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Marine Chandlery

Marine Supplies, Sailing Products, Helpful Tips, Advice and Reviews

  • 205. Top Tips Tuesday - Even More Brownie Points


    An awful long time ago, Jenny purchased a couple of Freebags for our Hunter Channel 31. They provided sterling service (or as they say on the ticket attached to each bag 'Instant Comfort Anywhere') on that boat and when we sold Dream On some four years ago we kept the Freebags. Hindsight, our Mystery 35, was launched some two years ago and they were trotted out to Corfu and were once again used successfully as a pillow seat, stool, mattress, cushion, backrest and bag both on and off the boat. After over twelve years of hard use they were looking a little bit scruffy and Jenny, being almost as fastidious as me, hard to imagine isn't it, thought they were lowering the tone and asked me, this winter past, if our sail loft could make a couple of new covers so they could be brought up to scratch and complement our relatively new Mystery!


    "Yes, no problem”, said Norma, our number one machinist in the sailloft, who has almost thirty years experience working for us and is used to sewing all sorts of diverse items such as thermal blankets for the Northumbria police spotter plane to airbag covers for Lotus sport cars as well as sails of all shapes and sizes. "However, by the time I have unpicked the old to make a pattern it will probably take about three hours to make the first, maybe an hour for the next!" “Oh!” said I, and with that promptly googled Freebag to see if there was a UK source, no joy. I then contacted the Norwegian company that is Freebag. Yes and no, they would happily sell me a couple however with shipping, import duty etc the price was as much as those three hours labour plus materials used. At this stage Boss man Andy said, “Stop around, if it's such a good product why don't we buy in bulk and sell them through and if they don't sell, be it on your head and not mine!” So if they don't sell, Andy won't be happy, Jenny will because she has two smart new Freebags and so will I as I have more brownie points!

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    Freebag was originally conceived by Norwegian yachtsmen to endure long voyages in rough waters. The shape and patented design combined with polypropylene technology makes Freebag adapt perfectly to your body and allows uncompromised comfort in the harshest environments. Freebag is multifunctional, it's a pillow, seat, mattress, stool and bag. It's flexible with comfort through design and polypropylene bead technology. It's lightweight, easily stowed in its net bag and weighs only 860g. It is of course weatherproof, suitable for all kinds of outdoor use. It insulates from the cold and damp, great for use on a stony or rocky beach!


    Both our old Freebag(s) are still going strong albeit a bit scruffy but doing sterling service. Mine, great for use when tinkering, cleaning and polishing my 'boys toy', Jenny takes hers into the garden when on planting or weeding duties!

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    The original Freebag's working cousin, the Freebag pro, is proving to be very popular with all sorts of tradesmen who spend a lot of time on their knees such as floor tilers, electricians etc. The sail loft guys have already 'borrowed' three from stock, the verdict........ brilliant bit of kit!

  • 204. Top Tips Tuesday - Electrical & Electronics

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    First we had the beast from the East then it was the wet from the West or something like that! With the half decent weather over the last few days let’s hope you have caught up a little with your preseason prep, however today as I write we have a predicted max temp of 7 degrees and of course it's peeing with rain!

    Now it’s time to check out your electrics and anything electronic. If you haven’t got round to fitting a Merlin SmartGauge battery monitor (perhaps you have already fitted same) now is the time to fit one it’s a cost effective means of keeping an eye on your electrical consumption. SmartGauge represents a totally new approach to monitoring the state of charge of deep cycle batteries. The most common type of meter used for this purpose is an amp hours counter which basically adds up the current going into a battery and subtracts the current coming out to give a representation of the state of charge of your batteries.The SmartGauge works on a different principle. The final result is a battery state of charge meter that is much simpler to install, simpler to set up, simpler to understand and yet gives a meter that actually does a far better job of telling you the state of charge of your batteries. SmartGauge uses computer models of different types of lead acid, deep cycle batteries. This model is then used by an algorithm in SmartGauge to calculate the state of charge. The algorithm continually calculates results and some of these results are fed back into future calculations giving an ever changing, and self correcting, result. The result is that SmartGauge cannot run out of synchronisation with the batteries and successfully manages to track the battery capacity as they age and lose capacity, which is the biggest problem with the amp hour counters and the main reason they make such a poor job of tracking the state of charge of batteries over time.


    If your batteries have been stored at home, kept fully charged (incidentally lots of folks are now using one of the excellent C-Tek 8-stage battery chargers to do this) you probably don’t have much to worry about however you should always check their condition before reinstalling.  If they are not of the sealed variety, check that the cells are fully topped up, however at this stage don’t connect. Assuming securing straps are fitted, make sure that they are secure and hold the batteries both fore and aft as well as athwartships. If no straps, 25mm webbing, webbing plates and sensible sized fastenings are strongly recommended. If over the winter a battery has failed for whatever reason, do not be tempted to purchase an automotive battery you should go for a good quality deep cycle one for domestics, or a dedicated starting battery for engine starting. Now check your shore side power source; first check the cable for any damage to the outer casing then take both plug and socket apart, clean contacts with that excellent specialist fast drying contact cleaner, reassemble then spray with Boeshield and finally check that you are obtaining power to your RCD. If you were unlucky last year and found all the marina outlets full, consider purchasing a 3-way splitter.


    Remove your external power source and make sure that the RCD is clean and that the trips are working. If you haven’t got one perhaps consider purchasing a Metermaid, it gives you the opportunity to monitor your shoreside power consumption! Finally check out your 240 volt sockets assuming they are fitted. Incidentally, if you have a trailer sailor or similar. Why not consider investing in a mobile mains power unit, comes complete with its own built in RCD.

