September 21, 2016 - In the most recent issue of Practical Sailor, we identified four anchor shackles that fell below expectations and are advising readers not to buy these shackles. Two of the shackles were stainless steel, a material we regard as unsuitable for use as an anchor shackle, and two were galvanized shackles distributed widely in the United States and abroad.
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September 13, 2016 - Canvas dodgers and biminis are the hallmark of a cruising yacht, keeping the sun at bay and allowing the crew to “dodge” the worst of the weather. On board, canvas also protects sails, windows, and machinery. Collectively, these represent a substantial financial investment, and we wanted to find the best way to protect the investment and get the most life out of the canvas.
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September 7, 2016 - As high-speed, cellular data service extends throughout the coastal U.S. and abroad, the ability to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot (MiFi) has diminished the need for a Wi-Fi connection to a shore-based network. But cellular data plans can be expensive, service can be spotty, and high-speed data isn’t offered everywhere. In the October 2016 issue of Practical Sailor we look at an integrated antenna/WiFi adapter/router that allows you to quickly connect to the internet using either a shore-based Wi-Fi network or cellular service (2G/3G/4G/LTE).
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August 31, 2016 - The 2016 tropical storm season is on its way to becoming one of the busiest in several years. One tropical storm is bearing down on the gulf coast of Florida, and more active storm systems are in the Atlantic. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, it is long past time to begin thinking about preparing the boat—but better late than never.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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