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Estimating Solar Panel Size for Boats

The starting point for a successful solar panel installation is quantifying your power requirements. How many days can you manage with poor generation? Are you willing to economize during a long cloudy stretch? Will you recharge at a marina or by running the engine periodically? Long-term cruisers appreciate an abundance of power, while the occasional cruisers may be satisfied with less. Here we present a simple analysis based on the test boat used for our recent report on choosing and installing a solar panel. Some values are based on our experience, and others are accepted rules of thumb.

Keep it Simple Sail Repair Kit

If you're going to sail you'll be doing some stitching-no two ways about it. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard with sail repair tools. Don't jump into the $100 do-everything kit. Start with a modest kit, adding tools and materials only as your skills grow and projects require them. Chances are, you already have most of what you need in your other supply lockers or tool boxes.

Refinishing Your Boat’s Non-skid Deck

Although you can allow your varnish and hull paint to fade, crack, or peel with no more penalty than the disdain of those who mistake shine for soul, you don't want to let your non-skid deck paint lose its grip. Even the most soulful boat evokes a sense of pity if its owner is lying flat on their back asking for help.

Testing Cam Cleat Durability and ‘Appetite’

Although once a low-ticket item costing less than $20, cam cleat prices have soared in recent years, and even the least expensive cleats can add up for a small boat owner who has 4-6 cam cleats aboard his 22-footer. The cost can become especially significant if a poorly chosen cam cleat chews through several halyards and sheets. Line ain't cheap. Practical Sailor has tested cam cleats several times during the past 50 years. Our first head-to-head cam-cleat test was back in the late 70s. Some of these devices have come a long way since then; others haven't.

The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Clear Plastic

With proper care and protection, clear vinyl dodger windows can remain crystal clear for more than 10 years, yet many of the windows we see are burry, scratched, or cracked after just three years. Often, the damage occurs because the owner didn't carry out a few simple steps before putting the windows away for the winter. The cruising sailor can also shorten the life of clear vinyl by neglecting to carry out some very basic maintenance at sea. Whether you are storing your dodger for the season, or caring for it while cruising, these tips will help extend the life of your clear vinyl windows.

Velcro Aboard: Fast Tips for Quick Fasteners

Hook and loop fasteners are familiar from jacket cuffs and companionway bug screens, but during our many years of fiddling around boats, we've come up with a few applications that even a Velcro-lover havent yet tried. Lets look at some new tricks.

Hard Antifouling Paints and Haulouts

Some of our best performing antifouling paints in our past tests have been hard, modified epoxy paints. One of the drawbacks of these paints is that they can lose their effectiveness after being hauled out and stored ashore for more than 30 days. Even newly painted hulls can lose their effectiveness if the launch is delayed too long. Fortunately, there are ways to reactivate a hard paint on a newly painted boat that has been stored ashore for less than a year.

How Well Do Anchor Swivels Reduce Chain Twist?

We know the theory behind using an anchor swivel: The swivel releases any twists in the chain when an anchored boat swings through 360 degrees or more. Still, we question the logic of using one. Our skepticism is supported by our own experience, previous testing, and input from long-term cruisers, but we wanted to devise a test to investigate chain twisting. The results were surprising.
Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

Spring is but a month away, so I am plunging once again into polishing and waxing fiberglass boat hulls. This post covers almost everything you need to know about cleaning, polishing, and waxing your boat. It includes links to our online "how-to" resources and links to our tests of various classes of products mentioned. The main purpose of the article is to provide an overview of the many archive articles we have in our library on this topic, so that you can choose which reports best apply to your situation and then dig in as deep as you like.

Low Friction Rings for Sailing

Our PS Advisor article on barber haulers illustrated an arrangement that relied on a low friction ring to control tension on the sheet. Although you can buy pre-rigged control lines that terminate with low friction rings, sailors should be able to do this themselves.