Tried and tested

Great gear. We are very grateful

This article is a tribute to gear we have used on Shindig that has performed with the utmost efficiency and reliability. It deserves applause!



So, do you fancy a crew member who eats no food, consumes no electricity, never complains and is a tireless insomniac who never loses concentration? If the answer is ‘yes’ you should get yourself a windvane gear.

There are various types of windvane self-steering and this isn’t the place to describe how they work (see link below for a full explanation.). I have been shipmates with a number of them over the years and the Monitor is the best I have known. The one shown in the photo below has served us since 2001 and has never let us down – despite a considerable amount of neglect on my part. Made in Sausalito, California, largely of stainless steel tubing, it worked straight out of the box. I bolted it to Shindig’s stern, connected its control lines and there we were … bang on course and with my own role as helmsman agreeably redundant. When there’s wind the Monitor steers; in flat calms with the engine running we revert to an electronic autopilot.

Some folk disparage the Monitor’s appearance. ‘It looks like it was made by a plumber,’ a manufacturing competitor once sneered. Well, maybe. But he had missed the point. If it was made by a plumber it can be repaired by a plumber – and that’s a tremendous advantage for the offshore sailor. Just last year I met a skipper who was stalled in his travels waiting for an intricate aluminium die-casting to be flown in. If the equivalent part had failed on the Monitor I could have had another one welded up almost anywhere. I would choose practicality over elegance any day.

But the truth is that have been no serious failures over thousands of miles. A couple of plastic washers have suffered in the sun but the primary structure is as sturdy as the day it was fitted. Reliable, efficient and extremely robust – you couldn’t ask for more.



For the cruising sailor, I believe that the Andersen winches are the finest available. Manufactured in Denmark since the late 1950s they seem almost indestructible. Constructed almost entirely from stainless steel and aluminium bronze (this alloy being a particularly strong type of bronze) the engineering is to a truly exceptional standard.

I heard a story that testifies to their durability. At a UK boat show a husband-and-wife crew turned up at an Andersen dealer’s stand and said they were considering replacing their Andersen sheet winches. They had just completed a seven year circumnavigation and they were now turning a bit stiffly. They weren’t complaining but, since they were about to set off to go round again, they thought it would be a sensible precaution

‘How often do you service them?’ enquired the dealer. The husband looked sheepish. ‘Not very often,’ he admitted. ‘He means never,’ said the wife. ‘Not once in twenty-five thousand miles.’

The dealer did make a sale but not for new winches. The couple left a few minutes later clutching a tube of grease and the relevant manual. They later reported back that it had taken less than an hour to strip, clean and grease the winches and they were now restored to their original working order.

At this point I must admit to a twinge of guilt myself. The winch shown below (a 46ST) is one of Shindig's sheet winches. Along with all the other Andersens it has been there since the boat was launched and has functioned faultlessly over that period. Although I have serviced it, I can’t remember exactly when. Which is a problem with Andersens – they never seem to complain!





A sailboat underway provides a wonderful platform from which to troll for fish. Cruising speeds are pretty much ideal and all you need is a simple handline and a small selection of lures. Given a little bit of luck there will be food for the galley.

Unfortunately, a sailboat at anchor becomes very much less ideal. With the boat now stationary, the handline – although not entirely useless – is nothing like as handy as it was before. To cast the bait out to where the fish lie, you need a rod.

Now, anyone who has worked a rod from a sailboat’s deck will know the frustration that can go with it. The problems lie with all those obstacles aloft – the spars, the wires and the cordage. This is no place to be waving a fishing rod about and the likelihood of getting seriously entangled is high.

Enter the Emmrod – manufactured on the banks of Lake Coeur d'Alene in the US. I first came across it by accident, surfing fishing tackle sites on the internet. I was intrigued enough to make further inquiries and was soon in contact with Robert Borrenbergs their European agent based in the Netherlands. Money changed hands and within a few days a small parcel arrived at the marina in Greece where Shindig was then berthed.

I must admit that at first I wasn’t convinced that I’d spent my money wisely, but the Emmrod soon won me over. It comprises a handle into which various detachable stainless steel ‘rods’ can be fitted – a simple quarter-turn bayonet arrangement instantly attaching or separating the two components. Each rod is intended for different angling purposes. I carry three, one specifically designed for casting and the others for more general use – jigging and occasionally trolling from the dinghy.

As can be seen from the photo, the rod is short enough not to foul the rigging. Instead of length it relies on coils to provide whippiness – the more coils, the whippier the rod. In practice it’s a delight to use, allowing the angler to cast an impressive distance from the boat. Although it doesn’t handle quite the same as a conventional rod, I found I soon got accustomed to its action.

Another plus: with the handle and rod separated, it occupies very little space below – a considerable virtue in the eyes of the mate who’s been known to remark on the lockers already given over to fishing tackle.



In a country the size of Australia everything can be bigger. And the Alvey 825BC-V reel is no exception. You can see from the photo that this isn’t the sort of trinket you can slip into a pocket, but its size is absolutely no problem on board a boat. Indeed, I’ve found it a considerable advantage, since the onboard life isn’t always kind to dainty and intricate machinery.

But big doesn’t mean brutish. Nor does it mean very heavy. The reel is beautifully made, using corrosion resistant metals, injection moulded plastics and exotic materials such as graphite (carbon fibre) reinforcements. There are very few moving parts so it’s very easy to disassemble for cleaning and servicing – by no means a common chore for a mechanism that spends most of its life exposed to waves and weather.
It's exceptionally easy to use. Thanks to their difference in length, the handles give two rates of recovery, one for use under load (such as a fish!) and the other for a 20% faster rate when you haven't been so fortunate.
I carry a four other reels onboard Shindig but the Alvey is far and away my favourite.

Follow this link to Alvey's site for further information




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