Beware Marine Equipment Awards

In the last year or so I have evaluated a couple of pieces of marine equipment that have received industry awards. You know the ones: DAME, Pitmann, and Husick.

And while I find these awards useful as a way to learn about new gear, I’m often shocked…nay, appalled…OK, shocked and appalled by the breathless hyperbole about gear that is unproven and/or has significant negatives, at least for many of us. I’m not saying this is necessarily bad gear, but nothing is as perfect as these awards imply.

The worst example was an award given to the CrewWatcher, the text of which went on for several breathless paragraphs about how wonderful the unit was without ever pointing out that it relied on the consumer electronics Bluetooth protocol, with so short a range that it’s basically useless as a crew recovery beacon.

At the very least, anyone writing about the CrewWatcher should point out that there is far better POB recovery technology available in the form of AIS beacons, which have a range of one to two miles, using robust commercial grade transmitter and receiver technology, not a smartphone.

And, in the last few months, multiple awards have been given to Nigel Calder’s new generator replacement machine called Integrel, without any attempt to highlight possible reliability issues, or its value for money for various segments of the boating community.

In one case we are dealing with a safety of life issue and, in the other, a lot of money. Surely marine journalists owe readers a better effort at highlighting drawbacks (even just potential ones), rather than just writing breathless fan-boy awards.

Be Careful

Anyway, I strongly caution against putting much weight in these awards when deciding how to keep you and your loved ones safe, or where to spend your hard-earned bucks, euros, or whatever your currency is.

No Malice

One more thought. The interesting thing about this is that I have deep respect for most of the people who sit on these award panels. They are not fools, and I’m sure they mean well.

I guess it’s just a function of a system where most of the panelists don’t get paid—I was asked to sit on one of them, so this I know—so they really can’t put a lot of time into a thorough evaluation.  And the underlying organizations are advertising-based, meaning that mentioning drawbacks is contrary to their business interests.

By the way, there is a shining exception to this sorry state of affairs: When Practical Sailor magazine gives a piece of gear an award, I think I’m right in saying, it’s always after they have published a detailed evaluation, including both the benefits and the drawbacks.

Not a Hint

Of course, all that sounds like I’m coyly hinting that marine journalism that’s not advertising based (AAC and Practical Sailor) is intrinsically better. So let me be clear. I’m not hinting…that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Further Reading

And yes, you need to join us (US$2/Month) to read these. Why would you not spend that tiny amount? One of our reports deals with safety of life and the other with a machine that will cost you between US$15,000 and US$50,000, depending on configuration.


Please stay on topic. If you wish to discuss the CrewWatcher, or Nigel’s new machine, please do so on the above linked chapters, not here.


I pay the same subscription for Practical Sailor as anyone else would. Darrell Nicholson, the editor, used to edit Phyllis and me over at Cruising World, back in the day when the world was young and so were we. And I have huge respect for Drew Frye (who seems to be writing about 80% of PS these days) because of all the good common sense he shares in the comments here at AAC.

We currently have four corporate members, who between them contribute about 5% of our gross revenue.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Learn About Membership

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments