October 19, 2016 - Our hearts go out to all those suffering in the wake of super-storm Sandy. When people are hurt and homes and precious possessions are destroyed or lost forever, a wrecked recreational sailboat seems wholly unimportant. But for many people, the boat is their home or is connected to their livelihood. In the coming days and weeks, more people will be returning to their vessels and doing what they can to keep them safe. Boat owners should be aware of steps they can take to prevent further loss to their boats. And more importantly, they should be aware of the precautions they can take to keep themselves safe during the period when most storm-related injuries and deaths occur.
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October 11, 2016 - Our first surprises came when we began pull- and push-testing the telescoping boathooks. Only one pole consistently held firm under load. All the others slipped at loads between 100 and 185 pounds. We then tested them in compression. Most of the poles could manage 170-pounds of compression, although a few telescoping poles slipped.
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October 4, 2016 - With Hurricane Matthew poised to rake the East Coast with storm surge and 100-plus knot winds, the storm poses a serious threat to boats all along the East Coast. Practical Sailor has covered storm preparation on several occasions. Here is some of the guidance we can offer.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:55AM Comments (0)
September 27, 2016 - Each time Practical Sailor conducts an anchor test, we get questions about the materials used in anchors, particularly stainless steel. Stainless steel is much less prone to unsightly and destructive oxidation than mild steel, even when it has been hot-dipped galvanized and protected by a heat-bonded zinc coating.
Posted by Darrell Nicholso at 11:06AM Comments (1)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frey at 04:58PM Comments (1)
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).
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:40AM Comments (1)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:53PM Comments (11)
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.”
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:50AM Comments (5)
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.
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.
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