Category Archives: Reviews

Gear Review: Battery Powered Aqua Signal/West Marine LED Nav Lights

POS Lights

Function:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Reliability:1 Stars (1 / 5)
Quality:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Value:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Average:2 Stars (2 / 5)

These lights are Aqua Signal Portable Nav lights also sold under the West Marine brand in WM stores.  We use them on our dinghy when underway at night, many local jurisdictions will ticket you even if you are going below 7knts at night if you do not have a bow and stern light.  How many RIBs are equipped with good navigation light mounting points or hardware?  Not many unless you have a large high end console boat so there aren’t many ways to comply with the law, so here is a pretty crummy option that we’ve used.

You can purchase these with suction cup mounts seen here, a glue on mount or a bracket mount that clamps to your transom.  We’ve used the bracket mount which was fairly easy to take on and off, but it eventually gave up and broke sending our stern light to Davy Jones Locker.  We use the suction cup mount on the bow of our RIB and it works well enough if you have someone monitoring it every second as it tends to slide off.

How about the actual lights if you find a good way to mount them?  Well when they are working they are fairly bright and don’t seem to use too much battery power.  The problem is they quit functioning fairly shortly.  We’ve gone through three sets of these things in 8 months of cruising.  If they are left to sit out in the rain or get a bit more than damp they will absorb moisture and die.  The LED will not turn off giving a very dim glow and will not turn on to full brightness.

I’m not sure why they can’t make a good waterproof battery operated light when they sell between $40 and $50 each!  Once the ones you see in the picture quit working I think I’ll hook up some 12 volt lights and use the small alternator on our outboard.



Gear Review: Mantus Update

I think I need to just provide a quick update on our satisfaction of our Mantus anchor since we’ve been recommending it to so many folks since our arrival in the Caribbean. A number of folks have been complaining about dragging in the hard sand who are mostly using Deltas or CQRs. Get a Mantus and get some sleep! We now have been secure in winds well over 50knts where the Mantus just digs in further and that’s with scope between 4 or 5 to 1.

Since I’m the kind of person who always needs something to worry about and I’m confident the anchor isn’t going to drag I find myself wondering if the shackle pin is tight! Of course it is I check it every time the thing is on deck plus its wrapped!

If you are getting ready to go cruising and wondering where to spend money, spend it on your ground tackle and the Mantus is a great value compared to their competitors.

Chandlery Review: Budget Marine – Sint Maarten

Expertise:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Selection:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Customer Service:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Value:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Average:4.6 Stars (4.6 / 5)

The Sint Maarten Budget Marine is their flagship store and is likely one of the best stocked chandleries I have been in and the employees will go out of their way to make sure you’re happy.

I wandered in just to check things out and knock a few items off my perpetual boat repair shopping list.  Lately we have been hard on dinghy items so we needed all new dinghy nav lights, an outboard hoist strap, dinghy wheels, UV thread and grommets.  Out of my list we weren’t able to get an outboard hoist strap large enough for our 20hp Honda (though they do have the parts to repair our old one) and they did not have UV thread for some of Diana’s sewing projects.  I did spend a significant amount of time just wandering and everything was well stocked and well organized.  It was also easy to find folks to answer questions or point you in the right direction.

My second visit is what has warranted this review.  I was troubleshooting our wind instruments in the morning. . . an ongoing saga. . . and was 90% sure the mast head wind vane was faulty.   I wandered down with my likely faulty wind vane and was not able to get a bench test to validate my findings but they did understand my problem and helped me in the way they could.  They did not have a wind vane alone in stock, but they pulled one out of a kit and ordered another to replace in that said kit.  So I got to walk away with the part I needed the same day and they also offered to return if it did not resolve my issue!  I really thanked the guy that was helping me and his response was; ‘We just need to make sure folks leave here satisfied, even if it means a bit more work on our part”.   That is ludicrous!

This is the place to grab your spares, stock up and replace all those faulty items when headed up or down island.  Thank you Lawrence, your customer service today made my week.  So far all is well with our wind instruments now that the new wind vane is installed on the mast!

Adding Reviews to Our Blog

Diana and I use reviews of restaurants, marinas, bars, chandleries and other services all the time, but I don’t believe we contribute enough of our own opinion.  So feeling guilty I added 57 reviews to of anchorages, marinas and mooring balls that will hopefully help out other cruisers when deciding on a place to stay; it’s been very valuable to us over our trip.

Right now I have a list of about 50 restaurants and bars that I will be making comments on, unfortunately I can’t remember what exactly I ate at most, but do at least remember the overall experience.  All places are within easy access of visiting cruisers so hopefully it will be a bit of an asset for folks who stumble upon the website.  I’ll also be adding reviews of chandleries and other marine related services.  I’ll also likely be sticking these on Yelp too, but I like them first on our own website as it adds a bit more to our journal.

I’ve got some work to do!

