ProBoat Editors Share Their Favorite Show Finds

Gear on display at the fall and winter boat shows, including IBEX, METS, Refit, and boot Düsseldorf, 
numbers in the thousands if not tens of thousands. After once again prowling these shows, our editors have chosen some of their favorite products, services, and new ideas to share with our readers. In parentheses 
are the shows in which their selections were displayed.

Also note that this story was originally published in Professional BoatBuilder issue No. 168 (“Showstoppers,” page 80). We’ve added a review of boot Düsseldorf to this online version (see below).

Sioux Pneumatic Tools

A tool junkie, I’m constantly on the lookout for a better screwdriver, wire stripper, and pliers as well as pneumatic tools, including dual-action sanders, needle scalers, die grinders, and impact wrenches. The Sioux (a Snap-on company) pneumatic tool display caught my attention because the tools appeared to be unusually compact and modular. Their drive motors and many other parts are interchangeable; the motor drops in, meaning a spare will fit any tool that goes down on the shop floor, rather than having to replace the entire tool.

Steve D'Antonio (both)

High-quality models from Sioux Pneumatic Tools include a drill, an impact wrench, and a dual-action palm sander.

Interchangeable drive motors can be dropped in quickly if a tool fails.

The dual-action palm sander offers three orbits—3⁄32″, 3⁄16″, and 3⁄8″—and includes four pad sizes, and the vacuum attachment can be used in either a central vacuum system or a venturi self-generated version. I tested the sander, impact wrench, and drill; all performed flawlessly. The quality of these tools is clear, with ball and needle bearings and heat-treated spiral bevel gears; most have grease fittings for life-extending lubrication. The standard Sioux series tools are assembled in the Murphy, North Carolina, factory from foreign and domestic parts, while the Signature Series is designed and manufactured entirely in the U.S. I’ve used these tools in my own shop; they feel good in my hands and work well.  —Steve D’Antonio (IBEX)

CDI Torque Products torque wrench

Steve D'Antonio (both)

The Computorq wrench, robust and versatile enough for marine service, delivers readout on a backlit LED; it beeps and the handle vibrates when programmed torque levels are reached.

Also part of the Snap-on family, the CDI Computorq 1002CASG digital torque wrench is another tool I had to test drive. For years I have eschewed digital torque wrenches as not tough enough for a shop, much less a marine environment. After testing out the CDI, I’m comfortable saying that’s no longer the case; it’s rugged and ver­satile. The backlit digital display reads in foot-pounds as well as inch-pounds, newton meters, kilograms-centimeter, and deci newton meters. When the preset torque is reached, the Computorq emits a loud beep, and the handle vibrates, making it well suited for noisy environments or for the deaf. Users can program 50 presets for sequential torquing, and these can be locked to prevent inadvertent changes or out-of-sequence torquing. It can record 1,500 readings, which are time-stamped and can be downloaded to any PC without special software. Its internal battery is recharged via the USB port as well. The model I tested has a torque range of 5 ft-lbs to 100 ft-lbs and a flexible head. Finally, the Computorq also lets you know when it needs to be calibrated. —Steve D’Antonio (IBEX)

Neander Motors diesel outboard

Steve D'Antonio (both)

This prototype diesel outboard from Neander Motors is designed to minimize the shake and rattle of conventionalal small diesel engines.

I’d met with a representative from Neander Shark, based in Kiel, Germany, at the Miami Boat Show a few years ago. He shared the company’s big plans to introduce a sophisticated 50-hp (37-kW) diesel outboard to the marine market that would incorporate a unique counterbalance shaft designed to quell small diesel engines’ notorious shake and rattle. Ambitious and intriguing, it was originally developed for a motorcycle designed to beat a Porsche in a 0–60 mph shootout. I heard nothing after that, until I saw the Neander Dtorque turbodiesel outboard at the Yanmar booth at METS. Built in cooperation with (and distributed by) Yanmar, the unit is a working prototype, among a handful of others being tested first in Europe and then in the U.S., either later this year or in early 2018. Its Bosch common-rail fuel-injection, 800cc twin-cylinder aluminum powerhead, 50-hp output is well suited to small work and recreational vessel operations. (I’m giddy at the thought of using this as propulsion for yacht tenders, eliminating the need for onboard gasoline storage.)

Eliminating the need for onboard gasoline storage to serve tenders of large diesel-powered yachts, the turbo­­diesel delivers fuel efficiency comparable to the best four-stroke outboards.