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    Now check the condition of the battery isolator switches. Are the contacts clean? If not, clean them and reattach the terminals ensuring they are secured firmly and free from corrosion, finally connect the battery leads to the battery posts after smearing a little Vaseline/petroleum jelly on both post and the internal bearing surface of the terminal, connect the positive first and then the negative. Don't forget the posts are of a different diameter to prevent connecting the wrong way round. Turn your battery isolator switch on, then with the stop control pulled out (assuming a diesel engine), turn the engine over a couple of times, turn off the engine isolator switch and push the stop control home. Now turn your attention to the house battery's isolator, are terminals clean and corrosion free? If any electrical items have been added since you last checked, is the main supply cable to your distribution board still suitable for the increased load? Making sure the house batteries are not turned on, open up the distribution panel, check for any signs of corrosion and ensure contacts are clean. Any push on connectors (bullet, spades etc) should be pulled apart and checked for dirt or corrosion and treated accordingly, finally spray all surfaces with Boeshield and replace panel. Turn on batteries then turn on all electrics one by one to check everything works and all components that should be interfaced are still communicating. Check all interior lights, including the reading light in the aft cabin, the neon tube in the engine bay, forward cabin light, and don't forget the 12 volt DC socket at the nav table, often used in conjunction with the Dual USB Charger Plug due to our ever increasing dependance on portable electronics such as iPads and tablets. To "tidy" things up perhaps consider fitting a Dual USB Charger Socket.

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    Often neglected and hard to find at a lot of chandlers is the tiny compass bulb, make sure it’s working and, for what they cost, always carry a spare. Consider perhaps substituting existing filament or halogen bulbs with LED's to cut your power consumption down if shore power is not available.


    It goes without saying that you should of course check that your fixed VHF is transmitting/receiving clearly, if not check antenna connections ie deck plug and socket. Check, if its a DSC/VHF, (most are these days) that it's getting position data from your GPS/plotter. If the boat is new to you, don't forget to contact the relevant authority (OFCOM) and get your details added and the previous owners removed.

    Speaking of plotters, is the electronic chart card up to date and relevant for the area you are going to be using the boat in? We can update C-Map, Navionics and Garmin charts or upgrade to a different area if you are changing your cruising ground for this season. Don't forget however that electronic charts should be used only as a backup to official government paper charts and traditional navigational methods.


    Wind speed and direction, do they need calibrating? Remember to write it in your logbook as you cannot do it on dry land! If you are not that confident with the boats electronics, make sure you have a fall back reference book should you need to seek advice, Rob swears by Nigel Calder's Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual.


    Happy boating and we look forward to seeing you on the water.

  • 203. Top Tips Tuesday - Preseason Prep - Spars & Rigging


    If the weather was as bad and as poor as we had over this Easter weekend, you may be running behind schedule, however, to ignore checking over the mast, boom, standing and running rigging is not a good idea! So no time to waste, let's get started! Assuming your mast is down (inspection is always easier than dangling from a bosun’s chair, more about that later) we should start with the masthead light. Check it’s secure and the lens isn’t suffering from UV damage, check cables for chafe where they exit the light and enter the mast. Remove the lens, then bulbs and make sure all the contacts are clean by using the excellent specialist fast drying contact cleaner. If they are the filament type bulb our recommendation is to replace regardless (keep old as a spare) or seriously consider going for replacement LED bulbs, a lot less current drain and almost bullet proof in a heavy beat to windward!  However, remember you shouldn’t put a white LED behind a coloured lens, only use a coloured LED bulb. After replacing the bulbs, spray all electrical connections with Boeshield and then clean the lens both inside and out. Before replacing the now clean lens, you must of course check the lights are working (our Top Tip is to use an old redundant small 12 volt alarm battery and connect to the wires where they exit  at the bottom of the mast, it’s much easier than lugging round a big heavy 110 amp hour beast) once satisfied,  reassemble. If the light has suffered from water ingress and you are happy that it's still up to the job, make sure that any seals are intact however a smear of Lanocote will help keep moisture out.


    Check the condition and security of the mast head VHF aerial or combined VHF/wind indicator (if the Windex is becoming brittle through UV damage consider replacing). Examine carefully any other antennas like the AIS or Active band transmitter/receiver and of course don’t forget the condition of any cables especially where they enter or exit the mast. Assuming mast head wind speed and direction are stored below deck whilst the mast is down, check manufacturer's handbook for information on lubrication and maintenance. Clean contacts as above and once again spray with Boeshield after refitting. As for me, I prefer to leave the transducer off when the mast is being refitted as the ‘small print’ of a boatyard’s terms and conditions often does not cover you for accidental damage, yes it's a mast climb to fit however replacement transducers can set you back over £400-00! Satisfied with your mast head gear? Now turn your attention to the mast head and check all masthead sheaves for damage and wear.


    Alloy sheaves running on stainless axles are notorious for seizing up through corrosion. On some masts, especially older Selden (Kemp), it’s impossible to replace the sheave without taking the masthead fitting out of the spar. Clean and then lubricate with a ‘dry’ lubricantdon’t use a grease or oil as it attracts grit and can damage sheaves made from  Tufnol (recognised by it’s brown colour/fabric weave) Next check the condition of the forestay and backstay attachments, draw the clevis pins out, examine them for wear and at the same time check that the ‘hole’ that they pass through has not elongated. If OK, replace and secure with new split pins, not rings, and make sure that they are properly opened out!


    If you have been unfortunate enough to have suffered a halyard wrap last season, pay particular attention to where the wire strands exit the swaged terminal/talurit splice. Flex the wire gently to check for any sign of broken strands, even if it’s only one broken strand replace. If the forestay shows signs of birdcaging (wire opening up) you should also replace the forestay without question. Your spinnaker/asymmetric halyard block can take a hammering, because it's out of sight out of mind. Beware of damaged or buckled side plates which can lead to halyards jamming.


    Working your way down the mast, if an older rig and stainless tangs are used for the attaching of standing rigging and there are signs of corrosion behind the fitting I would suggest  drilling out the old rivets, inspection of the mast wall behind and, if satisfied,  replacing with new monel ones after you have used a barrier such as Duralac or Tef-Gelbetween the two disimilar metals.


    If a fractional or similar rig, remove the combined genoa and spinnaker halyard box, check for stress cracks, worn sheaves and then clean and lubricate as above. Then check the security of spreader brackets, paying particular attention to all rivets. Check once again for any signs of corrosion underneath should the bracket be stainless. Turning to the spreader tips, if the rigging is still attached to the spreaders check for a broken strand possibly hidden in the spreader end clamp. Slacken the clamp, move the tip up or down and flex the wire gently. Consider fitting a pair of leather spreader boots to prevent chafe once you have satisfied yourself that everything is OK. Steaming and deck flood lights are often neglected, check and service as per your mast head lights.