Grub and Grog Review: Davis’ Pub – The Maritime Republic of Eastport MD

Staff:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Seat to Beverage Time:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Food:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Company:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Hygiene:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Atmosphere:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Value:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Average:4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)

Davis’ Pub is like the ‘Cheer’s’ of Eastport it seems everyone that enters know’s everyone’s name!  Davis’ Pub is a little place in Eastport right off the 4th Street dinghy dock in an old open beamed cabin type building.  It’s quite cozy and a bit tight, but they also have tables along the sidewalk if you feel like eating outside.

When we first found this place I could tell I’d like just right from the start, though we were unknown to the many regulars they were all very friendly folks and the open beamed building made me feel right at home.  The overall atmosphere of this place is something that can’t be manufactured;  it was built back in the 20’s and has been serving up food and drinks since the 40’s to the working class neighborhood it resides in.  Their menu states, ‘Where there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met’, and here it’s no lie; the folks are quick to start up a conversation and you just might know the names of their extended family by the time you leave.

While you can’t go wrong with there standard pub food  I can state their ‘Chicken and Sausage Gumbo’ is great and it’s less than $10!  We also at the specials a few times which were also very good, just ask the folks sitting next to you what they like and they’ll tell you.

If you want to feel like an instant part of the the community stop by here and you’ll have some new friends in no time.  Oh Guy Fieri came here for the Food Channel a while back and liked it, don’t really like the guy (Guy) but I suppose he know’s  a bit what he’s talking about.

Grub and Grog Review: The Boat Yard – The Maritime Republic of Eastport MD

Staff:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Seat to Beverage Time:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Food:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Company:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Hygiene:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Atmosphere:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Value:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Average:4 Stars (4 / 5)

The Boat Yard Bar and Grill seems to be the ‘go to place’ for the area’s yachting scene.  You’ll see seasoned sailors, east coast yuppies and yacht club douchbags and maybe a few tourists sprinkled in sitting in a place that’d I’d like to replicate in my home for interior design.

As soon as you enter there is  a large beautiful bar that wraps around to the right with some seat yourself bar tables along side, to your left are hosted seated tables with another room further down that has quite a fine dining atmosphere.  The place is very busy on weekends starting with breakfast and get’s quite loud and boisterous as the day winds on.  Though there are a lot of people here it’s one of the few establishments that we didn’t have a memorable experience meeting folks.

We’ve stopped be here a number of times when our boat was in Back Creek sucking our wallets dry at a few various boat yards.  During lunch we normally just sat at the bar and had fairly good service.  They’re sandwiches are really good and I’ll recommend the Cuban.  We’ve also had a sit down dinner in the fancy room down to the left, which actually was quite a surprise.  It is a really elegant room with capable and friendly service.  We split a pizza and salad that were both great and reasonably priced.

Next time we’re in Annapolis we’ll make the journey over to The Boat Yard even if we aren’t stuck in Back Creek. . . sometimes we just need to hang out with the classy folks and you can do it here fairly cheap.




Grub and Grog Review: Stan and Joe’s Saloon – Annapolis MD

Staff:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Seat to Beverage Time:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Food:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Company:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Hygiene:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Atmosphere:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Value:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Average:3.4 Stars (3.4 / 5)

Stan and Joe’s Saloon is a unpretentious sports bar like establishment that’s got lots of beer, pub food and locals.  Nothing really to appeal to the tourist and a bit up the road from the main Annapolis downtown area Stan and Joe’s is a great dark place to grab a beer and a fried snack.

We’ve visited Stan and Joe’s a few times in our multiple stops to Annapolis and would likely go back if we’re making our way past, but won’t go out of our way for a visit.  The place is reasonably dark with a long bar that goes almost the length of the place with table seating along side there is also a nice patio out back for the great summer evenings you can have in Maryland.

They have quite an array of beers on tap, I’m sure everyone in your party can find something to their liking or choose to have a cocktail.  The food is standard pub food likely frozen and just dropped in the deep frier.  I’m not a fried food kind of person so I always walked away with a bit of a stomach ache, but can see how other corn fed americans would love it.  The cliental is mostly all working stiff locals that are removed from the more pretentious boating scene that’s closer to the water, which can be quite refreshing . . . but the only transient we’ve seen in town eats here for lunch and he smells anything but refreshing, if you see him at the bar do not sit down wind!

All in all a good place to stop in for a snack and a beer.

Grub and Grog Review: Rams Head – Annapolis MD

Staff:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Seat to Beverage Time:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Food:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Company:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Hygiene:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Atmosphere:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Value:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Average:4.3 Stars (4.3 / 5)

Rams Head Annapolis is part of a few locally owned establishments that put a lot of emphasis on live music and good craft beer, what could be wrong with that?   Absolutely nothing. . . and it get’s better.  The bar itself has a few different primary areas, the first is at street level where you’re greeted by a nice wood, brass and mirrored bar with friendly faces serving up drinks.  There is also a nice patio out back and a snug and intimate  second bar downstairs that is reminiscent of taverns of yesteryear.  You can’t really go wrong where you park your butt.