The really impressive part, however, is its torque—a substantial 111 Nm at 2,000–3,000 rpm. Compared to equal-torque gasoline outboards, even four-strokes, the Dtorque is a fuel miser (see the chart above). The counterbalance shaft does what it’s designed to do. The company credits its patented “Spaceball” design for the turbodiesel’s smooth running: “The aluminum cylinder block houses dual crankshafts which rotate in opposite directions to absorb the considerable vibration that a conventional small two-cylinder diesel engine would normally generate.” A video shows the Dtorque starting, running, and stopping with a glass of champagne perched on its cowling.    —Steve D’Antonio (METS, DUS)

Scanstrut waterproof USB socket

Steve D'Antonio

A waterproof USB plug with two sockets can charge numerous onboard devices.

I recall ordering my first Dell desktop computer probably 12 or 14 years ago, and with it a 250-MB USB thumb drive (miniscule by today’s standards), which sat on my desk for a couple of years before I ever needed it. Today, it seems every electronic gadget has a USB port for data transfer and charging. Even my flashlight is USB chargeable. However, using a wall receptacle and converter to charge USB devices is impractical in wet locations like the cockpit and the flybridge. Enter the Scanstrut waterproof dual-USB 12V–24V charge socket. With the cover closed, and one or two cables plugged in, it offers mariners a reliable means of charging essential electronic gear on weather decks. It has an ingress protection rating of IPX4, which technically, with a USB cord installed, is only “splash” protection but still worth having. (For more on this subject, see “Deciphering the Ingress Protection Code”.) The outer shroud is UV resistant, the cover uses a stainless steel spring, and the circuit board is coated with a corrosion inhibitor: it’s rugged. Input can range from 6VDC to 30VDC. Output is a steady 5V and 1.5 amps—common to USB ports—and considered suitable for rapid charging rather than strictly data-transfer USB 1.0 and 2.0 ports, which have one-third the current output. The installation cutout is a clever dashboard gaugelike 11⁄8″ (29mm) circle, requiring nothing more than a holesaw.—Steve D’Antonio (METS)

Fastmount “blind” Textile Clip Range TC-06 seat-cushion 

A variety of approaches have been tried to solve the age-old problem of how to keep weather deck cushions in place: hook-and-loop tape, snaps, etc. All work to some degree, and all have drawbacks. Hook-and-loop wears out and becomes clogged with lint. Snaps are difficult to reach to connect and disconnect, and they often break. Water is often trapped between the cushion and the surface, further challenging these connections.

As I watched Fastmount’s TC-06 cushion-mounting device demonstration, I thought, “This is brilliant. Problem solved.” Designed and manufactured in New Zealand, the Textile Range was created in response to demand for secure mounting of interior and exterior cushions and related furnishings aboard yachts. In the clip set range, the TC-06 is the first to be released.

Steve D'Antonio (both)

Fastmount’s secure seat-cushion fasteners include a slim release tool (top) to reach catches in tight places.

The TC-F6 is stitched by the upholsterer to the base of the cushion. It consists of spring-loaded plastic tri-sided clip that locks into the mating male fitting, holding the cushion securely in place (the spring is provided by the resiliency of the plastic; it uses no metal). The male TC-M6 is a low-profile ¾”-diameter (20mm) plastic stud; it screws into the fiberglass, timber, or metal cushion base or backrest. The cushion positively locked in place by the mount can be released only by pressing one of three release buttons on the base. As much as I like the design, in seeing this I thought I’d found a flaw: some hard-to-reach mounts would no doubt force those removing cushions to peel them back to access the release, which over time would probably cause damage or tear out the mount’s stitching. Not so. Fastmount developed the TC-R6 removal tool, a slim plastic device to easily and blindly engage the mount base while depressing the release button. It’s foolproof. system/textile%20range. —Steve D’Antonio (METS)

Simarine PICO battery and tank monitor

At every show, battery and tank monitors were, it seemed, the proverbial dime a dozen; everyone had one. When I walked by this display at the Düsseldorf boat show, however, the quality and crispness alone proved magnetic. I stopped and chatted with Simarine’s Jaro Zuraj, one of the founders of this Slovenian company. I was intrigued. Simple, elegant, and practical, it provides everything I’d want in a battery monitor. It’s able to monitor up to six banks using 300-amp or 500-amp shunts, providing state of charge, voltage, current, time to discharge, and time to full charge. It can also monitor up to 20 additional “current channels,” i.e., devices whose current draw, or production, one might wish to monitor, such as alternators, solar panels, battery chargers, etc. Furthermore, it can monitor up to 14 tanks, using either Simarine-provided tank sensors or existing senders.

