Around the Americas in a 27-foot Sailboat

May 8, 2012

I recently read an essay that compared sailing to tennis, two sports that I enjoy, but are as different as they come. The writer implied that both sports are infected with a clubby sense of elitism, and while I’m not so blind as to dismiss this as absolute nonsense, the comment irked me to no end. Some sailors might argue that there’s a difference between racers and cruisers, but that would only perpetuate unfair stereotypes and misses the point. The distinction is much simpler: The sea is not a tennis court.
Posted by at 01:32PM Comments (6)

Chapter 11 Filing "A Good Thing" for Hunter

May 1, 2012

I had a near picture-perfect test sail last Thursday aboard the new Hunter 33 on the Manatee River, just north of our offices in Sarasota, Fla. All in all, the boat was very well behaved in the 12 to 14 knots of breeze, almost ideal conditions for this family coastal cruiser. Little did I know that days later, the parent company of Hunter, one of the cornerstones of production sailboat building in America, would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:41PM Comments (9)

FCC Approves New AIS Distress Device

April 24, 2012

According to a press release issued yesterday from Kannad Marine, the FCC has approved for sale in the U.S. Kannad’s SafeLink R10 SRS, the world’s first personal Automatic Identification System (AIS) device designed to be worn by individuals and activated to assist in man overboard recovery. Worn on a life jacket and activated by simply sliding off the safety tab and lifting an arming cap to deploy the antenna, this unique product sends structured alert messages, GPS position, and a special identity code directly to AIS receivers within (approximately) a four-mile radius.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:06PM Comments (3)

Tragedy Strikes Farallones Race

April 17, 2012

It's just a few weeks until summer begins, and our hopes and prayers for a safe 2012 sailing season in North America have already been shattered. Five sailors were washed overboard and died in Saturday’s Farallones Race, sponsored by the San Francisco Yacht Club. This was an experienced crew, which included several sailors with close ties to the San Francisco Yacht Club—the home club to many longtime Practical Sailor readers. According to news accounts, the Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase was struck by a breaking wave while rounding South Farallon Island, one of a group of islands outside San Francisco Bay that serves as a rounding mark in the 48-mile race.
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Beware of Fake Gear "Reviews"

April 10, 2012

Who can you trust? You’d think that the Internet explosion and the current boom in blogging and social media would make life easier for the wannabe cruising sailor looking for information on boats, equipment, and cruising in general. But when you start peeling back the layers of information—everything from bulletin boards to blogs to e-zines—you find that the Web is rife with contradictions, bad advice, and now, some contemptible stealth marketing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:30AM Comments (6)

Buttons, Dials, and Touchscreens

April 3, 2012

We’re just wrapping up our testing of the new e7 MFD from Raymarine, which we ran side-by-side with the Garmin 740s, one of our favorites in our recent comparison of small chartplotter-sounders. The e7 was the most interesting electronic gizmo we saw at this year’s Miami Boat Show, the annual debutante ball for manufacturers to unveil their newest creations to the public. The company calls it a “hybrid” display, using both a…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:20AM Comments (0)

Sailboats, Pirates, and the Police State

March 27, 2012

The government already has a variety of ways to track our comings and goings, and I suppose I can learn to live with these. But my boat always has been a more sacred and personal space. As I reflected on a future when a person can no longer step aboard his sailboat and fall off the map, I began to wonder whether this new floating creation, forever held in the gaze of the state, will even qualify as a boat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:25PM Comments (13)

Can Sailors Learn Something from Mil-spec Tethers?

March 20, 2012

Has one of the world's most important suppliers of safety tethers for commercial, rescue, and military markets solved many of the problems faced by sailors today? PS Editor Darrell Nicholson talks about safety-tether release lanyards and how marine manufacturers and non-marine manufacturers approach the design challenges associated with this component.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:08PM Comments (4)

PS Seeks Input on Harness and Tether Design

March 13, 2012

We’ve received some good suggestions from readers in response to my editorial in the March issue of Practical Sailor that described our tether and harness design project. Similar to what we did with toddler life jackets back in 2007, the plan is to solicit input from experts in the field, other sailors, and PS readers to try to come up with an improved design for inflatable PFD/harnesses. Because the tether is such an integral part of the PFD/harness when sailing offshore, we plan to work on improved tether designs as well.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:29PM Comments (9)

When Two Cultures Collide

March 6, 2012

I usually don’t get too excited about the tricked-out space ships circling the globe in the Volvo Ocean Race, but when I heard the race fleet was split in half, with three of the Volvo 70s planning to weave through the Solomon Islands, my interest was piqued. While the images of these thoroughbred machines racing down the long swells of the bottom of the planet are impressive, the idea of threading through an area of poorly charted reefs, jungle islands, and notoriously squally weather in the darkness presented a tantalizing new twist.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:17AM Comments (3)

Fuel Additives: Snake Oil or Good Science?

February 28, 2012

While the ethanol problem has brought a mountain of headaches to boaters, it has ignited a booming trade in fuel additives. At the recent Miami boat show, I heard Gerald Nessenson, president of ValvTect Petroleum Products, talk about the state of the finished fuel-additive industry and what established companies such as his are trying to do to fend off what he feels are unsupportable claims by small upstart companies.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 11:56AM Comments (9)

An Eye-opening Boat Show

February 21, 2012

They say a photo is worth 1,000 words, and this one certainly says a lot. On our way to a very serious study of hose clamps at the Miami International Boat Show, the nice sales ladies at the booth of some nameless speedboat showed their appreciation for Capt. Frank Lanier, a retired Coast Guard officer and one of our contributors. It is a standard boat show ploy: Beautiful girls attract men (even those as high-minded as Capt. Lanier) and men buy boats. For many complex reasons (including the fact that Frank's incredibly supportive wife might one day stumble on this blog post), I hesitated to publish this photo. But it serves to illustrate a point that struck me at this year’s Miami show . . .
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 11:59AM Comments (10)

New Man Overboard Tracking Technology

February 14, 2012

More affordable electronic man-overboard tracking technology is on the way. The US-based Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services has just completed a new standard for man-overboard beacons using Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and/or Automatic Identification System (AIS). According to a news release from the RTCM, the standard requires MOB beacons using DSC and sending "open loop" messages (i.e. standard all-ships distress calls) to be fitted with a GPS and a DSC channel transceiver. The GPS automatically inserts a position in the DSC (and AIS) call, making it easier for boats to locate and recover a crew member who has fallen overboard.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:40AM Comments (2)

No Rest for the Weary

February 7, 2012

We’ve got so many tests in the air, I’m afraid to open my inbox these days, for fear that one of our testers has again spiraled off into the deep end of data collection. This, you see, is the greatest challenge we face. So consumed by their mission, our testers like to pick up every detour and follow it to its end, wherever it may lead. Three-week tests drag on for years, with the final results forever lying tantalizingly out of reach. So where are the detours leading these days? Here’s a sampling of what’s ahead.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:01AM Comments (3)

Eco-friendly Bottom Paints 2012

February 1, 2012

There are very few times when the door to my office is closed. Bottom paint rating tabulation time is one of them. For the past week, I’ve been poring over bottom paint data collected earlier this month: three Excel tables representing more than 300 data points. Although mammoth data tables are not what drew me into this business, the bottom paint program is still one of my favorite projects. I’ve spent enough time scrubbing, scraping, and painting to appreciate the importance of what we do.
Posted by at 11:19AM Comments (12)

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)


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


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


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