    Check the gooseneck and base of mast kicker bracket for wear, replace if badly worn, replace worn nylon spacer washers. Check for any cracks around halyard exit slots, this is especially important on fractional rigs set up with high amounts of pre-bend, consult your rigger if any are found. Keel stepped spars should have their deck coats/seals checked as it’s impossible to replace them without lifting the mast out again. If a keel stepped mast Spartite is an excellent product for sealing the mast/deck. At this stage don’t forget to run  your eye over the rest of the rigging, examine all rigging screws for damage, if the threaded lower stud is bent replace and pay particular attention to any rigging screw that is not toggled as they do not articulate and are liable to more stress.


    Wash out and lubricate (as per manufacturer’s instructions) halyard swivels and drum bearings on headsail reefing gear. The Selden  Furlex unit should be lubricated with their grease. Pay particular attention to the joints in the headsail foil, if slight movement there is a danger of mis-alignement. Consequences; the sail jamming whilst hoisting and you may run the risk of tearing the luff tape. You may also end up with some rather nasty stains on the sail opposite the suspect joints caused by fretting of the alloy. If you have movement it may be a loose rivet or fastening that’s missing or a worn jointing piece. Consult the manufacturer’s manual for details on how to remove and replace. Foils may be cleaned by washing with soap and water. A scrap of luff tape may be run up the foil to scrub inside the grooves. If lubrication is required, spray a thin coat of McLube SailKote on sail luff tapes away from boat deck. Check the end stop at the top of the foil is secure and that the bearing just inside the top of the foil is still round, if its oval replace!

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    If you haven’t already removed and washed your halyards do so. Do not wash at a high temperature or use a biological washing powder as it can damage some polyester ropes, preferably leave to soak in water for a couple of days prior to washing. Don’t tumble dry as the heat will damage most synthetic ropes, instead hang out to dry then leave in the airing cupboard for a few days. If using a washing machine place any shackles inside a pair of socks to prevent damage to the drum on the machine and keep the other half happy! Check all eye splices, worn or damaged halyards should be replaced. Wire halyards that are found to have spikes are fatigued and should be replaced as they are on the point of failure, consider replacing with Dyneema, Spectra or similar ultra low stretch materials as it is cost effective and usually has a longer life span.

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    When re-stepping your mast replace all split pins that secure clevis pins or lock turnbuckles, mouse shackles with Monel seizing wire, lightly grease all turnbuckle threads with Lanocote. Consider fitting turnbuckle covers adding shroud or guard rail rollers or at the very least tape over the split pins in the turnbuckles with self amalgamating tape after setting up your rig which all help to reduce chafe on sails and prevent damage to crews clothing and boots. Do not under any circumstances tape the complete body of the turnbuckle, water can be so easily trapped see below!

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    Mast still up? Read and inwardly digest Spinlock's excellent article on ‘Going Aloft’. Spar and rigging inspection with the mast still up will take a lot longer as it has to be carried out from a bosuns chair but it shouldn’t be neglected. If, for whatever reason, you have not removed the rig this year, inspect whilst swinging from halyards and if necessary, budget for its removal next year. If I am climbing, and I still do so on a regular basis even at my advanced age, their Mast Harness isn’t the most comfortable but without a doubt the one that I feel most secure in! Incidentally, if I ever have to go aloft alone, then I always use the Topclimber mast climbing kit. All the above still applies however it will take a lot longer and obviously it’s more weather dependent!

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    Check the inboard end of the boom casting for wear, check rivets are sound and if any jammers/pulleys are part of the assembly, that any sheaves are free running and not chipped and when the cam lever is rotated they will hold the load from reef and outhaul lines! Check the kicking strap slide (if alloy) for wear from the stainless shackle/attachment point on the strut/strap assembly. Make sure any fastenings are man enough for the job and that the slide is not creeping towards the mast. Examine the boom in this area for any stress cracks and corrosion from stainless fastenings if used to secure. Next check the reefing lines take off attachment eyes are secure and then pull through the lines for signs of chafe. Make sure that when you come to fit the main back on the boom, you reeve the reef line under the boom first to ease the load on the fitting! If the main sheet pulley blocks are secured mid boom as against attached to the end casting examine as per kicking strap slide. Next the outboard boom casting, check the condition of the pulleys then check (if end boom sheeting) that the shackle securing the mainsheet block still has plenty of alloy left on the attachment casting. If you still have a wire outhaul check for spiking in the lay of the wire and if any are found replace. Reef lines, especially in single line systems, can be a source of friction. If fluffed up, consider changing as the difference when putting a reef in can be the difference between chalk and cheese.

    Finally if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to give the mast and boom a wipe over with Yachticon's Aluminium Polish and Wax, it’s a mixture of polymers, waxes and polishing agents for cleaning and protecting alloy spars!


    We had a tremendous response and a tremendous number of correct answers. Drawn out of Andy’s ‘lucky hat’ first and winning the Bynolyt Searanger II binocularswas Hugh Beeley from Aberdeen. Second out of the hat was Peter Hart, he was the winner of the Seago 3 in 1. The Topargee water tank gauge will be winging its way to Mark Pullen of Petersfield and the Boarding Ring Glasses will be worn by Doctor Rodney Horder of Torquay when the going gets rough! Keeping his boat ship shape and Bristol fashion with 2 packs of Vistal this coming season will be Derek Gardiner and last but not least, sixth prize of that brilliant product Wet & Forget goes to Richard Stibbs of Portishead.

    Congratulations to the above winners and commiserations to those who’s answers were correct but failed to get drawn out of the hat! Prizes will be dispatched Tuesday the 3rd

  • 202. Top Tips Tuesday - Preseason Prep - Topsides

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    It's a well known fact that all GRP gelcoat surfaces will benefit from at least one application per year (or preferably 2) of a good quality wax such as Meguiar's Flagship Premium Waxwhich not only seals the surface from ingress of dirt but also protects against UV degradation. To get the best result and protect your investment, we recommend that you first wash the surface down to remove any surface contaminants. I always use and recommend Yachticon GRP supercleaner. If after carrying out that task, you then discover you have some minor gelcoat damage that requires attention, now is the time to tackle this.


