Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions on how to deal with the Dilemma I posed last week of whether or not I should accept sailing gear from suppliers in exchange for writing reviews on Proper Course. There was quite a range of responses, reinforcing my suspicion that there is no black and white answer to the question. However, after weighing all your comments I have decided on what my policy for writing reviews will be...
To vendors: I am a sailing gear whore. Send me your products for free and I will write reviews of them on Proper Course. (I suggest that you check first whether I want your stuff. I'm a Laser sailor, so winch handles and bilge blowers are of no interest to me.) I don't guarantee that I will write a review straight away; sometimes it takes a while to test out a piece of clothing or equipment fully and sometimes I am just plain lazy. I don't guarantee that I will write only kind comments about your product just because you bribed me by giving it to me for free, but it's possible. I don't guarantee that I will give you a right of reply if I don't like something about your product, but if I know you personally I probably will.
To readers: I am a sailing gear whore. Suppliers send me stuff for free and I write reviews about that stuff here. If I like a product I keep it. I try not to let the free gift influence my ability to write an impartial review, but I am human. Some of you have been kind enough to say that you trust me to be unbiased; thank you for that trust though I suspect it's undeserved. Others of you say that I should not accept free gifts of gear in exchange for reviews; hey, you don't have to believe what I write if you don't want to. I will try and remember to disclose in each review whether the item was given to me or whether I bought it, and whether or not I know the supplier personally; but sometimes I forget important stuff like that.
I am a sailing gear whore. I am human. I am lazy. I am forgetful. You don't have to believe anything you read here. You have been warned.