So how does it get better than a good live music line up with a great selection of craft beers in a cool setting with cool folks?  Throw in some free food and you just might have won the competition for our favorite place in Annapolis.  That’s right free food, during happy hour where craft beers are only $3 you also get tickets to go up to the staffed buffet where the selection changes daily; tacos, wings, carved meat, even oysters . . . and it’s all pretty darn good.  We did order off the extensive menu a few times and were not disappointed and prices are reasonable.

Every day of the week Rams Head has some type of live entertainment, but check times as it varies.  Our favorite act that required us to stay up past our bed time was Swamp Candy who are a duo that play what I would consider to be ‘dirty blues’.  Check them out if they are still on schedule.

Grub and Grog Review: Pusser’s – Annapolis MD

Staff:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Seat to Beverage Time:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Company:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Hygiene:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Atmosphere:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Value:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Average:3.3 Stars (3.3 / 5)

The Pusser’s in Annapolis may be the biggest in their chain, though I haven’t been to all I’ve been to quite a few.  The place takes up a significant portion of the bottom floor of the Annapolis Marriott and looks to have space for special events as there are always a few empty open rooms.  Enough about the inside, never even spent any time inside except walking through, it’s their patio that makes this place special.  Pusser’s Annapolis takes up what looks to be about 200ft of dock space on Ego Alley.  What’s Ego Alley?  Ego Alley is a small dead end channel that goes to the heart of Annapolis downtown where folks cruise their boats.  When I mean cruise I mean like cruising your ’81 Z28 on Alki during a rare warm Seattle Saturday night, not cruise as in cruising like we’re doing.

I digress. . . Pusser’s is actually quite fun on summer weekends.  We’ve stopped by here just to see what’s going on and stayed a bit too long a number of times.  The boats are sorta fun to watch, but most are not quite as nice as the captains think they are.  It’s the drunk folks from DC that are fun!  They seem to come to Annapolis for a weekend get aways and flock to Pussers to suck down painkillers as if they’re getting they’re fill of rum before a global shortage.  Diana and I are pretty much batting 500 here for free drinks.  We start up a conversation with folks at the bar and once they hear what we are doing with our lives they wont let us leave and entice us to stay by buying drinks.  We first thought it was a fluke, but it’s happened multiple times; so who are we to walk away from free drinks and trying to encourage others to live they’re dreams!  I will say all of these occurrences happened during the late afternoon, the evening crowd is douche central.  Watch out ladies because there are some smooth operators here at night 😉

We never sampled the food here as it’s quite expensive and wasn’t really appealing for some reason, though it seems to be a bit fancier than the stuff you get at the Pusser’s locations in the Caribbean which are okay and still a bit overpriced.  The drinks here are also more than anywhere else in town, but that doesn’t stop folks from packing themselves in.


Gear Review: 65lbs Mantus Anchor

Function:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Reliability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Quality:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Value:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Average:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

I owe Mantus a review of the anchor I received a number of months ago, most of which was sitting in my garage in California waiting for it’s cross country tip to North Carolina to be mounted on Ryana.

I picked up the anchor at the local FedEx store and found the wooden crate to be in shambles with the bolt grease leaking out. Once home I could see that everything was there, just needed a bit of cleaning up. I test fitted all the components, then wrapped it back up for it’s trip East.


Before even leaving the boatyard in North Carolina I replaced the stock 44lb Delta with the new 65lb Mantus. It fit quite well with the stock anchor roller and it is attached with a single shackle which may need to be changed to a swivel as we are getting a bit of chain twist. It does interfere with the bow sprit which we are currently not using since we don’t have a spinnaker; we’ll need to get a longer tube and longer stays if we want to use it.


Primary thoughts so far about the Mantus.

  • It sets very quickly, in firm bottoms it sets violently; careful backing down.
  • In softer bottoms it feels as if it could use just a bit more surface area, though I have not detected any dragging at this point.
  • It brings up the bottom with it, have a boat hook handy and deck wash to clean it up.


The anchor has not been fully tested in a variety of bottoms or circumstances, but a few examples of when having a secure anchor was helpful.

  • In Beaufort, NC anchored near Town Creek Marina we stayed 3 blustery days with sustained 25knt winds gusting 35+ and didn’t drag a bit. A 45ft Hunter with a 44lb Delta on the other hand was dragging all over the place.
  • Anchored in the Chesapeake off of Mobjack Bay we were hit by a thunderstorm and had winds gusting to 41knts and did not have any issues with dragging.
  • Anchored behind Atlantic Highlands breakwater in Sandy Hook NJ we were hit by 40knt winds and didn’t drag at all.

Once we have more nights on more varied bottoms I’ll definitely give an update on how it is performing. As of now I am very happy with my purchase especially after seeing that Hunter drag on the exact same anchor that was delivered with Ryana. I’m doubtful I would rely on it as a storm anchor just because of it’s relative small surface area, but the 80lb definitely would not fit well on the bow. I’m currently looking for a used Fortress FX-55 as storm anchor that will be kept dissembled in the bilge to accompany our FX-37 kedge. Our old Delta is currently setting in buried in the anchor locker with an unknown future.