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0 In the journal/ the pug

Bringing Pet Food to Mexico

I recently wrote about Umphrey’s new dog food and its many benefits for boat dwelling dogs. While the post was primarily focused on the style of food (dehydrated), it prompted questions about which ingredients can cross the border into Mexico. Armed with some new information on the various regulations, here’s a quick summary of the rules about bringing your pet’s provisions across the border. Below is the official document from the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture which was updated as of 7.24.14.

Official Regulations

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According to Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, travelers are permitted to bring in their own pet food. The dog food must be dried, packaged, “and without content of ruminant origin.” Ruminant animals are hoofed, cud chewing mammals, but you can read this for a more detailed definition. If your pet food has any ingredients containing beef, pork, deer, bison, etc, don’t bring it to Mexico. We’ll likely switch to the “Force” flavor (the same Honest Kitchen brand) which is chicken based, free of beef ingredients, and Umphrey enjoyed it.

If you’re interested in Honest Kitchen dog or cat foods, their website has a drop down menu which allows you to search based on ingredients you would like to omit from your pet’s diet. In this case, selecting “beef” from the “Without” drop down menu on the left to find a list of all of their foods that do not contain beef. Their ingredient lists are short and free of mystery foods making the process of finding a Mexico safe flavor a breeze. After omitting that ingredient, there is still a great selection to choose from including fish, duck, turkey, and vegetarian.

Regulations on Quantity

Additionally, the above document says that you are allowed to bring up to 20 kg (44 lbs) of food for your pet. That amount can be in up to two packages. The packages have to be unopened except for the provisions required for the trip. To meet that requirement, we plan to buy two new packages, and use an already opened one for the trip down the Baja Peninsula. Even if the already opened portion is discarded by officials, we will still have two 10 lbs packages of dog food which is 160 days worth of meals for our dog.

1 In the journal/ the pug

Boat Friendly Dog Food

We love our pug. We want him to be as happy and healthy as possible on this sailing adventure, and his diet plays a major role in that. It’s important to us that his diet meets his health needs as well as suits his lifestyle as a salty sailor pug, and the food we were feeding him was no longer cutting it.

Pug Provisions

Umphrey has been on a steady diet of high-quality dry kibble his whole life. Thankfully, he has been a pretty healthy guy in his six years. However, within the last six months he had a minor issue with struvite crystals. This can happen for a few reasons – breed predisposition, dehydration, and the wrong food. (Kitties are susceptible too!) His case cleared up quickly, but it’s not something we want him to go through again, let alone in the middle of the ocean. After talking to our vet, we determined hydration and well-balanced (probably wet) dog food were the keys to prevention. Umphrey has never been overly interested in drinking water throughout the day, and his dry kibble probably wasn’t doing anything to help him stay hydrated. So, the search for a boat-friendly, healthy, hydrating dog food began.

I thought it would be great, albeit unlikely, if we could find a food that we could stockpile in quantities on the boat. We’re headed to Mexico soon unsure about the quality of dog food available south of the border. Everyday grocery store kibble isn’t really an option. It’s full of unhealthy stuff. Most run of the mill dog food is primarily made up of cheap carbohydrates and fillers. Dogs were designed to need exactly zero carbohydrates to survive. When corn, grains, and potatoes become staples in their diet, problems can occur (including elevated pH).

We had kind of a tall order on our search for Umphrey’s canine cuisine. It had to be nutritious, easy to store on the boat, hydrating, and delicious. A couple of extra ingredients that I had my eye on were cranberries to help prevent bladder issues, as well as ground flax to keep things, you know, moving along. (See soon how our food selection played a role in teaching Umphrey to go potty on the boat!) There are so many different dog food brands it’s overwhelming, but after a little research on Dogfoodadvisor.com, we headed to our local pet food store for some samples.

In the days that followed, Umphrey had the great pleasure of sampling a variety of doggy fare from organic to canned, refrigerated to freeze dried, grain free, free range, and grass fed. He turned his nose up at some (kelp? no thanks), but gobbled down most with snorting enthusiasm.

