make anything these days that lasts that long?  Other than diesel engines, I can’t think of much.  When it came to replacing it, we really had no reason to branch out.  We were pleased with the product and it had clearly proven its durability.  It was an easy decision.  Another Boat Leather steering wheel cover it would be.  Tom, with Boat Leather, even had Jack’s old records, so he already knew our wheel size, making the order a snap to refill.  Within minutes, our new Boat Leather cover was on its way, along with a detailed instruction guide to show us how to accomplish the specific herringbone stitch needed to secure it around our wheel.


Tom has also published a very helpful video on his website which shows, in real time, his perfected method for installing the wheel cover.  Armed with our instructions, the new wheel cover and a thick needle, Phillip and I picked a sunny August day and set to it.

I have to admit, the first final RRRrrrrip! of the old leather cover off of the wheel felt good.  “Take that flap!”

IMG_4533 IMG_4534 IMG_4537 IMG_4542

Our wheel sure was pretty underneath–all polished and shiny!


We are the original gangstuhs.


We didn’t let her breathe for long, though.  The next step was a thin layer of double-sided tape to hold the leather cover in place while you wrap it around the wheel.

IMG_4546IMG_4549 IMG_4548

(That’s my pretty work face)

The Boat Leather cover comes pre-sized specifically to fit your steering wheel and, you can see here, it has holes pre-punched into the leather to make the stitching easier.


Ahhh … the stitching.  That was definitely my favorite part!  The taping and wrapping was followed by about three hours of super-fun stitching.

IMG_4553 IMG_4554 IMG_4552

I’m smiling here because I didn’t yet know how much “fun” the stitching was going to be.  I felt like Forrest Gump experiencing all the different “directions of rain” in Vietnam.  We stitched backwards, sideways, upside down.

IMG_4556 IMG_4580IMG_4586

It honestly wasn’t too bad, though.  A nice sunny day, some good Gordon Lightfoot playing in the background and I could have stitched all day.  Before we knew it, we had made it around full-circle and were putting the last stitch in!

IMG_4577 IMG_4591

And, then she was done!

IMG_4595 IMG_4596 IMG_4594

Wheeeh-whoo!  Ain’t she a beaut?  One hot afternoon of stitching, and she was on there–a new Boat Leather steering wheel cover, ready to take us cruising another 20 years.  The Captain was obviously pleased with my stitchmanship.


“Why thank you ma’am.”

And, the best part?  No more flap!  Our wheel is now soft and smooth and a true joy to hold.  We were so impressed with the product, we knew when we saw Boat Leather listed as one of the exhibitors at the Strictly Sail Miami show this past February, we were going to have to stop by the Boat Leather booth and tell Tom ourselves what an awesome job he has done putting out such a quality boat product for so many years.

Tom was incredibly humble and grateful and asked us only for one small favor in return … a live testimonial from yours truly for his soon to be updated website.

Me??  Have something to SAY about something?  Never!

I didn’t hesitate (although perhaps I should have–I could have planned my giddy teenage spiel a little better, but alas … it is done).  Tom clicked his phone on video and I took off, talking ninety miles a minute, raving about his twenty-year product, throwing in a blog mention and ending the whole thing with a wicked thumbs up.  YEEEAAAH!

Remember when I become famous, you saw it here first …

So, replacing the wheel cover?  Done.  Next time, we knock off another biggie of our Post-Keys Project list.  That’s right followers, it’s time to do some sol(ar) searching.  Join us!


Many thanks to the folks who make these posts a little more possible with PATREON.

Strictly Sail Finale – Memorable Miami Moments

February 15, 2015:

Waiter No. 1:  “Ahhh … Here we are folks, the spicy tuna tartar.”

Phillip [swallowing a bite of his curry]:  “No, sorry sir.  We’ve got our food already.”

