The Right Caulk for Your Boat

April 14, 2015

Choosing the right sealant or flexible adhesive used to be fairly straightforward. There were fewer products and usually there was somebody to tell you which compound was best for bedding cleats or sealing joints. That's no longer the case. These days trying to find the right sealant for the right job is as complicated as choosing breakfast cereal, except that if you make the wrong choice you are—literally—stuck with it. Fortunately, we've carried out a number of tests on caulks and adhesives to help you make the right choice.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:29PM Comments (2)

What's Hiding in Your Rig?

April 7, 2015

The May issue of Practical Sailor offers a wake-up call for owners of sailboats with rigs of indeterminate age. But it also offers some of hope. Over the years we’ve published a variety of articles on the hidden risks of stainless-steel hardware—chainplates, tangs, toggles, shackles, etc.—important bits that seemingly fail without warning. In many cases, though, the potential trouble spots aren't so hidden after all. The trick is knowing where to look.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:17PM Comments (7)

Pain-free Marine Electronics Updates

March 31, 2015

We all know the guy who updated his trusty chartplotter and lost all the waypoints he'd saved over years. We don't want to be him. We don't want YOU to be him. But we also don't want you wandering the ocean with an antiquated and possibly bug-ridden device. Updating our software doesn’t just fix bugs and ensure our electronics are operating correctly; it expands the equipment’s functionality. Updates to the multifunction displays we are testing at Practical Sailor have enabled a range of new functions, including an ability to integrate with some handy i0S and Android applications. Keeping up with updates also helps avoid the rare glitches that can occur when you leap-frog several updates by replacing a very early software versions with the latest and greatest.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Bill Bishop at 11:34AM Comments (4)

Do-It-Yourself Bird Deterrents

March 23, 2015

As we found in our last major test of bird deterrents, there is no perfect solution for every bird problem, but we’ve come across one that seems to work well in the marina in Florida where we keep one of our test boats, an Endeavour 42 Lost Boyz owned by boat builder Robert Helmick. The main perpetrators in this particular marina are starlings that feed on the berries near the marina then apparently find a comfortable roost to digest (and deposit the remains of) their meal. Sailboat masts seem to be the preferred perch, as the dockmaster reports that he rarely sees them atop powerboats.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:31PM Comments (10)

Don't Kill That New AGM Battery

March 17, 2015

We are well into the thick of an update of our 2006 test of “sealed” valve-regulated lead acid batteries, also known as either gel or absorbed glass mat batteries. For the past several weeks, Rod Collins of Compass Marine has been cycling five different batteries through 30 deep cycles (to roughly 50 percent state of charge) and then putting them on the charger for one hour to demonstrate just how quickly a cruising sailor can ruin a good battery. Even after just thirty of these cycles, some of the new absorbed glass batteries in our test never fully recovered to their pre-test capacity.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Rod Collins at 04:47PM Comments (3)

Bottom Paint Makers face Irgarol Shortage

March 10, 2015

Antifouling paint manufacturers are reporting that Irgarol, a pesticide commonly used as a boosting agent in antifouling paints, is in short supply in the United States. Based on what we have learned, it seems likely that the supply of paints containing this pesticide will be exhausted sometime this year. For some makers, their supply will run out as early as this spring.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:58PM Comments (1)

Plug that Chain-pipe

March 3, 2015

I was always amazed at how much water could seep through the chain-pipe and into Tosca’s anchor locker when a sea was up, or we were punching into a headsea—although punching would hardly describe the ungainly motion of a gaff-rigged ketch to weather. Wallowing? Submarining? Regardless, the chain-pipe was like a water main in those conditions …
Posted by at 04:28PM Comments (3)

Barnacles Consume Test Panels at 18 Months

February 24, 2015

Our semi-annual inspection of bottom paint panels always yields surprises, but during the nearly ten years I’ve been barnacle-counter-in-chief, I haven’t been more surprised than I was last month. My inspection in January marked the eighteenth months of continuous immersion for approximately 60 paints that were undergoing testing. During a normal year, I would expect roughly 12-15 of those panels to still be fighting barnacles, but that’s not what I found.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:16AM Comments (8)

Caution: Boat Show in Progress

February 17, 2015

I’ve always argued that boat shows should be cordoned off with caution tape, warning all of the temptations that lie within, but I never expected anyone to take me seriously. The construction at this year's Miami Strictly Sail show had at least one excellent side effect: pocket cruisers were spread out along the front of the showgrounds for anyone to explore. Too frequently sailing is an activity that takes behind the walls and fences of yacht clubs; it was fun to watch as many Miamians got what appeared to be their first closeup look at a production sailboat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:15PM Comments (3)

Making Sense of Our Ratings

February 10, 2015

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. Recently, I’ve received a number of letters from people asking us to clarify what these ratings mean.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:21PM Comments (1)

Installing a Deck Washdown Pump

February 3, 2015

Installing Washdown Pumps You need only look at a couple photos in our February 2015 report on anchoring in mud to recognize the advantages of a washdown pump. Installing a washdown pump is a project that any capable do-it-yourselfer can accomplish. The trickiest part, as is often the case, is in the planning—choosing a location for the pump and outlet and making sure you have all the right supplies. …
Posted by By Frank Lanier at 01:09PM Comments (3)

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 (5)

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)

Reader Questionnaire

Which of the following best describes your approach to bottom paint?
I choose my own paint, but I let a professional apply (521 votes)

19%

I let a professional apply the paint that he (or boatyard) recommends. (329 votes)

12%

I choose my own paint and I apply it. (1639 votes)

60%

I apply paint that a local professional or boatyard recommends. (254 votes)

9%