Dehydrated Dog Food

We quickly realized dehydrated or freeze dried dog food is ideal for boat dogs. It’s lightweight, doesn’t require refrigeration, no heavy cans, no giant bags of kibble, and here’s the best part – six months of food for our 25 pound pug takes up about as much space as two shoe boxes. That is amazing.

Umphrey enjoyed most of the samples that he tried, but he went crazy for Honest Kitchen’s “Love” dog food (UPDATE: we’ll be switching to the “Force” flavor, because you’re not allowed to bring beef across the border. More on those regulations >>>here<<<). Honest Kitchen is a San Diego based company with FDA approved human grade ingredients and production practices. Meaning, in a pinch, Jeff and I can eat it too. There are no ingredients from China, it receives a five star rating from Dog Food Advisor, and the ingredient list includes flax and cranberries. Honest Kitchen’s foods are pretty affordable. Umphrey’s serving size costs us about $1.25/day. His old food was about $0.95/day. Honest Kitchen has a line of food and treats for cats too – perfect for boat dwelling kitties!

Dehdydrated food preparation generally calls for water, but not always. Some brands, like Stella and Chewy’s, can be served dry or re-hydrated. Of course water on board is a precious resource, and I can see how re-hydrating dog food might be a deterrent to some sailors. Honest Kitchen provides a guideline for the amount of water per serving that can be adjusted to taste. In our case, we’re happy to add an extra splash. It’s a great way to up our little chunk’s water intake. As we head south toward warmer climates hydration will be crucial, especially because his breed is susceptible to heat stroke. He grew up in Arizona though, so he’s not scared.

*We have no affiliation with the products/companies mentioned.

In gear/ the journal

Hauling Your Woman Up the Mast

by Jeff Delaney

Going up the mast is not the the most enjoyable activity in the world. If you’re smart, you may be able to convince your wife to agree to this extremely terrifying and utterly unsafe activity. In just her second trip up the mast, Breezy managed to install a new VHF antenna, fix part of the roller furling, install new spreader boots, and fully clean the standing rigging.  Following these few simple tips should get your woman up the mast and back down safely, and she might even enjoy herself.

My wife at the top of the mastTips for Convincing your Wife to go Aloft

Simply saying “Honey, I’m cranking you up the mast today to replace the VHF antenna”, is unlikely to get positive results. If you add a little encouragement and pizazz, you may get a better reaction.

  • Tell her how AMAZING the view of the harbor is at 40 plus feet.
  • Compliment her weight. It’s a rule that the lightest crew member has to climb the mast.
  • Assure her that you’re a disciplined yachtsman and will take all safety precautions.
  • Give her a safety word when she’s ready to come down.
  • Say something like “We need pictures for the blog and it should be you’re beautiful face up there”.
  • Remind her that the halyards have a breaking strength of 7,000+ pounds.
  • Start with an easy project, like cleaning the shrouds.
  • Offer to to take her shopping with the $100/hour you saved on rigging labor.

If none of these worked, I’m sorry. You can stop reading now and hop in the chair yourself.

She Said YES!

Now that you got her to say yes, you’ll need to properly rig the bosun’s chair for a safe and pleasant trip up. Here are a few safety and comfort tips that we have learned from our mast climbing experiences.

1. Tie a Proper Knot. Hint: NOT a Bowline

Figure 8 Knot for Bosun's Chair

Always use a figure-eight knot. The most common mistakes I’ve seen with bosun’s chair rigging its (1) tying a bowline knot and (2) using a the halyard shackle itself. Many people seem to default to a bowline knot, however, you will get considerably more strength and security from a figure eight knot. In order to get the knot around the bosun chair d-rings, you will need to use the figure-eight follow-through method. Rock climbers use the same method for securing the harness to their main support line.

2. Create Safety Redundancy

Breezy Mast Climbing in Harken Bosuns ChairThere should be no single piece of equipment that can fail and result in a fall, except for maybe the mast itself. Tumbling 40 feet is going to mess up your better half’s good looks at the very least, if you’re lucky. I’m sure you’ve heard stories around the marina of riggers who have died from this potentially dangerous chore.

The first obvious safety measure is a backup harness. It’s best if this can be rigged to a spare halyard in the same way you rig the bosun’s chair. If a halyard is not available, it may be necessary to create safety line that can be wrapped around the mast and adjusted by your wife on the way up. Either way, having a backup harness is essential.