We shrug our shoulders and get back to our plates.  Phillip and I are dining at the new Tokyo Blue Asian fusion restaurant a few days into the Strictly Sail Miami show, already well into our third course and beginning the push-back-and-sigh routine.  When the first waiter happened by, trying to dump a second entree on us, we thought nothing of it.  But, when the second came along, I started to sense a story brewing.  While the boats and “sailebrities” and seminars at the Show were all very well and good, as it seems is often the case, adventure tends to find us.  During our time in Miami, Phillip and I stumbled upon a number of chance encounters, unlikely occurrences and other note-worthy experiences that I knew you all would enjoy.  While they were numerous (believe it or not, I did cull this down), before I left this brightly-lit city to cover our next blog adventure, I had to share the following–some of our more memorable Miami moments.  This one I like to call —

Where’s the Beef?

As Waiter No. 1 saunters off in a bit of a perplexed state, Phillip and I continue indulging in our sweet Chilean sea bass skewers, slow-roasted chica duck and an unforgettable Masaman Curry.

IMG_8166 IMG_8168

It isn’t long before the next server arrives, extending an exquisite looking display of fish towards me.

Waiter No. 2:  “Here you are madam, the salmon carpaccio.”

Annie [putting her chopsticks down and wiping her mouth]:  “That’s not mine.  Sorry.”

Waiter No. 2 [looking confused]:  “Isn’t this table 55?”

Annie [looking even more confused]:  “Ummm …  I couldn’t tell you.”

Having only been open a week or two at the time, we chalk it up to some table numbering kinks Tokyo Blue had yet to work out, shrug it off and get back to our chopping and sticking when a third one comes at us.

Waiter No. 3:  “And, here we are folks.  The beef tenderloin.”

He sets it down on the table before we can object (assuming we would).  It’s a hot juicy slab of filet mignon sizzling on it’s own ceramic, stone coal pit.


Neither Phillip nor I said a word.  No, “Sorry sir, that’s not ours,” or “Nope, not here.”  It was silence and mesmiry (the Asian fusion version of mesmerize).  Phillip didn’t know then–he’ll find out when he reads this–but, I nodded ever-so-slightly at the waiter while Phillip was eyeing that succulent piece of meat.  I couldn’t help it.  Did you see that sizzling thing?  “Mmmh-hmmm” my eyes said.  “That’s ours.  Leave it.”  I figured, twice we’d done the right thing and sent perfectly good food away.  Third time’s a charm.  The minute Waiter No. 3 pulled his hand away from the stone, Phillip and I both stabbed at the meat and started shoveling mouthfuls of savory red beef in.


It’s ours now.  And, it was incredible–both Tokyo Blue and the free beef.


Well, That’s Very Proper of You

Speaking of free food, after our third day at the show, we found ourselves nearing the evening, wandering the docks yet again and poking around all of the fancy boats we couldn’t afford.  Inadvertently, we stumbled into the velvet rope cordoned-corner for Leopard Catamarans.  Champagne glasses were clinking.  Everyone had dainty little plates in their hands heaped with dainty little saucy bites and bits.  It looked delicious, and we were hungry.  We had no interest in buying a boat at the show, much less buying a catamaran, but that’s the beauty of the boat show–it doesn’t matter!  All they want is your name and an email so they can eHound you later and you’re in!  I’ve got plenty of junk emails.  You’re welcome to all of them!”

It didn’t take much and we were soon behind the velvet rope, standing in line at the hot bar filling our own little dainty plates with steaming empanadas, croquettes, meat pies, you name it!  And, there we were, two stacked plates between us, and a glass and a half of champagne, and guess who we saw standing not five feet away?  The one.  The only.  Nigel Calder.  I nudged Phillip hard, pointed in Nigel’s direction and hissed at him, “Look, it’s Mr. Seized-it-up-Solid!”  He was right there, eating the free food right along with us.  I wanted to find a suitable bush I could nestle in, pick it up and twinkle-toe over so I could spy on him.  Phillip had the better idea to actually walk up to the man and talk to him.

Turns out, he was super approachable and easy to talk to.  After a few exchanges, Nigel asked Phillip and I what connection we had to Leopard, to which we replied, “None.  We just wanted some free food.”

“Well, that’s very proper of you,” Nigel responded in his thick British accent.  “Why d’you think I’m here?” he said with a smile and continued nibbling.

