August 19, 2016 - Murphy’s Law has an affinity for old marine diesel engines with aging fuel systems. Contaminated fuel is a common problem, and late last year we looked at various additives that claim to preserve stability in both gasoline and diesel fuel during long-term storage. But fuel system maintenance doesn’t stop during the sailing season. Here are some fuel-system management practices that will help you avoid any fuel-related problems this season.
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August 16, 2016 - The boat's electrical system is often the most vexing for boat owners—but it doesn't have to be. With the right tools, quality materials, and a modest amount of preventative maintenance, you can ensure a flicker-free (or nearly so) existence on the water. If you've got a rewiring or electronics installation project ahead of you, or if just want to make sure nothing goes on the fritz once you're offshore, this information-packed blog post is for you.
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August 9, 2016 - Old teak decks can be a deal breaker for the used boat buyer. Unless the previous owner(s) have taken a white-glove approach to deck maintenance, about 30 years of use is all you can hope for in a modern 12-millimeter-thick teak deck. The wood's biggest foe is the scrub brush, which can chew through the soft grain and shave years off the deck’s life. So if you are looking at an old Taiwanese-built cruiser from the 1970s with a deeply grooved old teak deck, give it a close inspection, especially the subdeck; you might be biting off more than you can chew. Even if the core sub-deck is still good, re-caulking and refastening an existing deck is a time-consuming project.
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August 3, 2016 - “Do they check your boat when you go back to America?” “They do,” I said, though I had no idea if anyone did. “And I think the Cuban customs officials bring dogs on board, before we leave, to make sure no one is hiding on the boat.”
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:50AM Comments (5)
July 26, 2016 - My main problem with boat fenders is that they appear to violate the cardinal rule of cruising: any object you bring aboard should serve at least two purposes (the way your crewmate's favorite yellow shirt makes a great “Q” flag). A fender, however, does only one job—cushion the blow between the hull and something hard—and then it swallows up valuable lazarette or anchor locker space when that one job is not required.
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July 19, 2016 - Most long-time readers are familiar with our ratings categories—Best Choice, Recommended, and Budget Buy—but their significance might not be so obvious to new readers. In fact, we’ve received a number of letters from people asking us to clarify what these ratings mean. So, here it is.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:51AM Comments (3)
July 11, 2016 - Our upcoming report on lifelines, stanchions, and stanchion bases brought to mind several past articles we've run on stainless steel failures. Although high-quality stainless can provide years of reliable service, sailors need to be aware of its limitations. Owners of used boats with hardware of an unknown age should be particularly scrupulous when carrying out routine inspection of stainless-steel rigging and hardware.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:34AM Comments (0)
July 6, 2016 - Summer is here, and our routine maintenance chores now require some serious elbow grease. Our first impulse is to go for the super-strength acids that will take care of the hard growth as well as the stains. But there are kinder, gentler options, if you have the willpower and the patience.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (2)
June 28, 2016 - Depending on the size of your fuel tanks, having a professional clean your tank and dispose of the dirty fuel can cost more than $1,000. But for the careful, competent do-it-yourselfer there is another option. For those sailors whose tanks have reached the contamination point-of-no-return, here’s a helpful article on DIY tank cleaning that accompanied our July 2009 test of diesel biocides.
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June 22, 2016 - After my recent post on portable marine heaters and insulation, a few people asked our opinion of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) heaters. Simply stated: We are not fans of portable LPG systems on boats. A boat fire in New England last month offered a pretty good example of the risks of this type of equipment. Even fixed propane heating (and cooking) systems that employ all the safety precautions recommended by the American Boat and Yacht Council or comparable advisory bodies can be dangerous, if they are neglected.
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June 15, 2016 - The danger in running before the squall (or tacking downwind, a tactic sometimes employed by Transpac racers) is the inevitable wind shift that can cause an accidental jibe. Since squalls are usually short lived, with the strongest winds lasting less than 20 minutes, simply reducing sail to a safe configuration and motoring through is a less taxing approach. What is a "safe" configuration? Gusts much over 40 knots are not common, but some devastating downbursts in excess of 50 knots can occur in volatile areas. (The fatal squall line that struck the fleet in the 2011 Chicago-Mac race is a good example).
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:42AM Comments (1)
June 8, 2016 - When it takes longer to find the right tool for the job than to actually complete the job, consider creating your own “doctor’s bag” of boat tools. In this week’s Inside Practical Sailor blog, you’ll find great advice on taming your toolbox from veteran circumnavigator Evans Starzinger, as well as links to some of our most popular tests of hand tools and power tools—just in time for Father's Day.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:36AM Comments (4)
May 31, 2016 - About ten years after Jimmy Buffet first sang about the futility of reasoning with hurricane season, Dr. William Gray was figuring out how. This week, the scientists at Colorado State University carried on a tradition begun by Gray more than 30 years ago when they released their annual prediction for the North Atlantic hurricane season. The forecast predicts the number of named storms, the number of hurricanes, the number of major hurricanes, and the number of days that at least one named storm will be roaming the region this year.
Posted by Darrell H. Nicholson at 04:05PM Comments (1)
May 25, 2016 - The results of a professionally applied polyurethane topside refinish are as dramatic as the invoice that accompanies the makeover. The shiny, wet look and the protection it affords can last for years—whether it’s three years, five years, or nearly a decade depends upon how kindly the rejuvenated surface is treated. Two-part polyester urethane coatings such as Awlgrip II are tough, gloss-retaining coatings that will put up with some abrasion, but an aggressive buffing routine can shorten the life of the coating.
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May 17, 2016 - When making gelcoat repairs, the Preval Sprayer combines the best of the Badger 250 and the paint brush. It's quick to set up and clean, and provides adequate coverage in a single application. Best of all, it's available in auto supply and hardware stores for just $7, so when you are done with it, you can just throw it away.
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