The Best Sailboats for the High Seas?

February 22, 2017 - At the St. Petersburg Boat Show month a while back, 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.
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A Diaper Cream Cure for Barnacles?

February 14, 2017 - Some of my favorite PS tests are those that pit ordinary dime-store products against gold-plated “marine-grade” stuff. This month’s propellor antifouling test called to mind an investigation into the antifouling properties of diaper cream that took place many moons ago. Diaper cream contains zinc oxide, a known biocide, but it does not regulate the release of biocides the way bottom paint does. Nevertheless, you’ll find many bulletin-board posts that recommend diaper cream for depth-sounder transducers, props, and dinghies. My take-away from our 1995 report is that the product worked (sort of) for a limited period, but it is an impractical solution for hulls . . . better to let you read and decide for yourself.
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The Great Dinghy Debate

February 8, 2017 - Dinghies are the Rodney Dangerfields of cruising. They get no respect, or at least not as much as they deserve. The little boat that will see nearly as many sea miles as the mother ship is often an afterthought.
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Hard Antifouling Paints and Haulouts

January 31, 2017 - Some of our best performing antifouling paints in our past tests have been hard, modified epoxy paints. One of the drawbacks of these paints is that they can lose their effectiveness after being hauled out and stored ashore for more than 30 days. Even newly painted hulls can lose their effectiveness if the launch is delayed too long. Fortunately, there are ways to reactivate a hard paint on a newly painted boat that has been stored ashore for less than a year.
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Rethinking Anchor Shaft Strength

January 25, 2017 - One topic often overlooked in any anchor discussion is shaft strength. Yet, as anyone who has spent any time around boats knows, bent anchor shafts are hardly rare. Sure, sometimes the anchor gets wedged into a crevice where bending might be excused, but we’re hearing about more and more anchors bending under what would be considered normal use. In the upcoming April issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Jonathan Neeves explores this topic in great detail. In his view, the reasons behind bent shafts are many.
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More Boat Tips: Unsticking Stuck Nuts and Bolts

January 15, 2017 - My friend Nick and I had a discussion the other day about which bolts were tougher to break free: shaft-coupling bolts or the lug nuts on an old trailer. Nick pointed out that lug nuts are usually torqued down a whole lot tighter than a shaft coupling screw. On the opposite side, I argued that shaft coupling bolts require you to assume the yoga pose “Downward Pretzel” just to see the bolts. The argument…
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Buyers Beware of Post-Storm Bargains

January 10, 2017 - If you are in the market for a used boat and live where winter storage is the norm, now is probably one of the best times to bargain. The owner is looking at another year of storage bills for a boat he no longer wants, and he knows that trying to sell a boat that’s buttoned down for the winter is like trying to sell a house that’s under a circus tent. However, if you are anywhere near the pathway of last year’s Hurricane Matthew, that bargain boat might well turn out to be your worst nightmare.
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The Ultimate Test Boat Test

January 3, 2017 - I’ve been the fortunate witness to the rebirth of a boat and the marvelous effects that sailing can have in the life of a boy. And Practical Sailor readers have unknowingly been along for the ride. For the past five years, boatbuilder Robert Helmick has allowed his Endeavour 42 Lost Boys to serve as a test platform for a wide array of sailing gear featured in these pages.
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Can a Snubber Hook Weaken Your Rode?

December 25, 2016 - In the March 2016 article “Changing views on chain hooks,” we pointed out that the major manufacturers of marine anchor chains caution that some chain hooks can weaken chains under extreme loads. These chain hooks are often used to attach an anchor snubber to the anchor chain. We confirmed this effect with testing and advised that if you want to use a hook on your anchor snubber, you should choose a hook that doesn’t weaken the chain through point-loading (concentrating shock loads on a small area of the chain link). Greg Kutsen, president of Mantus, the maker of one of the chain hooks that we tested, contends that the real-life loads encountered when anchoring with a snubber are not significant enough to worry about any point-loading caused by the hook on the chain. Kutsen explains the reasons for his view here.
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The Chilling Facts About Cold Water Survival

December 21, 2016 - After living in Florida for so many years, it is easy to forget the risks associated with colder waters, as the video on cold-water survival that I have included in this week’s blog post demonstrates. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the risk of drowning increases nearly five times if the water temperature is below 59 degrees. That puts many sailors in the Northeast, West Coast, and Great Lakes areas at risk for most, if not all of the year.
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Storage Tips for Gasoline and Diesel

December 14, 2016 - If you're putting your boat into storage this winter, one of the simplest jobs you can do to save you headaches next spring is to make sure you’ve treated your fuel system for storage. For owners of diesel engines, you want to protect your tank year-round against biological growth—primarily fungus and bacteria. For owners of gasoline powered boats—the bad side effects of ethanol fuel are your chief enemy. Our test of biocide treatments safe for diesel fuel singled out products from Biobor, Racor, Starbrite, and Valvtect as good choices. For those with gasoline engines, the problems with ethanol require a specialized product. This month’s issue has an update on our test of ethanol fuel additives for marine engines. BioborEB again proved its superior ability to fight corrosion. Sta-Bil Marine Formula, Star Tron, and Mercury QuikStor (the most expensive treatment, by far) picked up recommendations. Sea Foam came in as the low-budget contender.
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Dealing with Dirty Sails

December 6, 2016 - For washing your sails, most sailmakers recommend using mild soap and water, and avoiding anything abrasive. Use a soft brush, if necessary, to loosen dirt. For dirt or stains that are more deeply embedded, you may need to soak the sail, so you'll have to locate some kind of large container, depending upon the size of the soiled area.
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Don't Let Refit Pitfalls Derail Your Cruising Plans

November 29, 2016 - As a good friend finds himself in the middle of the often daunting process of equipping a full-size cruising boat for an extended cruise with his family, I found myself reflecting on some of the things I discovered over the years through my own experience and the experience of others. There seems to be no shortage of books that tell you what you need to do to go cruising, but very few seem to caution about what NOT to do or what to avoid. Here are a few things that I found get in the way of a long-term sailing escape. I’d love to hear more tips on how to avoid these and other pitfalls that can swallow the cruising dream.
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Can You Have Too Many Zincs?

November 23, 2016 - Although it is unlikely in a typical installation, you can have too much anodic protection. This is more common with miscalibrated impressed current systems, where a transformer is used to provide the electrical potential, but too many zinc anodes or too reactive anodes can also have unintended consequences you should recognize. This is particularly important for owners of wood or steel boats.
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Corrosion Protection: Ethanol Fuel Additive Test

November 16, 2016 - Those boatowners preparing their gasoline-powered boats for winter storage will want to take a look at our gas additive test which compares the corrosion fight characteristics of such products as Biobor EB, Valv Tect, Sta-bil Marine Formula, Mercury QuickStor, Sea Foam and others. It is important to keep in mind that additives can’t solve real gasoline-quality problems. At best, consider additives to be only a final tweaking opportunity, something to supplement the following fuel-management practices.
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