Why Didn't I Think of That? Gee Whiz Sailboat Innovations

"If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong."
-Charles Kettering

When I dig down deep, I'm a crusty old salt and I like my boats that way too.  Some that are nearest and dearest to me are full keel double-enders that are slow and porky.  In fact, here's a list of some of my all-time favorites.  Still, I have to admit there's also something appealing about new innovative designs and features, which is what this post is all about.  But before we get to the real topic, indulge in a little nostalgia from the good ole days of bluewater cruising; Remember when "Westsail the World" was a slogan that stirred the soul and beckoned you to go beyond the horizon in search of coconut palms, blue lagoons, and a simple life at sea?  Neither do I, but only because I was born in 1975 and Westsail had already been building and marketing their 32-footer for several years prior.  Production cruising sailboats were on the rise and simple, salty designs were de rigueur of the day.  Today, it takes more than a catchy slogan and a capable boat to capture a cruising boat buyer's attention. 


Over the last couple of years, a few features and gear have caught my attention as interesting, if not always necessary, forms of innovation for cruising.  I'll start with 5 or 6 examples that are part of the design for existing production sailboats.  Then I'll share a few pieces of gear that I also find innovative and useful for cruisers.  If you have favorite recent innovations that make boating more enjoyable, easier, or safer please share them with me in the comments below.

Sailboat Design Innovations

Catalina 545 dumbwaiter: I don't suppose there's anything particularly new or innovative about a dumbwaiter in and of itself since they've been around at least since the late 1800's.  After all, a dumbwaiter is just a small freight elevator or lift intended to carry objects (as opposed to people) between two levels in a structure.  But have you seen one on a sailboat before?  I'm guessing there are some superyachts floating out there somewhere that have dumbwaiters (and real waiters), but having one on a cruising sailboat that's purpose is to send food, drinks, and other items from the galley to the deck without having to navigate steps in a seaway is a nice idea.  See it in action on the new Catalina 545 in this video from SpinSheet Magazine

Catalina 545's "dumbwaiter" lift as seen in YouTube screenshot.

Amel 60 prop inspection port: Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that your prop was fouled with weeds, fishing line, crab pots, or even a poorly doused spinnaker that hit the water before you could bag it on deck?  I'll admit to at least a couple of those gaffes.  The remedy for me was to don my mask and get in the water for an inspection, which if you're in the Great Lakes in May means water temps in the 50 degree Fahrenheit range. Amel has a much better idea with this inspection port that allows you to check the prop without getting wet.  The port is factory installed beneath the aft master berth and gives a good view of what's going on with the propeller.

The Amel 60's prop inspection port on the berth in the aft cabin.
(Photo from a Yachting World YouTube video screen capture)

Halberg Rassy toe rail drains and self-closing hatchboards: Have you ever been so vain as to be annoyed by streaks on your hull from water draining off the deck?  If so, Halberg Rassy has your back on many of their models.  The in-deck drains on HR's are connected to hoses that empty beneath the waterline so there is no staining of the hullsides.  That's a simple solution for an age-old problem. But HR's innovation doesn't end there.  Check out the companionway on the new Halberg Rassy 40c?  It's spring-loaded to pop up and close all on it's own with one simple push of your fingertip.  So long as this proves to be reliable over the years, I'll take this innovation over storing and installing drop boards any day.

A photo doesn't do the pop-up companionway hatch justice on the
new HR 40c.  Check this one out on YouTube to see it in action.

Beneteau/Jeanneau retractable dinghy davits: I much prefer having a dinghy on davits as opposed to dragging it behind or having to hoist it on deck, but traditional davits do occasionally have a drawback of being in the way and/or simply looking like an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful boat.  Beneteau and Jeanneau address this by using retractable dinghy davits that disappear into the transom when not in use and telescope up when you need to lift the dinghy.   

Here's a look at the davits extended on Jeanneau 54 from BoatTest.com

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490 pop-up microwave: Jeanneau makes this list twice, and again for something that pops up when you need it and retracts into hiding when you don't.  This time it's the galley microwave on the new Sun Odyssey 490.  When not in use, the microwave pushes down into the counter and is covered by a lid that functions as increased counter space for cooking, prepping, etc.  When you need to heat up that cup of Ramen noodles, simply flip the lid back and gently press the top of the microwave and then step back and watch it rise for service. 

Screenshot from BoatTest.com's Youtube tour of the SO490

Sailboat Gear Innovations

SiOnyx Aurora Sport night camera: Do you have night-vision envy when you walk down the dock and see little R2D2 looking FLIR domes on the big fancy boats?  SiOnxy has come up with a more affordable option for seeing better in the dark and it's called their Aurora Sport camera.  The Aurora Sport uses ultra low-light infrared sensor technology (instead of FLIR's thermal imaging) to provide monochrome or color night vision.  For less than $400 this is a more affordable option than most of what's available from FLIR, except for the FLIR One Pro that attaches to smartphones but isn't really great for night vision.  
Here's the handy little SiOnxy Aurora Sport. 

Davis Snap Tool: There are actually plenty of pocket multi-tools around these days and there are even a few specific to boating and sailing, but I really like the Snap Tool from Davis Instruments since combines a few things I haven't seen together before such as a shackle key and deck plate key.  The button snap and "un-snapper" as well as the zipper pull/hook are also surprisingly useful for finicky bimini tops and other canvas. 

Gotta love the Five O'Clock feature in the center of Davis' SnapTool

ThrowRaft TD2401: The ThrowRaft is the solution for space challenged cockpits that still need a USGG approved Type IV throwable PDF since it is 9-times smaller than a ring buoy when packed.  This nifty little PFD can be thrown packed or inflated, both 40+ feet.  It also fits nicely in a ditch bag.



    >> Don't forget to visit SFLF's Gear Review page for more sailing gear reviews/tests. <<

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