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    For those annoying unsightly hairline cracks (often found round stanchion bases) MagicEzy Hairline fix is the business! It's great for stress cracks, crazing and scratches. For best results, first scrape out any dirt/wax/grime with a sharp needle/pin. In our experience, simply washing the area is not as effective. It's worthwhile also flushing the surface to be treated with acetone. Use MagicEzy 9 Second Chip Fix for ‘sorting’ nicks, chips and gouges. This excellent product is available in 11 colours (inc five shades of white).

    For larger dings that you may want to tackle, we suggest you clean the immediate area with 1200 wet/dry paper. This will remove any oxidised gelcoat still remaining, without doing this your repair will end up having a miscoloured ring round it. Getting the correct coloured gelcoat can be a pain, however we always recommend in the first instance you contact the original boatbuilder or importer of the boat whilst armed with the hull build number to see if they can supply. Once you have ascertained the correct match and prepared the surface to accept ‘catalysed’ gelcoat, apply with a soft brush leaving the material slightly proud. Carefully apply a piece of clear Sellotape or cling film over the gelcoat, this will prevent the gelcoat drying tacky. When set remove the tape and carefully sand to shape using a sanding block with 400 then 600 and finally 1200 wet/dry paper and plenty of water. Do this carefully so as not to damage or rub through the surrounding gelcoat. The repair can then be polished to a mirror finish using Farecla or a similar compound and then to seal the surface a good quality wax polish such as 3M marine ultra performance wax.



    After the wash down we recommend that you use a mild cleaner such as Meguiar's Colour Restorer which will safely remove light oxidation and most stains from the gelcoat either by hand or machine. By using a machine to do the hard work the task will be completed quicker than buffing by hand using a 100% cotton polishing cloth. If using a machine we recommend a variable speed machine like the Shurhold Dual Action polisher with either a microfibre or foam polishing bonnet. Keep the speed slow and don’t stay in one area as it is all too easy to overheat and damage gelcoat. Don’t be tempted to use an electric drill with a polishing bonnet, they are usually too high a speed and can result in burn damage to the gelcoat. If there is no power available, the OrbiPro Cordless Orbital Tool is a useful investment, particularly as you can rent it to your neighbours when they see the fabulous finish you have achieved.


    An oxidation remover will bring life back into a hull, however, if the topsides are very chalky and dull (dark green & blue gelcoat are particularly susceptible) you can start with a coarse paper 200-300 working up to 800 or 1000 grade, or after using the more aggressive grades spread compound evenly onto the hull in areas of about a square metre so it doesn’t dry. Work with the polisher in lines. While working, don’t place your polishing mop on the ground or on the plank you are working on; one speck of grit on its surface can have disastrous results on your topsides! When applying cleaner or oxidation remover always work on a cool surface in the shade.



    Don’t try to polish or wet/dry rub down rust or black berry bird droppings marks from your decks or hull, the stains can be deep into the gelcoat. Instead try using a stain remover based around oxalic acid such as Y10 or Davis FSR, either should bleach out the stain. After thoroughly cleaning with either the mild cleaner or the oxidation remover the surface must then be sealed using a good quality uv resistant wax, for best results apply at least 2 coats with a day between each coat to allow the wax to harden. Applying the second coat too soon will only remove the first! For GRP cabin sides and other smooth gelcoat surfaces the technique is the same, however for cleaning and removing oxidation on moulded in nonslip I always use Vistal Hard Surface Cleaner. Vistal can also be used to help bring a sparkle back to dull painted or varnished surfaces; its also great for brightening your stainless pull/pushpit, alloy stanchions other metal surfaces and of course fenders.



    Teak decks can suffer badly in our damp climate growing algae and moss during the winter months and I have no doubt that boats in other locations suffer similarly. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to clean them with a pressure washer. They will certainly be clean but the pressure of the water jet will tear out the soft grain leaving them like a ploughed field. It is best to clean them with one of the proprietary teak cleaners my choice being Teak Wonder cleaner, however we all tend to have our favourites.

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    Anyway following their instructions, use Starbrite Magic Scrub and, for the awkward corners, a stainless bristled Detailing Brush or a Shurhold Scrubbing Pad and ONLY scrub across the grain. After cleaning, the decks should be given a wash with Teak Wonder brightener, this will restore their colour. When dry, spray with ‘Wet and Forget’ which will stop any moss or algae growth.


    Should you have halyards, webbing lifelines and other items that are resting on the deck and have turned green over the winter months don’t despair. Don’t get the pressure washer out (destroys stitching/fabrics etc) but spray Wet and Forget on these items and leave. The 5:1 diluted solution will do all the hard work and prevent re-growth. If any covers, dodgers or spray hoods are also looking green they will also benefit from a spray of the same solution. Once the green has gone (may take a few weeks depending on the weather) wash with fresh water, allow to dry and then proof with Graingers Gold, not only will the water bead and run off instead of soaking in but it will help repel surface contamination.

  • 201. Top Tips Tuesday - Preseason Prep - Above Deck



    Even though they are ‘staring us in the face’ throughout the season, stanchions and guard rail wires are often items that are overlooked during pre-season checks. Stanchions should be checked for security; make sure the base is fastened securely to the deck and/or toe rail, there is no movement and ALL fastenings are in place.

    An unstable base is not only dangerous (it could possibly lead to a man overboard situation) but the mechanical fastenings could be the source of a leak into the interior. If the stanchion is secure but there is evidence of water leaking into the interior of the boat, as a stop gap you could apply sealant round the base however the correct fix is to remove the stanchion and re-fix as per our suggestions below. If the base is found to be loose, remove, clean and re-fit using the appropriate sealant, my recommendation is to go for a polysulphide, such as Arbokol 1000 or Geocel 201 as against a silicone sealant.


    Before refastening a stanchion or any other deck fitting, make sure you remove any old sealant using Debond Marine Formula, degrease the fitting and deck using acetone or similar and, if the hole is not countersunk to accept the sealant do so. Finally, mask both the deck and the base so any excess sealant that is squeezed out as you tighten down can easily be cleaned up. However when bolting down make sure that you don’t squeeze ALL the sealant out, tighten, allow the sealant to set then go for a final turn on the spanner.

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    Should there be an issue with the integrity of the deck click here for further guidance.