When trying off lines, it’s best to have two secure points holding the line. In our case, the line runs through a clutch and is then secured around a self tailing winch with plenty of wraps. If the clutch fails, the winch will provide backup support.

3. Get the best Bosun’s Chair Money Can Buy

Do you really want to put your life in the hands of a muffy 20-year old canvas chair you bought at a swap meet? If you have multiple projects that requiring mast climbing, a new bosun’s chair is a worthy investment. We went with the Harken Deluxe Chair, which will set you back about $200. It’s comfortable, has plenty of tool storage space, and appears to be very strong.

4. Bring a Cell Phone Camera

When she installed the new VHF antenna, Breezy texted several pictures throughout the process. She had never spliced a coaxial cable before, so she was able to send me pictures with questions. If you both have iPhones, you can actually face time to see exactly what’s going on in real time. Here’s a few of the sweet pics she was able to snap on her phone.

Spliced coax cable at top of sailboat mast. VHF Antenna at Top of Mast Sailboat

Final Thoughts

Putting off projects up the mast can result in catastrophic failures down the road. Our VHF antenna was still working, but as you can see, it was due for a replacement with the coax fitting almost completely corroded away.

Corroded coax fitting from VHF on mast

Being self sufficient on a sailboat means you and your first mate should be prepared to go aloft. We’ve both found that the most rewarding projects are those done from the seat of a bosun’s chair. It’s a great feeling to overcome fear-invoking challenge and mark a boat project off the list at the same time.

0 In the journal/ travel

Snapshots from the Road: Pacific Northwest

 

We spent two and a half weeks road tripping around the West Coast, and the majority of that time was spent in the Pacific Northwest. With Redwood National Forest as our jumping off point, we hit Portland, Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, and Seattle. Unusually sunny, warm weather followed us the whole way resulting in nothing short of a love affair with the Pacific Northwest. We took the ferry from Bainbridge Island into Seattle and watched countless boats zig-zag across the water. On land, everything was in bloom and everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. It almost made us want to live there. Almost.

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Next Door, Port Angeles, Washington

Port Angeles, Washington

Port Angeles, Washington

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Silver Falls, Oregon

 

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Olympic National Park, Washington

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Portland, Oregon

0 In the journal/ travel

Snapshots from the Road: Hawaii

Whew. We have been on the go, and not in our sailboat. In the last 8 weeks, we have been to Hawaii by air (maybe the next visit will be by sail!) followed by road tripping all over the West Coast. We’ll share photos from all of our stops, but here are some iPhone snapshots from our week long trip to Oahu.

20140420-154415.jpgWe hiked to the top of Koko Head Crater – about a mile straight up on railroad ties. It burns. Our goal was to get there at sunrise, and even though we left our place at 5:30 AM, traffic was so terrible we didn’t get to the base of the mountain until 7 AM. Nonetheless, the view was amazing. Behind us is Hanauma Bay where we snorkled the day before.d

20140420-154437.jpgJeff and I hiked to this waterfall and had it all to ourselves. We love opportunities to enjoy little slices of nature. And then – on our way out – we passed a charming couple who warned us about the dangers of leptospirosis from swimming in pools like this. Awesome. Thank you.

20140420-154500.jpgOne morning we did a run/swim/run from the condo to this pristine lagoon. I could backfloat the day away in this water, I love it so.

20140420-154530.jpgWaimea Valley Botanical Garden.

20140423-195746.jpg Waiting for the right time to swim through the shore break at Waimea Bay. 20140423-195754.jpgWise old sea turtles at Laniakea Beach.  20140423-195805.jpgMakapu’u

 

 

0 In the journal

Runaway Dinghy: A Lesson in Knot Tying

“A knot is never ‘nearly right’; it is either exactly right or it is hopelessly wrong, one or the other; there is nothing in between.” Clifford Ashley

File this under rookie move #347. Also, my bad.

