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Gadgets and Gilhickies…


For about half the 20th century, Yachting ran a column titled Gadgets and Gilhickies. With a name like that, we couldn’t help but revisit the content and found it just as quirky as the title promised. Filling its pages are MacGyver-style inventions cooked up by readers to make their lives on the water a little easier. In this day and age, one might call these gizmos “boat hacks.”

The quirkiest of these novelties, at least in the 1968 columns, might be Howard Barnes’ glasses snatcher, for those pesky times when your spectacles take a plunge into the drink. Barnes’ refrigerator-shelf (yes, refrigerator shelf) gadget was good for swiping any small object from the water, though. His first season using it earned him $200 worth of overboard items. See below for a full description of how the snatcher is made — you know, in case you’re in the market for such a thing.

The column held its fair share of seafaring tips as well. Ham deFontaine, the column’s author for more than 20 years, wrote in the June 1968 issue: “Any maneuver that is good seamanship is just plain common sense.” That little proverb referred to a temporary outhaul rig for casting off after a beach landing during falling tide, but it applies to other gilhickies as well, including an emergency storm trysail rig and a type of sailing line work called a racking seizing.

A racking seizing is “used to hold two ropes together or two parts of the same rope,” according to The Art of Knotting and Splicing, a publication deFontaine proclaims to be the “bible of rope work.” The racking seizing was not a reader invention, of course, but Gadgets and Gilhickies’ overarching theme was a savvier life at sea, and deFontaine’s goal was to share anything of use. Francis Palfrey Jr. wrote in to praise the seizing’s usefulness on his sloop, Cygnet. “Its principal use is where a temporary eye is needed and the line cannot be spliced,” he wrote. Looking to learn it? Step-by-step instructions are below.

Bill Crowe’s shield for a dinghy’s rail when pulling in an anchor and chain appeared in August 1968. “Like many worthwhile ideas, it is relatively simple,” deFontaine wrote. Indeed, as the
invention is essentially a piece of metal folded over the rail (see full details below), we’re going to have to agree with deFontaine about the simplicity, and about the while that it’s worth. Who wants to scuff up that rail?

And that’s what this column offered: relatively simple ideas that can go a long way on the water. So we ask you, Yachting readers, what are some handy on-the-water tricks you’ve discovered?

8 GREAT BOAT HACKS FROM OUR HISTORY

THE INVENTORS: Yachting loves interactive readers. These “gilhickies” were ideas or inventions sent in from enthusiasts all over.


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