Engine Spares for the Cruising Sailor

January 27, 2015

Cruising sailors rely on their engines a lot more than they like to admit. Although the internet has helped close the gap between parts suppliers and cruising sailors in far corners of the earth, the long-term cruiser still has to carefully consider which spare parts and supplies he needs to carry with him. …
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Nick Nicholson at 01:17PM Comments (2)

Never Enough Rope

January 20, 2015

Left to their own devices, some sailors buy rope the way Imelda Marcos used to buy shoes—impulsively, profligately, with a kind of obsessive urge. Even today when some of us go to a boat show we have to stand for a long time next to the booth with the stacked coils of multicolored climbing rope and odds-and-ends in all lengths and diameters, wishing we could come up with a reason to get just a little bit more. There's no such thing as too much. We're melded with Imelda.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:18AM Comments (3)

Roll-bar Anchors in Mud

January 13, 2015

The Fortress anchor tests bore out a commonly known fact: Danforth-style anchors, which feature flukes that are proportionally larger than other types of anchors of the same mass, tend to hold better than older, plough-style anchors in soft mud. One of the most interesting results—although not entirely surprising given the nature of the bottom—was the poor performance of some reputable anchors that have done well in past tests. Some anchors refused to set at all.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 01:30PM Comments (11)

Drysuit vs. Survival Suit for Offshore Sailing

January 6, 2015

The problem with survival suits is that there’s no telling when the big wave or brutal wind gust will hit, and it may not leave time to don a survival suit. Some survival suits have sewn-in gloves that make it almost impossible to turn on the radio or deploy a personal locator beacon. That’s why wearing a comfortable, breathable drysuit makes sense. It leaves you much more ready to manage the boat in heavy weather. And should the unexpected happen, your odds of survival in the water are better than they would be in foul weather gear.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:25AM Comments (5)

The Best Sailboats for the High Seas?

December 30, 2014

At the St. Petersburg Boat Show month last month, I had the pleasure of seeing delivery skipper and author John Kretschmer’s presentation on what he called “sailboats for a serious ocean.” I have reservations about any “ideal boat” list, but Kretschmer, who reviews boats for Sail Magazine and whose most recent book “Sailing a Serious Ocean” was one of our favorite books last winter, has the ideal background for this sort of work, and a list like this is undeniably helpful for wannabe cruisers who need a place to start their search.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:46PM Comments (9)

Bracing for Cold and Wet Sailing

December 23, 2014

As any cold-weather sailor will tell you, the battle against the elements involves more than just bibs and a jacket. Keeping out the wind and wet begins with underlayers, boots, and gloves—all of which we’ve looked at in recent years. Whether you’re dreaming of taking a turn around the Pacific on one of Mahina Tiare's expeditions, joining on one of Skip Novak’s high lattitude adventures, or just want to stay warm next summer in Maine, we’ve got you covered. Here is a summary of past reports on cold-weather sailing apparel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:10PM Comments (2)

Pocket Cruisers Unite!

December 16, 2014

Anytime you talk about pocket cruisers you have to clarify what you mean, for the term is loosely applied to a wide range of small boats, some with very little in common besides displacement. Size is certainly a factor, but size is relative. I’ve seen 26-feet length overall (LOA) being a commonly cited as the upper limit for the “pocket” appellation, and that seems about right, although a few decades ago a 26-foot sailboat was called something else—a yacht.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:53PM Comments (8)

What's This? Twenty Somethings at a Boat Show?

December 9, 2014

I got the impression that most of the young sailors were looking for boat show deals on gear and ideas on how to improve their own Pearson 26s, but seeing so many young faces was encouraging nevertheless. I sense that the growing number of blogs and YouTube videos created by young people engaged in the adventure of a lifetime are gradually filtering down to other sailors. Is cruising going viral among younger sailors? Given the state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for newly minted grads, I wouldn't blame them for shoving off. The economic doldrums of the eighties was one of the reasons Theresa and I took off at 22 and 23 respectively.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:52PM Comments (6)

Aground! Vestas Wind's Volvo Race Oops

December 2, 2014

I’ve put enough boats on rocks and shoals and had enough near misses to sympathize with the skipper and crew of Vestas Wind, who piled up the multi-million-dollar Volvo Ocean 65 on Cargados Carajos Shoal in the Indian Ocean on Nov. 29. The accident occurred during Leg Two (Cape Town to Abu Dhabi) of the Volvo Ocean Race, the most widely followed around-the-world racing event on the planet. Thankfully, all the sailors on board were rescued safely. At the time of this writing, the fate of the boat is still undetermined, but the longer it pounds on the reef, the less likely it seems that the boat will be able to continue racing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:31AM Comments (3)

Florida Anchoring Survey: Here Today, Gone—

November 25, 2014

I don’t want to come down too hard on the good people at Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission; many of the underpaid, overworked officers seem genuinely interested in doing the right thing. But the most recent survey, and the accompanying “informational” video preceding it, lead me to believe that the FWC has been puffing swamp gas again. …
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:32PM Comments (17)

The Mystery Chain from China

November 17, 2014

Surprisingly, one of the best chains in our most recent test was one of the generic Chinese chains. This chain showed good strength, and had a thick galvanized coating that showed a high resistance flaking and abrasion. However, the other generic Chinese chain in our test showed appalling performance, so bad, that we believe it is unconscionable for any marine chandler to sell it. And here is the quandary. We’ve identified a promising, economically-priced chain, but it is virtually impossible for the average boater to distinguish it from junk.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 04:53PM Comments (3)

Tackling Fuel Tank Replacement

November 11, 2014

November is the time of year when the procrastinating catches up to us. The big projects we avoided all summer stare us in the face. Do nothing, and you risk a summer wasted pulling epoxy from your hair instead of sailing. If your boat is 20 years old or older, a fuel tank replacement—a bear of a project, even in ideal circumstances—might be that project you’re postponing. If it is, well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got a fair bit of information to help guide you through the process.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Steve D'Antonio at 12:26PM Comments (3)

Helping Your Boat Battery Survive Winter Storage

November 4, 2014

Few things are more disappointing than coming back to your boat in the spring and discovering that one or more of your boat’s batteries is dead. You haven’t even started sailing, and already you’re facing a hefty bill. Many times, a dead battery can be resuscitated to near its initial capacity, but it's best to avoid the problem in the first place.
Posted by at 11:10AM Comments (6)

Boat Insurance Shopping Tips

October 27, 2014

If you’re in the used boat market, late fall usually offers a good opportunity for buyers. Owners in snow-bound states face haulout and storage expenses for a boat they will only put on the market again in the spring. But before you can start filtering through the used-boat websites looking for desperate sellers (hint: add the search term “reduced”) you’ll want to get a clear picture of what your insurance options are. Back in October 2012, we probed the insurance market for the best rates in various regions and the experts we spoke with offered a number of excellent tips on how to find the right insurance policy at the best rates.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:43PM Comments (4)

Calling Mayday on an SSB

October 21, 2014

Based on US Coast Guard statistics, surprisingly few boaters enable the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) function on their VHF radio, or have it operating correctly. From what we are hearing from some marine manufacturers like Icom, the numbers for marine single-sideband (SSB) marine radios—the topic of our ongoing series of tests—are just as discouraging. It doesn't have to be that way. With a few simple tools and maybe a trip to a Radio Shack, getting your radio (VHF or SSB) DSC-ready can be carried in a single weekend.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:18AM Comments (5)

Reader Questionnaire

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