Steve D'Antonio

The PICO monitors from Simarine deliver constant, detailed data from multiple tanks and battery banks to a tablet or smartphone.

Installation is straightforward. Shunts and sensors must, of course, be installed and wired in the conventional fashion; and iOS and Android apps allow users to monitor and program the system on a phone or a tablet. The PICO also includes what the company calls a “Real-Time Battery Health” algorithm, which it claims is capable of monitoring not only battery state of charge, in amp-hours or percent of charge, but also the battery’s overall condition, which it does by gathering information about charge and discharge cycles and the time required for each.—Steve D’Antonio (DUS)

Quantum 2KA two-part aerosol polyurethane topcoat

At the 2017 Refit Show in Fort Lauderdale, the guys from Engineered Marine Coatings (Charleston, South Carolina) got my attention with an unlikely tool—a can of spray paint. But before we get into the details of their two-part aerosol polyurethane topcoat, called Quantum 2KA, let’s look at the brief history of EMC2, as they have branded their company.

The modern marine-coatings market is dominated largely by a few well established companies with the resources and depth of research talent to deliver superb products year after year, decade after decade. Pettit, Interlux, Awlgrip, Alexseal, and 
Epifanes are some of the familiar brands that have traditionally met the evolving needs of boat builders and repair yards. Each one is supported by strong research-and-development departments working on new chemistries to anticipate color, finish, and regulatory trends that will define what boat builders and owners want or need in coming years.

Aaron Porter

Engineered Marine Coatings’ two-part polyurethane paint in a disposable spray can is a welcome option for paint touch-up and repair.

It’s a real challenge for any newcomer to offer products compelling enough to secure a critical share of this seemingly saturated market and to build a lasting brand. Engineered Marine Coatings took that challenge head-on since its founding by two College of Charleston graduates in 2010. Their core product—Quantum 99, a two-part polyurethane topcoat—can be sprayed or brushed for a hard, high-gloss finish. The company also markets proprietary sealer, primer, reducer, cleaner, and varnish. Sound chemistry and relentless marketing, including hands-on painting demonstrations up and down the Eastern Seaboard, have captured the attention of boat builders and commercial yards.

In the context of the Refit Show, where surveyors, captains, and repair-yard managers are looking for practical solutions, the logic and simplicity of two-part polyurethane in a spray can, available in all standard colors from major paint suppliers, were irresistible. Consider the immense cost and trouble of repairing blemishes in an expensive two-part sprayed finish with the original paint catalyzed and sprayed through a commercial paint sprayer. And that’s not even factoring in the time and solvents involved in gear cleanup. While I’m loath to suggest throwaway options with high consumables, knowing the amount of paint, pot liners, solvent, etc. that commonly go into shooting a modest touch-up job, a disposable can containing perfect measures of the paint’s two parts and a well-behaved spray atomizer nozzle, looks pretty good. Add the potential to color-match custom paints (you’ll have to buy custom runs by the case), and this sounds like something I’d want in my yard for touching up boottops or to hand over by the case to a captain heading out for an extended voyage, where the inevitable bangs and dings will need to be touched up.

Anne Bryant

The fan-shaped spray from the disposable nozzle allows for controlled paint application.

My experience with a test can was positive. Instructions to activate the two-part paint with a red plastic button jammed in the bottom of the can were clear, and the paint behaved as described. The atomizer was the best spray nozzle I’ve ever encountered on a disposable can, allowing me to apply consistent, controlled coats with precise overlaps and corner coverage. Plus, it can be swiveled 90° to spray in a horizontal or vertical fan while the can remains upright. —Aaron Porter (Refit)

Scanstrut ROKK modular-device-mounting system

Aaron Porter | Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Securing tablets, smartphones, and handheld devices on board is possible with Scanstrut’s ROKK modular mounting system.

Electronic tablets, smartphones, and digital cameras have become central to modern existence, leading to an onboard trend. Many formerly stand-alone permanently wired and mounted marine electronics are available as applications on smart devices, with fast processors, abundant memory, high-quality screens, internal GPS, accelerometers, and your entire personal music collection. Navigation apps such as Navionics and iNavX report immense growth as boaters logged on through smartphones and tablets for hundreds of millions of sessions last year. And then there are weather apps, cruising guides, and monitoring for other onboard systems through wireless data connections that all offer some enhancement for boaters. The problem of drawing down the limited internal-device batteries has been addressed with the waterproof USB charging port noted by Steve D’Antonio, above. Now, effectively mounting these devices, especially for operation at speed or in challenging sea conditions, has been met by Scanstrut’s ROKK mini modular system.

