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.
Posted by Practical Sailor at 08:43AM Comments (0)
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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May 10, 2016 - While Hunter’s marketing genius is enviable, the true achievement in its early boats like the John Cherubini-designed Hunter 30 is that they’ve managed to endure at all. The Hunter 30 was launched on the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, and the design survived through nine years of stagflation and rising unemployment. Fortunately, significant improvements in fiberglass construction methods coincided with the need for lower production costs. Selling sailboats could still be lucrative, but profitability in the mid-price ranges often required a few corners to be cut.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:09PM Comments (0)
May 3, 2016 - If you didn’t remove your running rigging last winter, then there is a good chance that you'll be coming back to sheets and halyards coated in dirt, mold, and mildew. What now? Here are some useful tips or cleaning cordage that we gathered from leading rope manufacturers and riggers.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson and Drew Frye at 11:53PM Comments (3)
April 26, 2016 - Testing any sailing equipment entails a high degree of responsibility, but this is especially true of safety equipment. A tragic accident off the coast of Costa Rica this week called to mind an important study that Practical Sailor did in March of 2013 on the dangers that life jackets can pose to sailors in the event of a capsize. No one will challenge the fact that life jackets save far, far more lives than they ever put at risk, and the accident in Costa Rica is proof of this. However, sailors need to be aware that in certain rare circumstances a life jacket can be an impediment to keeping you alive.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 02:22PM Comments (2)
April 20, 2016 - In the March 2016 article “Changing views on chain hooks,” we pointed out that the major manufacturers of marine anchor chains caution that some chain hooks can weaken chains under extreme loads. These chain hooks are often used to attach an anchor snubber to the anchor chain. We confirmed this effect with testing and advised that if you want to use a hook on your anchor snubber, you should choose a hook that doesn’t weaken the chain through point-loading (concentrating shock loads on a small area of the chain link). Greg Kutsen, president of Mantus, the maker of one of the chain hooks that we tested, contends that the real-life loads encountered when anchoring with a snubber are not significant enough to worry about any point-loading caused by the hook on the chain. Kutsen explains the reasons for his view here.
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April 13, 2016 - In a few of our past reports on boat financing, Practical Sailor discussed how to pre-inspect your potential dreamboat before committing to the next step and how to bring in a surveyor. Although the articles are geared to the prospective buyer, it is just as relevant to the owner of an older boat. If the boat in question has more than 20 years behind her, one item that will likely come up on a survey is keel bolts - the heavy duty fasteners that keep your keel from going on a bottom tour while you reach for handholds on your suddenly tippy craft.
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