    Check stainless tubular type stanchions where they are drilled (for mid height guard wire to pass through) for signs of stress cracks round the hole. Make sure the stanchion is well secured into its base either by lock nut and bolt or by split pin, however if an alloy stanchion is being secured with a stainless fastening you must use a barrier such as Duralac or TefGel to prevent an electrolytic reaction, same if you are using stainless stanchions in aluminium bases isolate between the two dissimilar metals. Split pins can be very sharp, likewise the end of a stainless bolt. They should be covered in self amalgamating tape or have a blob of clear sealant applied to prevent snagging on footwear, foulies and of course skin!


    Guard rail wires should be carefully examined for broken strands, especially where the wire exits the swage or Talurit termination and where they pass through stanchions. You will have to slacken each wire and draw it through the stanchion to fully inspect. Flex the wire gently at the start of a termination or where the wire has passed through a stanchion, if any broken or worn strands are found they MUST be replaced. It’s certainly not recommended and highly dangerous to just tape over them! PVC covered stainless steel guard rail wires (banned some years ago for use on offshore race boats) can hide broken or corroded strands, especially where the PVC cover butts up against swage or Talurit terminations. Moisture and a lack of oxygen provide the ideal scenario for crevice corrosion to go unnoticed. Any signs of rust in these areas can be a pointer to wire failure through weakening of the internal wire strands – if rust stains are in evidence, replace without question, preferably with uncovered stainless wire.


    Ensure pelican hooks in gate assemblies are free to operate, preferably single handed, and that the piston fully engages when closed. Lubricate same with a dry film spray, Boeshield T9 or similar. Incidentally, Wichard have just brought out an automatic locking pelican hook that has been designed for single handed use and the piston engages in a different manner to traditional types. If your method of tensioning the guard rails is a cord lashing (strongly recommended as should you need to 'drop the wire' it's an awful lot quicker cutting the cord) by the pushpit, we would suggest that this is replaced on a regular basis. Check that all the clevis pins, rings or split pins in the assembly are secure and either tape over using self amalgamating tape to avoid snagging, or cover with those rather nice leather boots as blogged about on TTT.193

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    If small people or dogs etc are going to be found on board this season and netting is already fitted, examine for signs of degrading through UV exposure and check it is secured to both guard rail wires and toe rail. There’s no point in fitting it if your precious cargo can roll under the lower edge! Remember that saying 'there is no such thing as a free lunch'. Cheaper netting is welded whilst the stronger and, of course, more expensive netting is knotted!


    Once you have finished your inspection of guardrails and stanchions, check the security of your bolt on accessories such as the liferaft cradle, horseshoe bracket and while you are in that area, are any electrical cables passing through the pushpit showing signs of chafe?



    Whether wire or webbing they should be inspected. Check wire termination, especially PVC covered as per guard rail wires, for corrosion. Webbing jackstays should have their stitching checked for integrity, if any nicks or cuts are found in the webbing or if more than 3-4 years old they should be replaced owing to UV degradation of the material. If replacing wire jackstays, consider changing to webbing as an alternative, it is kinder to decks and doesn’t roll under foot.


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    Mooring cleats, Fairleads, bollards, eye bolts or u-bolts, like stanchions, should be checked thoroughly for movement. Should you suspect a deck fitting as a source of a leak, as we said before the application of a bead of mastic round the edge is only a short term solution! Any shackles securing a block or similar should all be checked for wear and moused with either monel seizing wire or cable ties for added security. However, if using ties and they have been snipped, watch out for razor sharp edges, use a drop of silicone sealant to cover. Water in the fuel last season, was it a 'dodgy' refill or is the fuel filler cap nitrile seal past their sell by date, spare seals are available for the Easy filler caps and some other makes, however if sourcing a seal don't forget diesel rots neoprene in double quick time.



    Blocks, especially ball or roller types, should be given a good rinse with fresh water from a hose to remove all traces of grit. Lubricate ball bearing blocks using Harken’s OneDrop Ball Bearing Conditioner or if plain bearing McLube. Don’t use grease as it will attract and hold grit which makes a very effective cutting compound causing wear. DO NOT oil or grease any Tufnol based block or fitting as it causes the material to swell and will seize sheaves onto pins. Any sheaves that are found to have wear between axle and the sheave (either sideways or vertical play) or nicks in the edges of sheaves which will cause damage to sheets or halyards should be replaced. Check all cam jammers on mainsheet block systems if the teeth are worn or the springs have lost their power replace. Rinse all mainsheet and headsail cars especially those using ball systems with a hose, inspect for wear and lubricate as per blocks. If fitted with plunger stops ensure these are free, lubricate with light oil and make sure they locate correctly in the track system. Check all track fastenings for integrity and make sure all track end stops are securely fastened, any rubber pads within the stops should be replaced if worn.



    Winches should be stripped and cleaned of all grease, if the grease is hardened it may be necessary to use paraffin and a de-greasing agent. Inspect for wear especially pawls (rounding of the edges and cracking), check for play in all bearings and especially those bearings between drum and the gearbox, if drum can be rocked excessively the caged roller (or plain) bearing is most likely worn. Re-assemble using winch grease, don’t use the white stern tube grease as it isn’t suitable for the purpose, and don’t smother parts heavily, a light coating will suffice. Keep grease away from pawls as it will make them stick, only apply a light pawl oil. Replace all pawl springs as a matter of course, a pawl that doesn’t engage through a broken or worn spring subjects the other pawls to overloading which can lead to damage. On self tailing winches check the rope gripper on the top of the winch for signs of wear, if worn replace. A manufacturer’s service kit is recommended as it usually contains most parts that are required for a full service together with an exploded diagram and instructions for stripping and rebuilding the winch. Ex-Geordie Mark Gardiner who works for Harken often jetting off round the world to service Volvo RTW winches and the like some years ago kindly wrote an excellent article on winch servicing, click here to access. Rope clutches, often neglected, should be washed thoroughly and checked for holding power, service kits are certainly available for Spinlock, Easy Marine and Barton, other makes no doubt also please check with our staff.



    A good hosing out of both the upper swivel and the lower drum unit will remove grit and salt deposits, check both items revolve freely on their bearings, if not rinse again, DO NOT attempt to strip swivels or drum units especially older Furlex units as you will almost certainly lose some of the bearings and possibly damage the retaining circlip(s) during stripping, you may also find it impossible to re assemble the unit without the use of a special press, seek advice regarding this. Only grease systems according to the manufacturers recommendations, some systems use grease, others recommend a dry type lubricant such as McLube. Check the integrity of the furling line especially the knot that secures it to the drum and most importantly are the stanchion leads, if of the sheave type, running freely and check for flats on the sheave. If you haven't introduced some 'friction' when unfurling the genoa to prevent a riding turn on the drum why not consider a Harken ratchet block complete with becket (elastic tied to becket/guardrail to avoid it damage deck or itself).