Nigel then told us how he and his family, when they were live-aboard, on-the-hook cruisers, would scope out the big boat shows at the marinas and find out when the roped-off sales tents–like the very one we were standing in–would shut down for the day.  The whole brood would then plan to motor up in their dinghy about that time and let the good yachties know they were welcome to donate any food that was going to go to the trash to the Calder clan instead.  Nigel said they used to rack up on all sorts of free provisions that way.

The man is a total cruiser to the core.  Love that guy.



The Lunch Line Nazi

Another fun (not free, but cheap!) food encounter–The Cafeteria.  While we certainly enjoyed every meal in Miami, I hate to even think back on some of the pricier ones knowing what each little morsel cost us.  But, I am proud to say, one of our favorite dining experiences of the entire trip only put us back $11.94.  As I mentioned, the condo we snagged via Airbnb on Biscayne Boulevard offered us an exceptional view of Biscayne Bay and put us right within walking distance of the Strictly Sail show and just about every restaurant and area we wanted to check out.


Often, when we were walking to-and-fro for our morning coffee or dinner or what-not, we would pass by this little corner walk-up-and-order diner called The Cafeteria that usually had a line half-way down the block.  The minute their roll-down street bars were raised, folks started to flock.  About our third time walking by it, or, more accurately, walking around the line that was flowing out from it, Phillip and I decided we had to eat there just once.  We planned it for our last lunch of the trip – Day Five, baby!

We were eyeing the little concession stand-like menu board on the back wall and watching folks as they stepped up, ordered and promptly moved out the way like a factory conveyor belt.  You could tell this was a real locals joint.  There would be no “dressing on the side,” no “hold the onions on that,” no special orders of any kind.  ‘Your way’ was not an option here. The only way you could ‘have it,’ was their way.  The beefy lunch-lady looking gal that was running the joint gave me that Soup Nazi vibe.


You walk up.  You order a few items from the board.  You step to the side.  That’s how it was done.  Phillip and I planned our attack and, despite a few bobbles with a bit of the Spanish, Phillip did a good job.  The lunch-line Nazi seemed to accept our feeble request for some food and we were shuffled along with the rest of the brood to wait for our fried goodness.  We ordered a croquette, some type of stuffed yuca roll, an empanada, a beef-filled biscuit thing and a traditional pressed Cuban sandwich.  It was all fried or pressed, and it was all delicious.

IMG_8281 IMG_8280 IMG_8286

The croquette, especially.  Phillip risked another Nazi attack by getting back in the line to order us up a couple more, but he successfully weathered the storm.  Atmosphere, experience and pallet-pleasing combined, The Cafeteria was easily our least expensive, yet one of our favorite meals of the trip.



We Draw the Line at Walgreen’s

So, I don’t go to Miami often.  I’ve been maybe three times in all of my adult life.  You would think whatever those crazy algorithms credit card companies use to determine which purchases are so uncommon they fall into the category of “suspected fraudulent charges,” would find lavish dinner and drinks in a rare city potentially fall under that purview.  Apparently not my credit card company.  Lunch at Ceviche 105 off of Biscayne Boulevard?  Totally normal for Annie.  A big, three-course dinner at Toro Toro in downtown Miami?  Happens all the time.  Those charges went through just fine.  You want to know where they drew the line?  Walgreen’s.

I pop over one morning to the Walgreen’s near our condo to pick up some shades and a hat, and the credit card Gods say, “We’ve had it.  Enough is enough.  We draw the line at Walgreen’s!”  Card declined.  Makes no sense.  But, thankfully I had some dollar bills with me and was able to get my goods and go.  The hat was totally worth it.



How the Other Half Lives

Our last night in the lavish, lit-up city we ended up wandering down Biscayne Boulevard toward the new Epic Hotel.  The place was a spectacle.  High-dollar cars littered the circle drive and mega yachts lined the waterfront access from the Miami River.

IMG_8308 IMG_8311 IMG_8312

I’m sure the “Just J” stands for Jay-Z’s cousin’s or something.  

