Jackline Installation Tips

September 30, 2015 - One of the most startling conclusions from our upcoming jackline test was that despite the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) generalized approach to jackline standards, the ideal material for a jackline changes as boat length increases. But material selection is just one of many details regarding jacklines that deserves careful thought. If you are re-installing your jacklines or installing for them for the first time, be sure to read our upcoming test report. In the meantime, here are some other details to consider.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 07:45AM Comments (4)

Fuel Storage Tips for Sailors

September 21, 2015 - Sometimes it is not what has been added to your fuel that matters, but what is missing. Anywhere between 5 to 20 percent of the contents of a portable or installed polyethylene tank can vanish during the course of a year, the result of breathing losses and permeation. The remaining fuel is lower in octane, contains fewer of the volatiles that are so essential for easy starting, and has reduced solvency for gum and varnish. It often looks perfectly good, but is perfectly rotten and potentially harmful as fuel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:17PM Comments (0)

Serious Fun with Inflatable Lifejackets

September 16, 2015 - While Joe and I sweated it out poolside, Demetri seemed happy to play the part of guinea pig. He gamely plunged into the pool again and again, trusting his fate to the aging inflatable lifejackets. Our safe, nearly idyllic environment provided little insight into survival at sea, but in the same way that even an ideal first date can expose snags in a relationship, a quiet-water trial can offer ample clues of impending equipment failures; more importantly, there is little risk of drowning—unless, of course, things go terribly wrong.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:12AM Comments (2)

Fuel Additives: Snake Oil or Good Science?

September 9, 2015 - As we continue on with our various studies into fuel additives, PS is interested in hearing about your experiences. We would be particularly interested in hearing about anyone having engine damage attributed to using a fuel additive or a warranty claim rejected on the basis of their using a fuel additive. If you currently use a fuel additive that you know little about, you don't need to panic. Such damage typically would not be the result of a single use, but repeated long-term use. Our own testing with both gasoline and diesel treatments indicate that limited use of the most popular brand name products will not cause any harm, but how much good the additives actually do is tougher to measure.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 11:56AM Comments (13)

Tiller Versus Wheel

September 1, 2015 - In plainest technical terms the tiller gives us immediate corrective feedback, an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, far quicker than any wheel assembly can do. Both devices help us become better sailors, but the tiller just does it faster. It is, at its core, more honest about the conditions we’re facing—sometimes brutally so.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 05:09PM Comments (7)

Adding a Solent Stay

August 26, 2015 - Whether you view it from the top down or the bottom up, a Solent rig needs to be carefully thought out, well-engineered, and strategically located. Some sailors add a short bowsprit or U-shaped, tubular extension that includes a bobstay and supports the attachment of a new headstay. The old headstay chainplate becomes the new tack point for the Solent stay.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 11:36AM Comments (0)

Antifouling Paints for Freshwater Sailors

August 18, 2015 - Freshwater fouling organisms are no weaklings. One of the most notorious, the zebra mussel, introduced by the ballast water of voyaging ships, can wreak havoc with power-plant cooling systems. For sweetwater sailors who have but the summer to sail, the most common threat to the hull is algae. In fact, algae (aka slime) actually tends to grow much faster in fresh water than it does in salt water.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:26AM Comments (2)

Making a Case for the Hank-on Staysail

August 11, 2015 - In my view, having a foolproof hank-on sail ahead of the mast is not a bad thing. On your average cruising boat, the staysail is usually small, and stay itself is far enough aft that dousing or setting it doesn’t put the crew in jeopardy. The nice thing about this approach is that it greatly reduces the cost of retrofitting a sloop with an inner forestay and sail to set on it.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:47PM Comments (5)

Improving Roller Furling Efficiency

August 4, 2015 - One of the easiest ways to improve the furling efficiency of all types of furlers is tackle the line-lead challenge. It starts with the angle that line leads on and off the drum, progresses into a sweeping arc as the line makes its way to the cockpit and ends with another change in direction that leads the line to the hands of a crew member or a winch drum.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 05:14PM Comments (5)

Broken Anchor Swivels and the Tales They Tell

July 28, 2015 - An important question that comes up in our upcoming report on stainless-steel swivels for anchors is where the shackle should be introduced to the rode. A common approach is to attach the swivel at the end of the chain rode directly to the anchor, in lieu of a common anchor shackle.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:42PM Comments (0)

More Great Tips for Stopping Boat Stink

July 21, 2015 - As our long-term test of sanitation hose winds its way through another long, hot—and progressively smellier—summer, it is a good time to think about ways to keep your plumbing system from becoming an olfactory horror. Here are some of the tips that hose manufacturers shared with us as we launched our test of sanitation hose last summer.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:05AM Comments (7)

The Art of Seamanship

July 14, 2015 - Although anyone headed offshore will benefit from 'The Art of Seamanship,' it is aimed squarely at the sailor. It’s not a book for the novice tying his first bowline, or the yachtsman interested in flag etiquette. The topics, particularly those dealing with weather, anchoring, sail-handling, and navigation, are examined with a depth and insight that only come through years of experience.
Posted by at 01:35PM Comments (2)

More Bottom Paint Blues (with video)

July 5, 2015 - As part of an upcoming article that revisits this topic in more detail, Practical Sailor publisher Tim Cole has put together a two-part video illustrating the steps of removing paint and raising the waterline on his Bristol 35.5, First Light.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson and Tim Cole at 10:13PM Comments (1)

AC Shorepower Cord Inspections

June 29, 2015 - Start your inspection with the shore power cord itself, ensuring it’s constructed of proper marine grade components, uses appropriately sized wiring, and is the shortest cord that will get the job done. Always replace cords that show signs of chafe, cracks, split insulation, or those having electrical tape repairs.
Posted by at 10:32AM Comments (1)

Check Chafe Before Switching to Fiber Lifelines

June 22, 2015 - Fiber lifelines exhibit two kinds of chafe. There is visible chafe that occurs when lifelines are used as handholds (a bad habit), or where sails and sheets bear on them. More troublesome is the chafe that occurs in the stanchion holes. Clearly, if you’re considering switching to a fiber lifeline, you’ll want to closely inspect any possible chafe points, and deburr and polish (with 600 grit sandpaper) any places where the line makes contact with stanchions.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 08:13AM Comments (1)