Small things you shouldn’t miss at the big Boat Show

One of the best things about the Seattle Boat Show is stumbling across some item, service or display that makes you stop in your tracks. I’m not talking about the big, shiny boats, but those smaller treasures that you might otherwise overlook if you walk by too fast.

Over the past few days, the crew of Three Sheets Northwest has had a chance to walk some of the aisles at the Boat Show and here are a few things that we thought you should check out.

This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means. So if you’d like to add your own Boat Show must-see, please do so in the comment section below.

Baywatch telescope at Captain’s Nautical Supplies (Concourse 2237)

Fine looking in a lot of ways.

If you enjoy looking at — or in this case through — functional pieces of art, then don’t miss the hand-crafted, locally built Baywatch telescope at the Captain’s Nautical Supplies booth.

One look at the telescope and it transports you back to a time when these were the most advanced and important instruments for mariners and scientists. And this one would probably stack up with the best of those classic instruments.

The telescope was designed by the former head of optics at Captain’s. All of its parts are locally produced and assembled, except the eye piece. No less than the magazine Sky & Telescope sings its praises as among the best examples of its kind.

But this level of quality ain’t cheap. It runs just shy of $4,000.

So who’s buying these? They are often purchased as gifts or works of art, according to the folks at Captain’s. One building company gives them on the launch of a new ship.

If, like us, you can’t quite afford to drop four boat units on a piece of functional art, then at least take a few minutes to appreciate this bit of  local craftsmanship.

Hard-to-find tools at Nature’s Footprint (East 1226) 

Forceps, anyone?

Every time I go to the dentist, I badger my poor hygienist for leftover dental picks. Usually I strike out. No, I don’t use the picks for DYI dentistry. But they’re a very handy tool aboard a boat for getting stuff out of the many nooks and crannies — like picking bedding compound out of chainplate covers. 

Finding a reliable source of these picks — and other obscure and repurposable instruments — been tough. Until now. The table full of shiny things at the Nature’s Footprint booth will either make you jump for joy or conjure up images of a scary clinic.

There are a huge variety of dental picks, forceps of all sizes, locking tweezers big and small, mini-vices and much more. With a little imagination, you can find dozens of uses aboard for these kinds of things. I know I will.

Rescue Tape (East 1415)

Stick to it

Rescue tape is one of those amazing things that you can’t remember how you lived without. This isn’t a new product, but it is one I rarely ever pass by without picking up a few rolls. I’ve used it aboard the boat several times over the past season to fix a few leaky trouble spots and it has been fantastic. I have more aboard in case of a real emergency.

This tape stretches and binds to itself, creating a watertight barrier that can withstand a lot of heat and pressure — perfect if a critical hose ruptures, or for making a more comfortable grip for a tool. This is one of those items that has a ton of uses limited only by your imagination. We know one boater who gives rolls of Rescue Tape as gifts. He is a very generous soul. 

Hot packs at Helios Heating Pads (East 1400 )

Anytime we go winter sailing, I usually pop a few of those chemical hotpacks in my pockets to keep me warm. So when I heard a few fellow boaters marveling at the reusable hot packs at the show, I was curious.

Inside each gel pack is a small, thin metal disk. Press it and it starts a chemical reaction that produces a fair amount of heat while turning the gel into a stiffer white substance — a process that’s fun to watch, as the video above demonstrates.

Heat will last  20 to 45 minutes (according to someone working at the booth) and the packs can be regenerated by simply placing them in boiling water for 10 minutes. They come in four different shapes and sizes and can be worn around your wrist, back or neck. 

 Anchor display at Quickline Anchors (East 2204)

Hardly a drag.

The first time I anchored in tropical water, I marveled at the fact that I could actually see my anchor set on the bottom. Growing up boating around here, the workings of anchors were a mystery shrouded in the dark Pacific Northwest waters.

And that’s what makes the anchoring display at Quickline Anchors so much fun. You can actually put a series of mini-sized replicas of all the major anchor types through real-world tests, pulling them across simulated sand and rock bottoms. It’s a blast to give these little anchors a tug and feel them set.

The interactive display caught the eye of independent judges for the Northwest Marine Trade Association, which awarded the California company top prize for use of technology in a display at this year’s show.

Not sure how anchors relate to technology, but the display sure is fun to play with.

Bilge, deck and spot cleaners at Z-Care (East 729) 


Deborah accuses me being something of a neat freak aboard our boat. And it’s true that through the years I’ve experimented with a lot of different cleaning products before going back to the basics of vinegar, bleach and ammonia.

Then we happened to moor next to the owners of the Northwest-based Z-Care products and they gave us a sample of some of their new boat cleaning products. A few weeks ago, I gave their fiberglass cleaner a try on decks that were long past sporting their winter green.

And I’ve gotta say, it worked fantastically and made that winter chore a lot easier. (Full disclosure: Z-Care advertises on Three Sheets Northwest, but I would tell folks to give their products a try regardless.)

Plus, you’ll have fun watching them demonstrate how their new spot remover cleans up red wine spills. It’s like a real-life infomercial.

 Towel pins at ToweLocs (East 1421)

Put a pin in it

One of the things that drive Deborah nuts aboard our boat is when the dish towel is left hanging on the stove’s safety bar, since it invariably falls off and then needs to be washed — and who wants to use a towel that’s been on the sole? 

Falling towel syndrome is a problem on a lot of boats, especially underway. So that’s why this simple towel pin by Bothell-based ToweLocs is ingenious. The decorative pin and enclosure will keep your towels on the bar under the worst conditions. 

The “toweloc” is the brainchild of Cindy Sawyer, an interior designer who figured out the usefulness of the item for boaters. It comes in an assortment of styles, including custom designs.

Boat Leather sticky mats (Concourse 2204)

Not slip-sliding away

These ingenious little pads are indeed sticky — sticky enough to keep your laptop in place on top of the nav station or your phone from going airborne when the boat’s at a serious heel. They work great on both regular and non-skid surfaces. And since they’re not adhesive on the back, you can move them in use them in different areas.

These might not help if you turtle, but they sure seem like they’d be useful on a rocking day.

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