We soon found ourselves sitting at the newly-opened Lilt Lounge in the Hotel craving a few of their signature cocktails.  The back-lit tower of colorful liquor selections got patrons in the right “spirits.”

IMG_8316   homepage-3

The place was super swank.  Excellent jazz vibe, modern decor and a really impressive drink menu.  The barkeep was a lot of fun, too.  A real soft sell.  He let us ease into our chairs and set out some waters while we perused the menu, gently wiping down the bar around us, waiting until we had made the perfect selection.  He started chatting us up about where we were from and telling us a little about the hotel.  He encouraged us to head up to check out the rooftop pool overlooking the Miami River and the Area 31 restaurant overlooking the pool.  It really didn’t take much encouraging.  What else were we doing?  But, the view topside really knocked our socks off.  Let’s just say it was — Epic.  Join us, will you, and see how the other half lives …

IMG_8324 IMG_8327 IMG_8330 IMG_8333IMG_8331

I guess we got a little delusional in the crisp night air because we sauntered right into Area 31, one of Miami’s premiere ocean-inspired restaurants, like we were some distant relative of Jay Z himself and asked for a table with a view.  We were either lucky, or on a slow Sunday night even twice-removed kin make the list, because they sat us and within minutes, Phillip and I were looking out on that gorgeous view from a rose-adorned table for two, settling in for our last swank meal of the trip.

IMG_8335 IMG_8337

How was the grilled octopus, you ask?  Epic, I should say.  Every morsel was delicious, and the service was superb.  No free beef this time, but we weren’t complaining.  We indulged one last time and then decided we were all ‘swanked’ out.  It was high time we got this crew home before we could no longer afford a boat!

A breathtaking sunrise stretched over Biscayne Bay as we packed our bags the next morning and got ready to fly back to Pensacola.

IMG_8351 IMG_8355

In all, we spent five wickedly entertaining days in Miami and thoroughly enjoyed the Strictly Sail Miami show.  The wealth of information and contacts we gained made it well worth the trip.  We would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about boats, sailing and cruising or who is or might soon be shopping for a boat.  Cruisers form such a small, supportive community, and some of the most knowledgeable in the business are all there at the show, readily available and eager to talk to you about just about anything.  Once you’re plugged in, you feel there is always somewhere you can turn for help troubleshooting, plotting different passages, and ideas and solutions for rigging gear on the boat.  Speaking of which, while I have had a lot of fun jumping right into this Strictly Sail Show after wrapping the epic Keys diaries, we did make some serious upgrades to the boat this past fall after returning from the Keys that we’ll cover in detail soon.  We installed some really cool new boat stuff and took our balsa-cored beauty out to witness some of the most breathtaking sunsets yet.  Plenty more in store!  Next up, we “Go Green.”  Stay tuned!

Many thanks to the folks who make these posts a little more possible with PATREON.

Strictly Sail Miami – Day Four – Edutainment & Cool Boat Stuff

February 14, 2015:

Who wants to learn about sailing?


We did!!  Sure, the Strictly Sail show is a great place to look at a ton of sailboats, but it’s also a great place to learn a ton about them, too.  The Strictly Sail folks bring in speakers from all over the world–real experts in their field when it comes to sailing, cruising and crossing oceans.  And, they offered so many different topics!  From chartering to boat buying, ocean sailing, engine maintenance, navigation, tropical destinations, you name it.  They offered something for every skill level and interest.  We only had four days at the show with a half-day committed to a hands-on sail class and, of course, the desire to check out all of the boats and “cool boat stuff” on display.  Time was of the essence.  We had to be selective!

photo 1 (6) photo 2 (7)

I felt like Elaine on Seinfeld trying to decide which seminars were really “spongeworthy.”

(And notice I said seminars not speakers – keeping it classy).  We had a checklist that we stuck by and tried to coordinate and catch the topics we were really interested in or certain “sailebrities” we knew we just had to see.  While we saw plenty of seminars–most were great, although there were a few snoozers (I will not name names)–here are the highlights:

1.  Kretschmer‘s “Storm Sailing Strategies”:  Ahhh … Mr. Kretschmer … where do I begin?  This is a man who has crossed the Atlantic ocean more than 20 times and has taught and trained hundreds of mariners worldwide in hands-on storm tactics, yet he prefers to walk around the dock barefoot and hang with the everyday, no-name sailors.  Our primary takeaway from his “Storm Sailing Strategies” seminar?  “Forget about the main!”  When downwind sailing, drop the main and just throw out the head sail.  The main just bangs around shadowing the head sail, often accidentally jibes and basically just drives you crazy.  I think it was Al Pacino who said it first, but Kretschmer sealed it for me:


2.  Nigel Calder’s “Lessons Learned Along the Way”:  Hands-down favorite presentation for us at the show.  As I mentioned before, Nigel, being the hyper-technical yet undisputed expert of marine diesel engines and electronics, I expected him to be knowledgeable, yes.  But, entertaining?  No.  Absolutely not.  Was he, though?  You better believe it.  Nigel was surprisingly humble, self-deprecating and willing to re-live any number of his colossal screw-ups with a comedic timing that would knock your socks off.  In this presentation “Lessons Learned Along the Way,” Nigel recounted, in vivid detail, not two but the THREE times that he, in the process of changing the oil in an engine, drained the oil from the engine, forgot entirely that he’d drained it (usually because a friend said “hey let’s go get a cold one at the pub”), then cranked the engine (to get to the pub) and promptly “seized it up solid.”  Repeat that in a thick, British accent and you’ll come remotely close to understanding how wildly entertaining Nigel Calder was.  Our primary takeaway from his presentation?

“If you’re going to seize one up solid, try and be sure it’s not yours.”  


Smart man, that Nigel.


3.  Lee Chesneau’s “1-2-3 Rule for Hurricane Avoidance”:  Smart man, that Lee, too.  We caught two of Lee’s weather forecasting seminars and learned a great deal from both of them.  I, in particular, learned these are not little haircombs dotting the chart


Rather, they are wind symbols (arrows to be exact), indicating wind direction and speed.windsym

Ahhhh … brilliant!  Lee also did an excellent job of explaining the National Weather Service’s 1-2-3 rule for avoiding a hurricane path.  If you’re out there, too far from land to get to shore, you can safely maneuver your way out of the path of a hurricane by estimating the “danger area” over a 72-hour period.  Using the NWS’s 10-year average track predictions, you can predict the path of a hurricane’s danger zone (meaning the radius where the winds escalate above 35 mph) by projecting its path 100 nautical miles over 24 hours, 200 nm over 48 hours and 300 nm over 72 hours.


Voila!  The 1-2-3 rule.  Thank you Lee!

While there were plenty of other seminars we thoroughly enjoyed, I’ve tried to not be a snoozer myself by recounting them ALL in excruciating detail here.  Pam Wall’s “Do You Want to Go to the Bahamas?” and Woody Henderson’s “Sailing Offshore” presentations, though, do get an honorable mention.  In all, the seminars at the Strictly Sail show were well-planned, informative and–once you’d bought your $20 ticket to the show–absolutely free!  Always a plus in our book.  And, they were very intimate settings (think 20-30 folks, at most, attending, although it was usually 15-20) where you could interact with the speaker, interject and ask questions during the presentation and approach them afterward to ask them pretty much anything you darn-well pleased, which, for me, was … Will you read my book??

photo (7)

I hope I didn’t scare them too badly …

We had checked out a good deal of the boats at the show and heard plenty about them.  And, I’ll tell you, one thing walking around a lot of sailboats makes you want to do is — SAIL!  Isn’t that the point?  We had signed up for a hands-on sailing class out on Biscayne Bay and were really excited to get out there on the water and put some of our newly-acquired sail plans to work.

Hands-On Essential Cruising Skills Class:  We headed out Saturday morning (Happy belated V-day followers!) from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for a three-hour hands-on sailing class.  The workshops are limited to 6 persons and were $99 a person.