Aaron Porter (both)

The suction-cup base option, affixed and locked to any smooth surface, allows for temporary installation of the articulating bracket that holds a device without drilling holes in a console or cabintop.

This solution is a vast improvement over the broad strip of industrial-strength Velcro I attached to the back of my early smartphone—my first, imperfect attempt to keep the device visible but not adrift on the console. The ROKK, manufactured in rugged UV-resistant plastic and stainless steel, starts with the base or attachment fitting. Choices include a cable-tie mount, a screw-down base, a self-adhesive base, a rail-mount base, and a clever heavy-duty suction-cup base designed to lock, preventing unintended detachment while a device is mounted on it. Next comes the adjustable body, a double-ball-and-socket articulating arm that locks securely to any of the bases with a positive latching system. Articulation is adjusted and locked with the turn of a metal-to-metal friction knob. Last are the utility clamps and brackets that affix with a hex screw to the adjustable body to firmly hold the device. Simple ratcheting clamps for phones and tablets grip those devices securely, even those in weatherproof cases. Also, a standard threaded camera plate, a GOPRO-camera-compatible plate, and a bracket customized for small Raymarine devices are all well designed and robust enough to tolerate some bashing about in rough conditions. Coupled with the USB charging port, this simple, comprehensive system makes handheld devices and accessories reliable on any boat. —Aaron Porter (METS)

Web Extra: A Review of Boot Düsseldorf

I first attended boot Düsseldorf 25 years ago. My overriding memory is of it being very big (and visiting the lost and found for the city of Düsseldorf to retrieve a camera my girlfriend had lost at the show; they had it). Since then, it has expanded steadily; 2017 is its 48th year This gargantuan event now covers more than 2,368,060 sq ft (220,000m2), has more than 1,800 exhibitors from 70 countries, and nearly a quarter of a million visitors. Spread out over 17 distinct buildings (with room for expansion at the “Messe” exhibit center, the facility where the event is held, not every hall is utilized), it includes power and sailing vessels galore. Many, particularly the power vessels, are all but unknown in the U.S. While some are decidedly “Euro” and unlikely to appeal to U.S. buyers, others are very attractive and tout the ruggedness, seaworthiness, and comfort required for cruising Northern European waters. I believe they’d appeal to a contingent of North American buyers. Most boats are fiberglass; steel and aluminum are popular as well, far more popular than at U.S. shows.

In a lunch meeting with the show’s director, Petros Michelidakis (to which I was late, having been so captivated with a tool salesman’s pitch), I learned about some of the inner workings of boot Düsseldorf and the Messe. For instance, during the recession, he arranged to pay the vessel transport costs for many exhibitors, thereby enabling them to continue to attend the show during the darkest of economic times. This served two purposes: it clearly helped those boatbuilders show their products when sales were thin, and it kept the show floor fullimportant for revenue and appearances.

Steve D'Antonio

Despite the massive scale of boot Düsseldorf—17 buildings house more than 1,800 exhibitors—the show is well organized and even has good food.

One of the halls is dedicated to watersports, including surfing, waterskiing, kite boarding, etc. In this section a giant artificial wave pool has been set up, in which would-be and experienced surfers can hone their skills, and spectators can watch.

A pet peeve of mine at U.S. boat shows is the quality and accessibility of the food. The boot Düsseldorf food court is expansive, while a series of food trucks, and an outside eating area (for hearty souls, the temperature hovered in the 20s and 30s degrees F, yet it remained full each time I walked by) round out the mix, from classic German bratwurst to curry. And, of course, there’s beer, such as the local Schlӧsser Alt. (While walking through Düsseldorf’s old city I consulted Yelp and have never seen so many four- and five-star ratings, most of which are reasonably priced. It’s difficult to find a bad meal there; I didn’t.)

After spending three days at the show, and in Düsseldorf, my foremost impression of the show, aside from its size, is its extreme organization. Show buildings and aisles are clearly labeled in multilingual signage. Restrooms are conveniently located, plentiful, and scrupulously clean, as are the dining facilities. For exhibitors and others with badges, entry and exit is through laser-scanning turnstiles, so the show organizer knows when you are on the property and when you’ve left, and can calculate how much time anyone spent at the event. Additionally, the same badge allows you to travel on the city’s extensive tram system on the days and evenings of the show, free of charge. For more of my observations and photos, see —Steve D’Antonio

About the Authors: Aaron Porter is Professional BoatBuilder‘s editor; Steve D’Antonio is the magazine’s technical editor. 

For more show picks see:

Editors’ Picks: Top Gear