We spent 5 nights in Avalon last fall (because hello, you pay for 2 nights on the mooring and you get 3 free). During this trip, I was convinced I had the perfect combination of loops and ties for the very best makeshift dinghy hitch. I proudly assured Jeff, “I got this – it’s my own dinghy hitch. ” He was always skeptical. My knot worked every time; except for one time when it didn’t. After a somewhat swelly evening (for Avalon), I woke up and headed out to the cockpit to watch the sunrise on the island. I noticed that the dinghy was tied off on one of our cleats. Not where we left it. Peculiar.

On our morning trip to shore, we ran into a couple at the dock who said they spotted our dinghy floating way out in the harbor the night before. Like, way out. It was late, and they were taking a shoreboat back to their boat when they could just barely see our wayward little dink. Without their own dinghy to chase ours down, they enlisted another couple nearby (after a failed attempt to alert the shoreboat driver who clearly didn’t give a shit.) Enter second nice couple. Being super awesome, good samaritans, they hopped in their dinghy and towed ours in.  We also didn’t have our dinghy marked with any type of identification, yet another rookie move. The only identifiable feature was the little burgundy canvas outboard cover that I made to match the rest of our canvases. They took their best guess and tied it up to our boat. Meanwhile, Jeff and I were enjoying a very peaceful slumber aboard, unaware our dinghy was trying to make a getaway.

So, major thank you to the 4 strangers that saved our runaway dinghy from sure disaster (and likely me from divorce court). Since this humbling little experience, we have added stickers with our boat name, and Jeff has spent the winter learning about a billion knots including a proper dinghy hitch. It is now one of 3 knots I can tie from memory as well.

Takeaway: If you don’t know knots, don’t tie lots, learn some.

0 In gear/ the journal/ the yacht

5 Secrets to Super Cheap Sailing Gear

Sailing is often called a rich man’s sport. Thankfully, a little creativity can go a long way in stretching your sailing dollar. One of the most expensive parts of boat ownership is acquiring the necessary gear for your cruising dreams.

Finding the best deals on sailing gear is an art form – it takes patience, curiosity, and dedication. When pricing sailing gear, we always use West Marine as the benchmark for the absolute highest price. Defender  is a great, moderately priced alternative to West Marine, but you’re sure to find even better discounts with the ideas below. Whether you’re upgrading, outfitting, or just in the market for spares here are 5 ways to find gear for your cruising inventory while saving money for the actual cruising.

Amazon Warehouse Deals

Amazon warehouse deals are opened box returned items that are expected to work perfectly, but can’t be sold as brand new products. There isn’t a huge selection of sailing specific items, but there are plenty of items that will be useful to the cruiser.

Here is a list of items we have found through Amazon Warehouse Deals at 10-40% off:

  • Handheld VHF Radio

  • Camera parts and equipment

  • Galley untensils and gadgets

  • Hand tools (pliers, wrenches, etc)

Ebay Sailboat Hardware Lots

Many sellers will strip an old boat of all of its hardware and equipment. Instead of selling it piece by piece they will group things together in a bulk sale. With this, we have been able to find hardware for as much as 75% off the retail price.

Minney’s Yacht Surplus

This is not your average yacht surplus store. Minney’s is the mecca. With aisle after aisle of stainless steel hardware available for purchase by the pound and an overwhelming used sail inventory that they ship worldwide, we feel downright spoiled to be able to make regular visits to the Newport Beach store whenever we’re in town. We purchased a like new asymmetrical spinnaker for less than half of what we would pay a sail maker, and the dimensions were perfect for our boat. We could not be happier with our purchase. Minney’s encourages cash purchases and will offer 5% discount if you pay with cash.

During one visit, we picked up the Charlies Charts for Cruising Mexico and ironically ended up standing in line behind Captain Holly, the author!

If you happen to sail into Newport Beach Harbor, Minney’s is a must-see whether you’re in the market for gear or not.

Swap Meets

If you love a good opportunity to haggle with salty sailors for their old gear, head to your nearest swap meet. You can find their dates and times posted at marinas.

Here are some of the deals we’ve found at our local swap meets:

  • 4 AGM 8D 240 amp battery (which we first load tested) $200 – lists for $800 at West Marine

  • Origo Oven – $150 – lists for $1100

  • Shackles and Blocks

  • Various Cruising and Boat Maintenance Books

  • All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware $5 – 3 pieces with a total value of $250 new

Not only are swap meets an awesome opportunity to find great deals, it’s a also the perfect way to get rid of things you no longer use. In the process of updating and outfitting our boat, we accumulated plenty of things we no longer needed and were able to sell at swap meets.