    Last but not least don’t forget the windlass, out of sight out of mind and you certainly don’t want it to fail if you have to up anchor in a hurry! Despite having a great bunch of guys with a shed-load of expert knowledge windlass servicing is not our forte so I make no apologies for reproducing the following maintenance schedule courtesy of Lofrans. A. Clean all external surfaces and hidden points with fresh water and remove all salt layers. B. Grease the rotating parts, particularly, the main shaft threads and clutch cones. Check for evidence of corrosion and mechanical stresses. A coat of Boeshield T9 is recommended. C. Remove and clean the terminals of the electric motor. Coat terminals with Vaseline before re-assembly, then when everything is back in place, spray with Boeshield T9. Test the voltage drop at the terminals. D. Replace all gaskets. E. Remove the anchor windlass from the deck with a little help from Debond, clean all salt deposits and the like from under the base and seal with polysulphide again.

  • 200. Top Tips Tuesday - Born in the USA


    I have never been a massive fan of Bruce Springstein, when I was a young lad it was local group the Animals that helped to damage my hearing, Pink Floyd & the Kinks were a couple more to name but a few. Years later I discovered the great Leonard Cohen and as for now, well its a mixture, Ray Davies the lead singer of the Kinks I enjoy listening to him now he is on his own and thought the musical he wrote, Sunny Afternoon, was excellent, so much we saw it in London then back up North! Next week we trot off (weather permitting) to the opera and back again in April for a bit more culture Madam Butterfly this time. As for the title of this blog, I am glad to report that we have once again got this ‘Made in the USA’ product,  Marine Formula, back in stock after an absence of about six months. I have heard about a slow boat from China but that was ridiculous.

    Marine Formula’s product is, as far as I am aware, the only product that debonds and cleans most cured and uncured Polyurethane and Polysulfide adhesives, caulks, decal and tape adhesive (including masking tape that has been of the cheaper variety and allowed to get damp! It's brilliant at debonding Sikaflex 291, I used Marine Formula to unstick a large mast plate from a Nauticat after being told by the manufacturer that there was no chance of doing so. I used a Stanley knife to score the adhesive, sprayed Marine Formula round the edge then gently hammered in some small hard wood chocks. Within the hour the plate was off and the deck cleaned of cured adhesive.


    Sikaflex291 is an excellent flexible adhesive suitable for use on a large number of substrates, however should you wish to add a little colour to the procedings you could of course use the excellent Sabatack 750XL which, apart form being available in black and white, is also produced in grey and a couple of complimentary wood colours, teak & mahogany, and the price of these are of course competitive!


    If you are a messy worker like me, Uniwipe Ultra Grime wipes are brilliant for removing uncured Sikaflex/Sabatack from surfaces and hands they are great also at cleaning up newly applied paint. Ultra Grime wipes are super soft, super strong and are dermatologically tested to be gentle on your skin. They don’t contain alcohol, but are impregnated with vitamin E and Aloe extract.


  • 200th 'Top Tips' Competition - Questions and T&C's


    To win one of the six prizes featured in our 200th anniversary blog you must answer all of the questions correctly. Send your answers to

    Q1. How long is the guarantee on Bynolyt Searanger II Binoculars?

    Q2. What weight is used to keep the danbuoy upright on the Seago 3 in 1 rescue & recovery system?

    Q3. What length is the sender cable on the Topargee water tank gauge.

    Q4. Name the award given to the Boarding Ring glasses in 2013.

    Q5. There are three natural ingredients found  in Vistal, what are they?

    Q6. What is the standard dilution ratio for Wet & Forget?
    The closing date for the competition is midnight Tuesday the 27th of March 2018 (UK time)
    The  names of the entrants who get all the correct answers will be put in Andy's lucky hat and the winners will be drawn in order.

    1st prize - Bynolyt Searanger II Binoculars

    2nd prize - Seago 3 in 1 rescue and recovery system

    3rd prize - Topargee surface mount water tank gauge

    4th prize - 1 pair Boarding Ring Glasses

    5th prize - 2 X Vistal hard surface natural cleaner

    6th prize - 1 X 5L Wet & Forget


    Prize winners on UK mainland will not be charged shipping, however  for Highlands, Islands and abroad we reserve the right to charge carriage at cost. We would notify and need payment before shipping.

  • 199. Top Tips Tuesday - Preseason Prep - Below Deck


    Yes, I know it's already the sixth day of spring and the outook is looking an awful lot better than last week, however if it's still brass monkey weather where your boat is currently located it's worth concentrating on your 'below the deck' tasks and leaving antifouling and polishing the topsides to warmer days. If your better half or you are not that technically minded then I suggest concentrating on thoroughly cleaning down all surfaces. For bilges I use a solution of diluted Bilgex however if it's a heavy contamination use neat but in both cases rinse thoroughly with fresh water afterwards. For most other surfaces Vistal is excellent, as it states on the box 'one pot does the lot'. However if there is some mildew on a surface or fabric, Starbrite or Yachticon's mildew remover works a treat but once again don't forget to rinse the treated surface.


    As for the technical side, if in doubt or on a learning curve can I suggest the Boatowner's Mechanical & Electrical Guide, carried on the boat as a ready reference. To get started, first check that all metal seacocks, the engine and the propshaft are electrically bonded as one, same goes for the rudder shaft. If in doubt, consult MG Duff’s very informative Cathodic Protection Handbook. Check the condition of the earthing wire and the cross sectional area. The correct wire to use is a minimum 4mm² PVC insulated multi-stranded tinned copper cable, if in the slightest bit of doubt replace. If you regularly use shore power, and most of us do, consider fitting a galvanic isolator into the boat’s earth supply cable if there isn’t one already fitted. It may appear just to sit there doing nothing but it does prevent stray electrical currents attacking underwater fittings such as seacocks, anodes, propellers and shafts.


