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…
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 . . .
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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.
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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.
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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.
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January 25, 2012 - Practical Sailor reader Duncan Hood wrote us last week, asking about engine room noise insulation and prompting me to dive into our files to find our last test. It’s been over a decade, so we’re due for another round of testing, but much of the information in our last report is still helpful. Many of the players are the same, and one of the most prominent players in our last test, Soundown, is still regarded as a leader in the field.
For those like Hood who are contemplating ways to silence the engine, the following excerpt from that article offers some general guidance.
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January 18, 2012 - In the February 2012 issue, we tested two holding tanks—one from Trionic and one from SeaLand. Both tanks slightly leaked water while under pressure. The leaks were very small and occurred at top-mounted fittings that were supplied separately with the tanks and were installed by our tester according to the manufacturers’ instructions. After the story’s publication, SeaLand informed us that tank that we tested and recommended was not the most current model.
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January 10, 2012 - Take a look at this photo and imagine it is your backyard. Or your patio, or sun-deck. Yep, those are sealed 5-gallon buckets full of iguana poop and “other” waste, ripening in the Chesapeake Bay area's autumn sun. Do you ever wonder whether those bright blue bottles of chemicals that claim to eliminate your head odors actually work? So did we. Did you ever wonder how the neighbors would react if you set up a head odor testing facility in your backyard? So did PS contributor Drew Frye. So far, it seems, “Operation Potty Odor,” has not alarmed the local zoning tipsters . . . and it is yielding some interesting results.
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January 4, 2012 - My post last week on storing batteries for winter prompted a couple comments and letters on solar panels, so I thought I'd point out some of our past articles on the topic that can be found online at www.practical-sailor.com. It is a timely project for me, since our upcoming project testing one of the new sonic-pulse antifouling devices will require a solar panel. According to the device's maker, Smart Antifouling, the unit draws about .08 amps, which means will want to put a small 5-watt solar panel on our Cape Dory 25 test boat, Skimmer, which typically lies on a mooring.
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December 20, 2011 - This month’s report on satellite communication devices focuses on existing technology, so it does not dig into one of the more controversial satcomm topics of the moment: a proposal by the upstart wireless company Lightsquared to provide a combined satellite and land-based broadband service that will reach remote areas of the United States where broadband is not yet available. While the idea of giving everyone the ability to stream reruns of "The Simpsons" at lightning speed seems noble, Lightsquared’s $14 billion plan does so at the expense of GPS-based navigation systems—the kind that land you safely at O’Hare.
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