Gadgets and gimmicks

Sailors must be perceived as targets for gadgets because over the years there have been some weird and wonderful gimmickry placed before them.

Docking aids spring immediately to mind. These are devices to thread a line through a ring or just get a line onto a buoy or cleat – The Happy Hooker, the Grab-N-go, the Handy Hooker, the Swiftie-Matic and the more conservatively named Mooring Line Threader. There are more.

I must say that when we used to moor to a buoy a simple, solidly built, steel mooring hook deployed from the end of the boat hook was a handy device and as near to gadgetry as I’d ever want to get. Keep it simple is my mantra.

Then there are devices to get you up the mast. Mast steps; the Mastaclimber, Top Climber and every other type of climber; webbing ladders that you hoist on a halyard or run up the mast track, even telescoping ladders. What on earth is wrong with the bosun’s chair? I’ve never found a safer or simpler way to get up the mast. It’s what riggers use and they’re the experts.

Knot substitutes – Loop Lock, Splicing Nut and so on. I can see how they might be something a landlubber unfamiliar with knots could find useful. But sailors? Knots are second nature to us, surely?

Then there’s the usual collection of gadgets that appeal to the geekier among us – pens that write anywhere, key rings which inflate in the water, baseball caps with torches or port and starboard lights in the brim. Yes, really!

Then there are the various bird scarers, from the simple plastic owl to the elaborate spinning arms, all equally effective I’m sure.

Of course all these gadgets work to some extent; it just seems to me they are usually an expensive and complicated way of solving a non-existent problem. But, someone buys all this stuff or it wouldn’t make it to market.

There are good gadgets, of course. Folding buckets are great, windscoops are a Godsend in hot climates, gas powered hot blades for cutting and sealing synthetic line are genuinely useful.

But a little plastic suitcase for carrying eggs? Not for me, thanks.