March 9, 2010

When is waterproof not?

(Mainly about Boats — a new column every Monday, Wednesday, Friday)

IMAGINE FOR ONE MOMENT that you manufacture handheld marine VHF radios for boaters. Imagine, too, that your bean counters have figured out that it’s more profitable for you to replace a radio (if someone complains it’s not waterproof) than it is to make all your radios waterproof in the first place.

Now here’s the thing: Is it morally wrong to warrant a radio as waterproof when you know it’s not? Bearing in mind, of course, that the consumer is not going to be out of pocket if water does get into it.

I merely ask. I am not pointing a finger. In fact, I’m probably the very first person in the world to have been struck by this weird notion. But, quite coincidentally, several years ago when the consumer magazine Practical Sailor tested seven brands of handheld VHFs marketed as waterproof, water resistant, or warranted against water damage, only one turned out to be truly waterproof.

Now I have a silly notion that a VHF is a safety item of the last resort. When I really need it, the waves will be breaking over everything, it will be pouring with rain, and I’ll probably drop it in puddles a few times.

So I’d rather have a truly waterproof radio than one that might fail if I accidentally spit on it, even if they promised to refund my money — presuming that, lacking any means to call for help, I survived to collect it.

Today’s Thought
The foundations of morality are like all other foundations: If you dig too much about them the superstructure will come tumbling down.
— Samuel Butler the Younger, Note-books

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #24
Bulwarks. To be any use at all, bulwarks on your sidedecks should be no less than 3 inches deep. Experienced cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey have 8-inch bulwarks on their 29-foot boat, for example, but anything over 4 inches is good for footing, preventing gear from sliding overboard, and strengthening stanchions.

Ever wonder why the average man prefers women with beauty to women with brains?
It’s because the average man sees more clearly than he thinks.

1 comment:

Aaron Headly said...

Sadly, it'd probably take an expensive lawsuit to fix this. And I say 'sadly' not because lawsuits are inherently bad (they are not; often they are the only way to change bad behavior), but because it is sad that manufacturers don't care about these sorts of things unless it costs them money.

The first time a manufacturer has to replace someone's Hatteras because a wave took out his 'water-proof' hand-held when he was calling for a tow, everyone'll either fix their radios or leave the market.

I'll keep mine in a Ziploc® until then.