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Pearls of Wisdom
Some Good Sailboat Gear
Mantis Umbrella
~ Mantis Umbrella ~
Good Sailboat Gear
Good Shade Gear
Pro-Techt Mantis Umbrellas
Sailing on a sunny day is heaven. Sailing without shade in the full sun of the southern latitudes is hell. Providing some protection from the elements is a must, but the Hans Christian 33t's design was not conducive to putting up any sort of permanent, effective awning (bimini) that could be used while underway. We may still go this route (once we can save up the funds), but in the meantime we came across a unique product at the Miami Boat show which provides us with the shade we so desperately need. Though they are pricy – it's a fraction of the cost of altering the rigging and doing major construction anticipated bimini installation.
Our Mantis Umbrellas
~ Our Mantis Umbrellas ~

The Pro-Techt Mantis is a very well designed shade shaped like wings. The Pro-Techt Mantis® is a very well designed shade shaped like wings. The fabric is Sunbrella, and the spine is powder coated aluminum so the entire system seems very strong and secure. The unit is designed to provide unlimited rotations and angle adjustments so the sun can always be kept at bay. We purchased several shades and mounting brackets. With the brackets located strategically around the cockpit, we can move the units easily using the quick release mount. And then, when we want a full view of the sky, we can latch the shade to the frame, or if the wind gets too strong, the whole thing collapses easily and goes into its storage bag.

This product has made our cockpit far more comfortable and enjoyable, without having to completely reconfigure the boat.

Update
Shortly after purchasing these umbrellas, I sewed Sunbrella storage sacks for them. The bags that came with the Mantis were not made of fabric that would survive strong, steady UVs, and we intended to store these units outside on their mounts. Though some repairs were made, I'm happy to note that the Pro-Techt Mantis® Umbrellas lasted nearly 10 YEARS! Considering that these wings were sometimes left open for perhaps months at a time, and sometimes bent to winds that were less than ideal, I'd say that is a noteworthy level of performance!
Diana in the Elements
~ Diana in the Elements ~

One of the repairs I had to make involved replacing the rivets in the locking hinges that had rusted away. But that deficiency can be forgiven because these were constantly exposed to salt water, and as I've noted over the years, EVERYTHING rusts to the ocean. I simply stuck stainless cotter pins through the holes – easy peasy.

The umbrella ribs poked through the ends of the fabric eventually, but the Velcro® design allowed me to pop the wing off and make repairs easy enough. And though the adjustment knobs would sometimes give in brisk breezes, we never had an incident where the mount let the umbrella fly away!

In preparation for a long-term cruise through the Caribbean, I decided to re-furbish our units. Though the disassembly was fairly easy and replacement fasteners were common enough, I simply ran out of time and so opted to purchase new ones. I'm happy to see that additional improvements were made – and even more noteworthy, nothing was 'cheapened' in the product. I've also talked with the company and found everyone to be very easy to work with, and accommodating.

So in conclusion, the Pro-Techt Mantis® Shade will remain on my list of highly recommended products. We still haven't covered the cockpit with a cruising bimini, and after being in the suffocating cavern of some other cruiser's enclosures, I'd have to profess that we've grown very fond of the open air and unobstructed view of the heavens (though you could ask me again when it's pouring rain during a crossing and my answer most probably will alter.) So as long as we continue to cruise in the fairly warm climate of these southern waters, making fairly short hops between islands, we'll continue to use these bat-wings for shade. And they've turned out to be pretty good conversation starters too!