We weren’t sure what to expect, but at $99 for a 3 hour sail around beautiful Biscayne Bay we figured we couldn’t miss.  Perhaps he (and, yes, I assumed our instructor would be a “he” – totally misogynistic of me, I know) would spend an hour telling us which lines controlled the main sail and which ones the jib, how to drop the anchor, etc.  Really basic stuff.  That was definitely a possibility.  But, what if he jumped right up and made us put a triple reef in in some heavy winds or … even better – HEAVE-TO!


Heck yeah!

What is “heave-to” you might ask?  I once heard a boat instructor say, “It’s not where I heave, and then you heave, too … ha ha, snort,” and I hate to admit I actually chuckled when he said that.  Heave-to is actually a critical sail skill for cruisers.  It’s basically where you stop the boat (pretty much) in the middle of water so you can get some rest, make some food, hold your ground in a treacherous storm, or worse, turn around to pick up a man who has fallen over-board.  For those of you non-sailors (or sailors, but non-heavers!) out there, heaving-to is basically where you leave the sails as is and turn the boat around in the wind to back-wind the jib.  See how the Jenny, the head sail, on our boat in this picture is full because the wind is coming across the starboard (right) side of the boat?


If we were to heave-to in this position (i.e., turn to starboard until the wind came around and pushed on the back side of the Jenny), it would look like this:


Notice how the head sail is backwinded.  We would then slowly turn the wheel back toward the wind (to port, or the left) until the boat basically parked itself in this position.  It’s kind of crazy to think a boat can just stop itself in the middle of the water with sails up and the wind blowing, but it can.  I’ve heard many sailors describe it, in rough conditions, as “turning off the sea.”  Basically the sails are fighting the keel and rudder and the boat barely moves, usually a knot or less.  Imagine if you’re bucking and rolling over monster waves and you can execute this maneuver to safely stop the boat and wait it out? American Sailing Association video on heaving-to HERE.

Knowing how to quickly and effectively heave-to is an incredibly valuable skill and, one that I’m a bit embarrassed to say, Phillip and I had never actually tried on our boat prior to the Strictly Sail show.


I know.  We agree.  We should have never shoved off for the Keys without trying it at least once during a safe afternoon sail in Pensacola Bay, just so we could be sure we knew how to do it, and how exactly our boat would perform in a hove-to position before we got ourselves out in the middle of the freaking Gulf.  But, suffice it to say, we were inspired by what we learned during our hands-on sail class and we have since tried it on our boat in the safety of Pensacola Bay.  You’ll also be thrilled to know we (and by “we” I mean “I”) goobered our sails up sufficiently–or as Nigel would say, “seized them up solid”–in the process, with witnesses to boot!  Look out for that doozy-of-a-post soon!

We were pleased to find that, in addition to some basic skills, our hands-on sail class also covered docking maneuvers in high winds, storm tactics such as heaving-to, anchoring in rough seas, best practices for picking up and securing to a mooring ball and other skills that were great for Phillip and I to broach for the first time or just brush-up on.  It never hurts to practice (or get out on the water for a beautiful day sail!).  We got to get out on a Jennau 35, one Cruising World’s Pocket Cruisers of the year (although I have to say, I don’t personally consider a 35″ boat to be a “pocket cruiser” but that’s just me).  We had another couple aboard who had done some chartering and were looking to buy a boat soon and a guy who had just bought his first sailboat and was just getting into sailing.

IMG_8189 IMG_8191IMG_8201IMG_8195

A quick shout-out to our American Sailing Association sailing instructor for the day — Jeff Lewis — who was super knowledgeable but also easy-going, a great teacher and a lot of fun!


So, great edutainment at the Strictly Sail show.  We learned a ton, and I hope you have too.  Sailing is awesome, intriguing, forever challenging and rewarding.  You never stop learning.

Now, on to the COOL BOAT STUFF!  There were only like 500 booths (give or take) at the show, each offering some really innovative, helpful and interesting boat products.

IMG_8072 IMG_8148 IMG_8146

Some highlights?