Craigslist

Within boating communities, Craigslist is a great way to purchase used gear on the cheap. Advertisements for upcoming swap meets are often posted here as well.

While we have yet to score an awesome Craigslist deal, our buddy boating friends have a serious knack for finding the BEST deals on Craigslist. They say the secret is to be patient and look over the course of a few weeks. They also check the boating gear section regularly even if they’re not in the market for anything specific. Another hint, spell things wrong when you’re searching. If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak, search “kyak”, “kyack”, you get my drift. Sometimes the listings are spelled incorrectly. You might miss out on that awesome deal if you’re too busy with the correct spelling!

 *We have no affiliation with the products/companies mentioned.

Breezy

0 In the journal

Making Our Sailing Dreams Reality

We’re all about hustle over here. My husband is especially ambitious and determined. Those character traits were instrumental in making our dreams of living afloat a quick reality. Here is how we went from non-sailing suburb dwellers to boat-owning, liveaboard sailors in under 6 months.

  • ASA Course – In June of 2012, we took ASA 101 on Lake Pleasant in Arizona with Captain Clint. Check out his Facebook page or website. Captain Clint is an awesome sailing instructor. We knew exactly zero about sailing. Clint took the two of us out in crazy Arizona heat and did a great job of not making us feel like idiots (we totally were). He’s knowledgeable, funny, and personable.  If you’re landlocked in Arizona with dreams to set sail, we highly recommend Clint. He even offers coastal cruising courses in San Diego and bareboat charters from Long Beach to Catalina.

  • Boat Shopping – Once we had our ASA under our belt and were pretty sure we liked sailing, the next logical step was to look for a boat to buy. We scoured Yachtworld and Craigslist for boats anywhere on the California coast. We wanted a boat that at least had a good reputation as a coastal cruiser, something big enough to live on, and something that we wouldn’t have to put an excessive amount of work into before we could sail. We did a ton of research but were still pretty naive. Jeff was working remotely, so he began taking trips to look at top contenders around our $20,000 budget.

  • Renting Out Our House – Around the same time that we started boat shopping, we contacted a property management company to manage our house as a rental. After three years in our first home, the rental market was in a good place to be able to keep the house at a little over break-even including the fees from the property management company. We did have a few hiccups with them in the first few months (constant calls for maintenance, a shady pool vendor trying to weasel us out of cash). We got really involved for a couple of weeks, promptly sought out our own trustworthy pool maintenance company, and haven’t heard a peep since.  After a year and a half, we’re still happy with this decision.

  • Selling Our Crap and Moving – Because we were under contract with the property management company, our plans quickly went into overdrive. The faster we got out of the house, the faster they could rent it, and the more money we would save. We said we would vacate in 30 days, making our last day in our little house in Arizona August 1st, 2012. We decided that whether we had purchased a boat or not, we would leave with only what would fit in our cars (we still had two of them). We packed up valuables, wedding gifts, and keepsakes and distributed them among a few kind family members with a little extra storage space. Everything else was Ebay-ed, Craigslisted, yard saled, or given away.

  • Buying Our Boat – We moved out before we had a boat lined up with the intention of possibly getting a short-term lease in Southern California while we shopped. In the interim, Jeff’s (awesome) grandparents let us stay with them for an entire month. They got to hear all of the boat buying dramas first-hand and were so supportive. We ended up finding our boat toward the end of August, skipping the apartment altogether, and moving aboard Labor Day weekend 2012.

  • Sailing Lessons on Our New Boat – We had our ASA, but we thought it would be prudent to have a couple of lessons on our own boat. We’re so glad we did. A few lessons with a sailing instructor who had been referred by a friend gave us that extra boost of confidence for docking, anchoring, and sail trim.

Acclimating to the lifestyle, completing boat projects, meeting new friends, and getting our feet wet in the Santa Barbara Channel (aka Windy Lane) followed over the next year. We have never looked back.

