July 22, 2013 - One of the most common questions we get regarding marine varnish is what kind of finish is best for a mast. Even though aluminum has long since replaced Sitka spruce as the material of choice for a sailboat mast, there is no shortage of boats that still have wooden masts. Many of the Taiwanese-built boats of the ’70s and ’80s had wooden masts, and of course, a wide range of U.S.-built classics still have their original wooden masts.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:39AM Comments (3)
July 14, 2013 - The fact that two out of 10 cruising boats I saw docked here in Bergen, Norway, have towed water generators made me wonder whether the Scandinavians have had better luck with these devices than we have. My guess is that the units I saw on the sterns of two Swedish boats have had very little use over their lifetime. Most owners of towed water generators that I have spoken with, even those who take long passages when the devices would be most useful, seem unenthusiastic about the them.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:56PM Comments (8)
July 8, 2013 - Although Thor Heyerdahl’s theory regarding human migration across the Pacific has been discounted, his 1948 book and 1951 Oscar-award winning documentary, “Kon-Tiki,” is responsible for inspiring more than a few dreams of cruising the Pacific. I find it interesting that when American sailors followed Heyerdahl’s path across the Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s, they often did so in Colin Archer-type boats, like John G. Hanna’s Tahiti ketch—and later, the Westsail 32, a variation on William Atkin’s Archer-esque Thistle. It is as if all roads to Tahiti first passed through Oslo, Norway, where I happen to find myself this week.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:40AM Comments (10)
July 1, 2013 - As far as I can tell, no one yet has designed the ideal way to make a cup of coffee underway aboard a sailboat. With the hopes of sparing other coffee lovers years of frustration, or possible injury, I’m sharing my experience with the several methods we’ve tried.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:13AM Comments (30)
June 24, 2013 - Our two boys are now 8 and 10, so their rhetorical skills have advanced to a point at which a simple “no” from Dad is no longer beyond inquiry, and their persuasive, well-reasoned arguments for their cause are becoming harder to oppose. As a result, the prospect of a family dog—something I’ve successfully resisted up to this point—looms large in our future. The question now before us is: What kind?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:52PM Comments (17)
June 18, 2013 - 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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:28PM Comments (5)
June 10, 2013 - In the upcoming July issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Drew Frye plunges into the the not-so-funny topic of joker valves (if you don’t know what this is yet, consider yourself lucky) and emerges with some valuable tips on keeping our marine heads healthy. One of his potentially controversial discoveries is that the “eco-friendly” anti-freeze propylene glycol isn’t really any kinder to the marine environment than the anti-freeze it was designed to replace, ethylene glycol—and it is definitely harder on plumbing components.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:27PM Comments (9)
June 4, 2013 - One of the first things that you realize after a few seasons of cruising is that approaches to life aboard vary between two wide extremes: cruisers who by choice or because of a limited budget live with minimal creature comforts, and those cruisers who sacrifice little more than living space when they move aboard.
You’d think that when it came to basic essentials like food and water, there would be some overlap between these two groups, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Take water, for example.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 12:33PM Comments (3)
May 28, 2013 - As the world’s largest solar-powered boat heads toward Miami for its U.S. debut and the start of a 16-city world tour, I was reminded of one of the most frequent questions I hear from Practical Sailor readers: "Which is best, solar panels or a wind generator?" The answer, like many things regarding cruising equipment, depends on where you cruise and the type of boat you own.
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May 21, 2013 - Before you fire up ye ol’ iron genny for the first smoke-belching run out to the mooring, to the dock, or to the fuel station (I sure hope it’s not to the pumpout station), you might want to think about your alternator belt. It's another one of those inexpensive engine parts that often gets overlooked until it's too late.
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May 13, 2013 - So, a couple of years back, you acquired a good old boat at a pretty good price—thanks to the market—but now you’re wondering how many coats of bottom paint it has. And what kind? You’ve put on a few coats of ablative antifouling since you’ve owned the boat. It has adhered well and has done its job. But each year, the bottom looks rougher and rougher—with big recesses where paint has flaked off. You sweated out some extra prep-work this season, and thought you had a nice, durable subsurface for painting, but each pass of the roller pulls up more paint. What’s going on here?
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May 6, 2013 - We’re wrapping up our test of new children’s life jackets this week, a test that was carried out in 80-degree temperatures near our offices in sunny Sarasota, Fla. 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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April 29, 2013 - As spring refit projects keep us busy in the boatyard, we find ourselves rifling through back issues looking for buried do-it-yourself gems. This week's blast from the past is a real back saver. Practical Sailor contributor David Liscio describes how to turn some scrap plywood, a few screws, and a lawnmower axle and wheel set into durable and inexpensive portable dinghy wheels.
Posted by David Liscio at 05:32PM Comments (0)
April 22, 2013 - One of my projects this summer will be to help a friend install new interior lights on an Endeavour 42 that he is restoring, so recently, I've been digging through Practical Sailor's many articles on interior marine lighting. While fluorescent lights are an efficient way to illuminate wide areas, such as the galley, he is also interested in using dimmable LEDs for cabin lighting. Our January 2009 article on LED lights featured a good cross-section of what is available, although only one of the lights we tested for that report was dimmable. Dimming LEDs isn’t as simple as dimming an incandescent bulb.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 12:15PM Comments (1)
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)