    Check all seacocks operate freely and then service them. For the superb Blakes seacocks, use their seacock grease as a lubricant. For Forespar seacocks (glass reinforced nylon) it’s a smear of Lanocote and the same for Bronze and DZR. If handles are rusty, consider changing them to stainless ones. Check hose connections are sound, of course ensuring they are fitted with no less than 2 stainless hose clips for security. Check the condition of the hose material, flex it where it leaves the hose tail for signs of deterioration, change if the slightest bit suspect. In case of a problem with a seacock or hose when afloat make sure you have the correct size wooden bung attached with some 3mm polyester cord. Consider the purchase of a set of Seabungs (as featured on Dragon’s Den) or the excellent Stay Afloat, and carry at least one roll (if not two) of E-Z Tape on board should a weep develop from a pipe later in the season.

    If you have a mechanical seal (Deep Sea Seal, PSS or Volvo), read through the manufacturer’s service instructions. Does it need lubricating (the popular rubber Volvo seal should be greased every 200 hours or once a year, whichever comes 1st), don't forget when the time comes to launch you may need to ‘pinch’ the seal to expel trapped air after she is in the water. Remember seals, both shaft and sail drive, have a finite life span and components should always be replaced according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Your insurance company would no doubt take a very dim view if you had an intake of water and no documented proof of having the seal replaced within the recommended timescale.


    Service sea toilets as per the manufacturer’s instructions. As a rule of thumb however, remove the pump and grease the inside of the barrel with petroleum jelly, check all seals for deterioration and consider replacing the joker valve on the toilet outlet. If cruising, carry a set of toilet spares as it may be difficult to obtain parts in some ports. For the popular Jabsco manual toilets there are three different service kits available depending on the age of the original assembly however a lot of skippers with older models are upgrading to the complete Twist n’ Lock pump unit (saves you buying a spares kit and you get a complete new barrel etc). Check all outlet hoses for calcification, if only a small build up use a good quality toilet system descaler, or if more serious remove hose and try breaking the deposit away with a block of wood and a hammer. If this doesn't work,  replace only with odour proof toilet hose. Consider fitting a heads water treatment unit which not only reduces odours but also helps prevent the build up of deposits in hoses. If you have a permanent 'toilet smell' down below, check if the odour is permeating through the toilet hose wall. To check, place a damp cloth over the hose, leave it overnight then sniff the cloth. If the cloth smells, change the hose.


    If you haven’t got a gas alarm fit one or at the very least purchase a hand held detectorand fit a bubble leak detector next to the bottle. If you don’t already, make sure you can cut off the gas supply at the tap next to the cooker. Check the flexible orange gas hose that goes from the stop cock to the cooker is in date and also in good condition. If you are short of gas locker space and unable to carry 2 gas bottles, consider purchasing a Dometic Gaschecker - great for telling you how much gas you have left. With the publicity recently of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, if you haven’t already done so fit a carbon monoxide detector. It will only take you two minutes to screw to the bulkhead but may save your life!


    "Fire down below” spoken, or more likely shouted, are words we never want to hear. However in partnership with the Boat Safety Scheme ’Go Boating Stay Safe’ campaign, there is a booklet available entitled Fire Safety On Boats which is worth a read. For more information on boat safety and routine safety checks visit We recommend that you make sure all fire blankets and extinguishers are within easy reach and close to companionways, hatches, galley and the engine. Check that your extinguishers are still in date and not suffering from lack of pressure, if dented or rusty consider replacing, and if you haven’t got an automatic clean agent extinguisher located in the engine ‘room’ and no space to fit make sure you have an engine room door fire gate that you can aim and fire a clean agent one through. Yes, powder will work on an engine room fire however it can do a tremendous amount of damage if sucked into a running engine. Incidentally, in the last year we have seen an increasing number of customers purchasing the new generation PFE portable aerosol fire extinguishers, 70/80% smaller than standard units, they are ‘human safe’ and leave no harmful residue. It is of course suitable for use on both liquid fuel and electrical fires.


    Having taken the precaution of winterising your water system by adding Freezeban in the Autumn, you should first drain any treatment. Water tanks and pipes should be sterilized by adding the appropriate quantity of Puriclean into the tank then fill to the brim with fresh water. Open up all taps on board until the solution is coming through then close taps and leave for up to 12 hours. Empty the tank completely then rinse system through with another full tank of fresh water and then refill. After treatment, don’t forget to replace your water filter.


    Don’t forget to check that the automatic bilge pump is working after the close season and whilst you’re at it, when was the last time you changed the diaphragm in the emergency manual bilge pump? Whilst you have the floor boards up it’s worth having a check that everything is in order.

    Your first aid box is another vital component of your safety equipment often overlooked. It's certainly worth checking that the contents are in date, not damp or water damaged, and there are no gaps, bandages used last year, tweezers borrowed by your daughter to pluck her eyebrows and not replaced. Ginger tablets and seasickness tablets are are they still in date? Consider purchasing a pair of Boarding Ring anti seasickness glasses. They are a tried and tested remedy for motion sickness. If you haven’t got a ‘sailors’ first aid book its worth a purchase and if planning an adventure like the ARC or similar why not consider enrolling on a first aid course.


    Check all flares for being within date, (it’s an offence in some foreign countries to even carry out of date flares onboard). Perhaps consider slowly changing over to a couple of LED flares – no disposal worries and they have user replaceable batteries. Lifejacketsshould be inspected (both bladder and, where fitted, safety harnesses) for wear or chafe, loose stitching etc, and should be manually inflated for at least 24 hours preferably with dry air from a pump. Any that lose pressure should be referred to a service centre for specialist repair or should be replaced. Check all lifejacket cylinders for rust, unscrew from firing head and check they have not been pierced. Weigh them and ensure that the weight is above the minimum gross weight stamped on the cylinder. When refitting cylinder ensure it is tightly screwed into place. When replacing lifejacket cylinders, always ensure they are the correct weight and size specific to your lifejacket – the manufacturer’s label on the jacket should give this information. Change the water dissolving mechanisms (they fire the pin that allows the CO2 to automatically inflate the bladder) annually as they may have absorbed moisture and be on the point of firing. Check ‘Hammar’ hydrostatic systems ensuring they are ‘in the green’ and in date, if not replace. If your lifejacket is not fitted with a crutch strap fit one immediately, a lifejacket without one is virtually useless. If cruising, even inshore, consider adding a spray hood, and a light preferably the Spinlock Pylonwhich gives 360′ sighting, they can both be life savers! Those clever guys at Spinlock also now offer a Lume-On lifejacket illumination system which consists of 2 water activated LEDs which are attached to the back of the bladder. Safety lines, one for every member of crew, examine carefully and if not of the ‘Gibb style’ hook’s consider changing. Your EPIRBis the battery still in date, if you have just purchased the boat has the registration been brought up to date.

    Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.17.41

    Personal EPIRB’S (PLBs) are now under £200-00, if sailing singlehanded they are an essential bit of kit.  If you aren't single handed there are a couple of alternatives to consider. If you have AIS on board then an MOB1 is worth considering. It can either be carried in your pocket or fitted inside your lifejacket so it activates automatically when your lifejacket inflates. Once activated it will transmit an alert to your boat and all other AIS receivers within range. This gives the crew members still on board an easy way to find your exact position.

    Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.19.12

    The other alternative is a man overboard wrist band system. Crew members wear wrist bands which are connected to either a mobile phone or a tablet via bluetooth. If a crew member falls overboard the bluetooth connection is lost and an alarm is raised on the device giving the position where the signal was lost as well as direction and distance to that position.

    Your grab bag should contain an emergency torch so change the batteries. Make sure the handheld VHF is holding it’s charge (replacement batteries are available for certain models) Having said that many skippers are going with a handheld VHF with DSC facility, the price has dropped again to just under £215 and they have the added benefit of having a GPS built in. Check the expiry date of any flares carried in the grab bag. Seasickness tablets, food and water rations, are these in date? If you have an emergency credit card/cash, has the card expired and is the currency appropriate for your landfall.

  • 198. Top Tips Tuesday - Wet & Forget works like magic!


    Yes I know I am a boring old f..t, almost as bald as a coot, and according to Jenny daft as a brush! As for getting out of bed in the depth of winter these days and then, after having had a hot shower to ease my stiff back, having to bend down to put my socks is still a hell of an effort! However there is one product we sell that does put a smile on my face and requires no effort on my behalf to obtain a good result. Its that brilliant product WET & FORGET. Yes I know I am like a parrot and have blogged about it repeatedly but this product certainly does the business with absolutely no hard work, which is the bit I like!


    We first heard about WET & FORGET from the guys who launder our sails. they had been asked to spray WET & FORGET onto a huge superyacht head sail, as the sail had been often furled whilst still damp. they wanted a product that would keep the dreaded green ‘mould’ at bay with minimum effort and at a low cost.


    Since we first used the product in anger (we tested it out on a road sign some 4 years ago believe it or not and then to convince ourselves sprayed a test patch on a customers winter cover, with his permission I hasten to add) Since then we have used it ourselves to remove green algae from decks made of all substrates such as glassfibre, wood and steel with no effort at all. Its safe to use on all fabric covers be they manufactured in PVC or woven materials. Excellent results are obtained when sprayed onto contaminated halyards, jackstays etc etc. WET & FORGET can of course be used at home on wood decking, paths, block paving so can be bought using the household budget account, see images below of my bosses patio before and after. Believe it or not these images were taken 24 hours apart!

    Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.04.33

    So easy to use all you have to do is dilute the concentrate in a ratio of 5:1 with water , it's sold in a 5 litre container so makes up to an economical 30 litres. You spray the diluted mix onto the surface to be treated, leave and let nature do the rest. The combination of rain, wind and UV work together to remove the unsightly staining. As it's name suggests, all you do is wet and forget. You do not have to scrub the surface, it may take up to ten days before you see any difference as weather conditions, rain, sun and wind dictates how fast it works, incidentally it rained just after Andy (the boss) applied WET & FORGET to his patio!

    Down to your boat for the first time this weekend? Disappointed to see that green tinge? Spray the deck, canvas work, ropes etc leave and concentrate on other fitting out tasks which you have to put some effort in confident that very soon the 'green will be gone' and don't forget that before you hoist your furling genoa spray it with WET & FORGET. Well worth the little effort that would require!

    To help keep your canvas work in ‘Top Tips’ condition, brush or spray on some Fabsil Gold. As well as being the water proofer that Hancocks sail laundry use and recommend, an application of this product avoids the ‘sodden look’ to your woven fabric; water beads and runs off just like rain falling on the waxed surface of a newly polished car.

    Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.04.47

  • 197. Top Tips Tuesday - Varnish Remover For Butterflies


    Please don’t report me to the RSPCA, cos this blog is not about the inhumane treatment of the Red Admiral or any other species of butterflies! But I digress, we sometimes get in our engine workshop, Mercury, Yamaha or Tohatsu outboard motors (these are the three makes we sell, service and sometimes repair them if things go wrong!) It's usually in the spring when we get the non-starters and its often traced back to the fact that last year's fuel is still in the tank and always still in the carburettor! Yes I know its a bit late telling everyone that they should always drain the tank at the end of the season but its worth reminding folks before the start of this coming season that it's good practice to always turn the fuel supply off and let the engine die before drawing the dinghy up onto the beach, or if securely tied to the stern of the boat once again stopping the engine through fuel starvation. Incidentally if you don’t already carry out this procedure you will be surprised just how long the engine will keep running on idle or low revs and after a couple of attempts you will get used to turning off the fuel perhaps 50 metres from the beach.

    Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.32.02

    Yamalube Carburettor Cleaner is a powerful carburettor cleaner specially developed to eliminate deposits and varnish on butterfly valves, throttle chambers, nozzles, tanks, floats and venturi tubes. Yamalube Carburettor Cleaner reduces fuel consumption whilst increasing engine performance, stabilizes the idle, and improves the engine’s accelerating. It's easy to use and of course full instructions are printed on the aerosol can.


    Two stroke outboard fuel mix is more likely to cause varnish issues however for both two and four stroke petrol engines there are a couple of Quicksilver products that can be added at every fill up. Quicksilver Quickare keeps fuel fresh between every fill up and helps prevent or controls corrosion, gum and varnish build up. Quicksilver Quickleen helps remove carbon deposits from carburettors and injectors, intake valves, spark plugs, piston crowns and cylinder heads it helps prevent engine knocking and piston seize up as well as extending spark plug life.


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