*We have no affiliation with the products/companies mentioned.

0 In the journal

Catalina: Two Harbors

Our first visit to Catalina by sail was for a 3 night stay in August at Two Harbors. Two Harbors is located on the Isthmus and is not nearly as touristy as Avalon. Though there are ferries shuttling people in and out during peak season, you’re more likely to see backpackers and boy scouts. With exactly one general store and one restaurant, it is the destination of outdoorsy types. During our visit, the rustic little town was bustling but not overly touristy, and the weather could not have been better. We hiked, played on the beach, and explored the crazy clear waters of the cove in our dinghy (with our sweet new Lehr Propane Outboard!).

Two Harbors Dining

We provisioned well with our favorite foods and prepared most meals aboard the boat with the exception of one meal on the patio at the restaurant. The Buffalo Milk, beer, and spinach dip did not disappoint, but there isn’t much else on the menu I would recommend. The general store is sufficient for absolute essentials. Some items on the shelves had a layer of dust and a high price tag. I did see gluten free pasta though. Needless to say, I was grateful that we had stocked our galley with our favorite foods. This trip was before we installed our refrigeration system (I know, we lived without it for a YEAR), so used a few blocks of dry ice in the bottom of the icebox to keep things like berries, yogurt, and most importantly – cold beer.

Onshore Facilities

Two Harbors has showers and laundry facilities ashore – all for a price. The showers are $2.00 (in quarters) for 4 minutes. There are change machines at the facilities in case you forget quarters. The showers are hot with good water pressure. Pack light though, because they are tiny, and keep your expectations low in terms of maintenance and cleanliness. Plan to wait if you want a shower at, you know, a normal showering time.

A Word About Mooring

On our first trip, we simply hailed harbor patrol on channel 9 before entering, and they showed us to our mooring. Many boats visiting Catalina are skippered by folks who are unfamiliar with the mooring process. In the worst case scenario this leads to disaster, and at the very least, a captive audience to watch you fumble along. Tying up to a mooring ball isn’t the most intuitive thing, and it’s a little different everywhere. I definitely recommend doing some investigation ahead of time and reaching out to harbor patrol if you’re unsure about anything. We had studied up on mooring, but had never actually done it. Being escorted in was really helpful. As a result, we nailed it on the first try (with me at the helm!). If you would rather anchor, free anchorages are also available about 100 yards from the moored boats.

Shore boats are available to shuttle you from your mooring or anchorage to shore. During our visit the cost was $3.00 each way. You won’t catch us paying that for every trip to shore, but people do it. Plus, we were stoked to use our dinghy.

Our second visit to Two Harbors was a quick and chilly overnight stay in mid October. The moorings were discounted for the winter, and only a few boats were moored in the cove. I’m pretty sure Wednesday night is karaoke night for the locals. We were serenaded to sleep.

 

1 In the journal

Our New Lehr Propane Outboard (and why we’re stoked about it)

The purchase of our sailboat did not include a dinghy. We actually anchored out at the islands a couple of times sans dinghy, and one time with our dinghy sans outboard (that’s right, rowing to shore). We grabbed an ok dinghy for $200 (which we will probably replace before going to Mexico). But first, we needed an outboard for trips around the California coast, the Channel Islands, and Catalina.

Traditional outboard engines require oil and gas, and normal engine things. All of that is kind of a hassle, messy, and can be volatile. We were really drawn to Lehr Propane Outboards for their easy maintenance, cleanliness, and environmental friendliness. They run off of a simple 16.4 ounce propane canister, but you can use a fitting to attach a larger canister if you choose. The canisters are inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to store.

It was kind of a no brainer. We picked up our 2.5 hp Lehr Propane outboard at Beacon Marine in Ventura (because they had the best price) for $950. The 2.5 hp model weighs only 37 pounds, so I can lower it from it’s mount down to Jeff in the dinghy somewhat gracefully. It’s small enough that if we needed to store it in the cabin or in a lazarette, we could. It also would not leak gas or oil all over the place, which is a major selling point for me.

Soon after seeing us put around the harbor with our purring new outboard, our buddy boating friends on Cantamar picked up one for themselves. So trendy!

*We have no affiliation with the products/companies mentioned.