Caring for Encapsulated Ballast Keels

April 15, 2013 - It’s getting warm enough now in most places up north that we can start thinking about getting some actual work done on the hull—thinking about. I checked the weekend in Duluth, Minn., and it still looks a bit chilly for curing epoxy. You’d think that maintenance chores wouldn’t snowball during the off-season, but the freeze and thaw cycles of fall-winter-spring take their toll. One of those places where this becomes most evident is at the keel.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:32PM Comments (4)

A Second Look at Anchor Shanks

April 8, 2013 - In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re bending anchors here at Practical Sailor. Look for Part 2 of our anchor shank-bending adventures in the upcoming May issue. Coincidentally, right when we were in the middle of bending anchor shanks, we received a 33-pound Mantus anchor for testing. The design is interesting in that it combines some attributes of a Rocna, Manson Supreme, and Wasi Bugel. The anchor has a folded fluke with a small, sharpened toe welded to the fluke. The anchor is shallowly concave but has a roll bar, sufficiently wider than the fluke.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 02:34PM Comments (6)

Galley Gadgets and Advice Wanted

April 1, 2013 - Historically, the cook has always enjoyed a privileged position on board a boat. And no wonder, since the cook almost always works the hardest, whether the boat is underway or at anchor. While the navigator and helmsman’s job is no less critical, the nerve-wracking labor of maintaining a steady course and plotting an accurate DR position has nearly evaporated in recent years, thanks to GPS, chartplotters, and autopilots. The cook’s job, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier. So, in honor of the hardest working crew, I’ve put together a list of five items that can help make a cook’s life easier underway. I’d be interested in hearing what other suggestions our readers have.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:10PM Comments (15)

PS Readers Divided Over America's Cup Coverage

March 26, 2013 - Early this year, my provocative blog article asking readers to help decide whether PS should dedicate some ink to the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer generated an overwhelming response, and at this point, the “yeas” have only a slight edge over the “nays.” Almost all of those who’d rather not see Cup coverage were emphatic: “Please don’t fill your great magazine with America’s Cup dribble. As a cruiser, I have absolutely no interest in it,” wrote one reader. And most readers who encouraged PS to cover the event did so with reservation: “If you pick your topic, the AC certainly has practical value. For example, when these boats break, how are they repaired? As more boats are made from exotic materials, which structures are found to be more durable, more flexible, more brittle, or less repairable after damage?” In other words, "keep it real."
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:51PM Comments (25)

In Search of the Perfect Sailing Hat

March 19, 2013 - Ever since October 2011, when the dermatologist announced that I had skin cancer at the age of 46, I’ve been looking for good hats and other accessories to keep my face, in particular, out of the sun. I’m a sailor, and I’m not ready to change my life completely, but I do need to make a diligent effort to prevent this dangerous, but generally preventable and treatable form of skin cancer—squamous cell carcinoma—from becoming more serious. I’ve been cancer-free for the past 18 months, but I’ve now got a nice battle scar running down my right cheek, and I would prefer not to have any more.
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A Boat Maintenance Schedule that Can't Fail

March 12, 2013 - Rule number one of any maintenance program is simple: Never trust your memory. A written maintenance log is essential. It can be as basic as a hand-written notebook or as sophisticated as a computer spreadsheet. There's even proprietary computer software for creating maintenance logs. Whether sophisticated or simple, the basic requirements of any maintenance log are the same: 1. Divide jobs into categories. 2. Define the task. 3. Determine the service interval. 4. Note specialized tools or materials required. 5. Inventory consumable materials. 6. Record the date the job is actually done. When carried out with regularity, these six steps can save you days that might have otherwise been wasted over the course of a single cruising season.
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Rethinking Anchor Shaft Strength

March 5, 2013 - 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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Fortifying Marine Fabrics Against the Elements

February 26, 2013 - We had an unusually soggy Miami Boat Show a few weeks ago, which gave us an opportunity to look at something we haven’t paid much attention to in a few years: waterproofing coatings for fabrics. Textile technology has seen some significant new developments since our last complete test of waterproof coatings. Chemical engineers have found new ways to impregnate fibers with coatings that can last through dozens of wash cycles. Some new after-market spray protectants have emerged as well. But are those sprays even necessary in today's nano-particle world—when chemical engineers are building weather protection right into their products?
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Hard Antifouling Paints and Haulouts

February 19, 2013 - Some of our best performing antifouling paints in our most recent test were 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—something to keep in mind, if the boat you are buying is newly painted, but has been in storage for a long time. What many people don’t know, however, is that there are ways to reactivate a hard paint on a newly painted boat that has been stored ashore for less than a year, or one that has been hauled out for less than 30 days.
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Should Crew Take Some Blame for Bounty Tragedy?

February 12, 2013 - Author Kathryn Miles has written a gripping article on the tragic end of the Bounty, the replica of the original Bounty used in Hollywood movies that went down in Hurricane Sandy, claiming two lives, including the captain's. The article, which appeared in the March issue of Outside Magazine, offers a detailed, and even-handed account of the ship’s sinking. Miles suggests many causes for the ship’s foundering, but it seems obvious that the ship never should have sailed. So the question remains: why did it?
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Testing Sailing Knots that Really Grip

February 5, 2013 - I think sailors learn sooner than most people the importance of paying attention to little things. The devil is in the details, as they say. I learned that lesson the hard way, in a gale off the coast of Colombia when the smallest cheapest block on board our little ketch exploded in a mess. Since February is a good time for our snow-bound brethren to sit around the fire practicing ropework, I’m resurrecting an article on an often overlooked topic—gripping hitches—that can have big consequences for cruising sailors.
Posted by at 03:34PM Comments (2)

Should We Care About the America's Cup?

January 29, 2013 - Today, I received an email with the subject line, “America’s Cup: Media Services Update - 1.” According to the email, this was the first official notice to the media regarding the upcoming America’s Cup competition in San Francisco this summer. I’m conflicted. The river—correction—ocean between Practical Sailor and the Cup is deep and wide. Apart from the gee-whiz technology behind 72-foot wing-sail cats ripping past the Golden Gate Bridge at 40 knots, is there anything in this for our readers? Is there?
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Choosing a Life Raft

January 22, 2013 - The rescue early this week of Alain Delord, the French single-hander whose boat was dismasted and holed on Jan. 18 in the Southern Ocean, after he spent three days in a life raft offers a graphic reminder of the importance of choosing a raft that matches your voyage. In the age of EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Beacons), it's easy to be lulled into thinking that prolonged life raft ordeals like the one described by Steve Callahan in his classic tale "Adrift" are a thing of the past. Had it not been for the assistance of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who dropped Delord a better raft with food, water, and a survival suit, the 63-year-old singlehander might not be alive today. Delord was eventually picked up by a cruise ship that detoured more than 700 miles to rescue him.
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More Boat Tips: Unsticking Stuck Nuts and Bolts

January 15, 2013 - 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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Lug-a-jug, Lug-a-jug

January 8, 2013 - While the rest of North America was soaking up the holiday season, our intrepid systems tester Frank Lanier and Managing Editor Ann Key were hip deep in the briney world of watermakers. Although most of the testing was carried out after Thanksgiving, I still had a lot of questions to answer as the New Year came and went—like do I really need one of these things? …
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