1.  Boat Leather:  This guy, Tom, has been producing leather boat products for decades. When we bought our boat back in 2013 it had one of his boat leather steering wheel covers on it.  Unfortunately, it had a couple of tears and a flap that were driving us crazy, so we started doing some research to replace it.  When we flipped through our previous owner, Jack’s, meticulous paperwork (the man kept every receipt – and we’re so grateful!), we found Tom had sold the wheel cover to Jack back in 1992!  So, that one piece of leather had lasted on our boat for over twenty years!  We reached out to Tom this past summer and bought a new wheel cover from him.  His instructional video was very helpful and allowed us to easily stitch the cover on ourselves.  Boat Leather is a great product with exceptional service and instruction behind it.  Can’t recommend it enough.

Website —



Installation video HERE.


2.  The Furling Spinnaker (Code Zero):  That’s right, it will knock your socks off.  Literally, because you no longer need a spinnaker sock!  Before the Code Zero, sailors would launch their spinnakers by raising a big “sock” that houses the spinnaker sail, letting it fly freely, and then pulling the sock down to douse the spinnaker when they wanted to drop it.

spinnaker-sock-21648-4125471 atnspinnakersleeve2

Not a bad method (and not a bad 80’s one-piece, Trisha), but they have now created a furling spinnaker which is not quite a true spinnaker but close enough and a lot easier to manage.  It is asymetrical, called a Code Zero, and it furls, meaning it spins around a stay at the front of the boat like most jibs and stays there.  With the Code Zero, your spinnaker can now actually stay out on its own fore-fore stay all the time and you simply unfurl it when you want to fly it, and furl it up when you don’t.

2274Furler_top_down_diagrams_01b spinnakerfurlingsystem8 9492612


And the crowd goes aaaahhhhhh ….  It was probably the most innovative and intriguing item on display at the show.  Many of the new boats come with a Code Zero already installed or are rigged with the necessary equipment to easily add one.  I’m not saying we’re going to go out and put one on the boat this year, but they’ll definitely make you start thinking you want one.  Lugging that huge sail from down below up onto the deck and then raising and lowering the massive sock can often deter sailors from flying a spinnaker when the winds are right for it, and get them into some trouble if they can’t get it down fast enough when the winds have picked up and are too strong for it.  Winds can gust up quickly and if the sock jams and you can’t get your spinnaker down fast enough, well …

2010 Moore 24 Nationals

let’s just say it’s not pretty.  The Code Zero definitely got a lot of folks rubbing their chins and thinking twice.


3.  Gill Offshore Weather Gear:  They are cranking out some pretty flexible, seemingly light-weight, yet high-performance foul weather gear at Gill.  They also offered a 15% discount if you purchased at the show.  If you recall, we had been sporting the Gorton’s gear that came with our boat (thank you Jack!) for years now.


High fashion.

We are clearly in need of a new (non-circa 1994) foul weather set that actually fits us, so we were seriously considering picking up a pair of the offshore Gill sets at the show.


While we didn’t end up getting them there (thinking it was a little late in the season to be buying foul weather gear), I have to say I was almost swayed by the Gill sales guy who had something super flattering to say no matter what bulky piece of rubber I decided to put on.


“Oh Matthew, stop it!”

Alright, and last but not least.  Now that we’ve reached the bottom, let’s talk about the head.

4.  The Airhead:  This little gem.  A composting toilet for the boat.



Think no suction tube, no joker valve, no holding tank, no pump-out, no macerator, no extra thru-hull on your boat …   Definitely a lot to think about.  The “stuff” drops in and is then contained or composted until you are ready to dump it out.  No odor (they claim) and anticipating standard use, the No. 2 bin should only have to be dumped about once a month.  Hmmmm … considering the fun we had replacing the suction tube on our boat and every equally exciting head project since then …


we were certainly giving the composting head some serious thought.

So – you learn some stuff, you check out new stuff, you peruse boats, babes and bikinis and you drink a lot of booze.  Who’s liking the boat show now?  Raise your hands!  Next time, we’ll pull back the curtain and give you a glimpse of the “show behind the show”–the food, the restaurants and the chance-sailebrity encounters–before we call it a wrap and get on to the next adventure!


Many thanks to the folks who make these posts a little more possible with PATREON.