In Search of the Perfect Portable Boarding Ladder

August 23, 2011

Last year, we ran a review of a Union 36, and the opening photo of the boat featured a unique folding ladder that I hadn’t seen before. The ladder, instead of hanging vertically, folded out at a comfortable angle in a way that seemed—at least in the photo—pretty practical for routine boarding. One problem: the maker—the American Ladder Corp., based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., appears to be out of business.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:53AM Comments (2)

Understanding Practical Sailor's Ratings System

August 17, 2011

Most long-time readers are familiar with our ratings categories—Best Choice, Recommended, and Budget Buy—but their significance might not be so obvious to new readers. In fact, we’ve received a number of letters from people asking us to clarify what these ratings mean. So, here it is.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:51AM Comments (3)

West Marine Issues Notices on Rocna Anchors

August 10, 2011

In the wake of questions about the tensile strength of steel used in the shafts of Rocna anchors, West Marine has issued “product specification notices” to customers who have purchased Rocna anchors since 2010. The West Marine notification states that certain Rocna anchors were made with a “weaker grade of steel compared to that published on the Rocna website” and directs customers to Rocna for information regarding the materials and construction of the Rocna anchor. Under its “No Hassles Guarantee,” West Marine offers a full refund to owners who are not satisfied with their purchase. The offer comes after several months of heated online debate over the strength of the shafts of Rocna anchors made in China.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:18PM Comments (6)

Small Boats with Full-batten Mainsails Have Few Options for Reducing Luff-slide Friction

August 2, 2011

One of the difficult challenges faced by mast slides on full-batten mainsails are the side loads imposed when the sail is not feathered into the wind. In the event that the sail needs to be dropped (or raised) off the wind, the unequal loading on the batten cars can cause a great deal of friction on one side of the cars. If you are the owner of a smaller boat, however, your options for solving this problem are limited.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:31AM Comments (2)

Manual vs. Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket / Safety Harnesses

July 26, 2011

Commonsense would suggest that an auto-inflating harness/life jacket is the best choice for the cruising sailor. However, there are cases in which an inflated harness can be a hindrance—for example when you are trying to climb back aboard under a lifeline, or dive free of debris or rigging. And as our tests have shown, rain and waves can inflate some models, a nuisance that could interfere with handling the boat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:55PM Comments (12)

PS Repeats Tether Release Warning in Wake of Chicago-Mackinac Race Fatalities

July 19, 2011

While there is no evidence yet that the fatal sailing accident in the Chicago-Mackinac Race this week is linked to a safety tether problem, given our experience with tethers, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the difficulty involved in releasing safety tethers may have been a factor.
Posted by at 02:56PM Comments (5)

How Do You Cleat a Line on a Boat?

July 18, 2011

"How to cleat a line on a boat" turns out to be a more controversial topic than you might imagine. Practical Sailor looks at various views on how to handle the first wrap around the base of a deck cleat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:18PM Comments (3)

The Fundamentals of Mainsail Trim

July 13, 2011

While you don’t have to be an incurable sail-tweaker to cover ground on a tradewind passage, assuring your mainsail is well-trimmed will put you safely on the hook sooner and ensure a smoother, more comfortable ride. Good mainsail trim, of course, is paramount when going to windward.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:24AM Comments (9)

Navigating by iPad Using eSeaChart and ActiveCaptain

July 6, 2011

In advance of a recent summer coastal cruise, we downloaded eSeaChart navigation app, the first iPad charting program to work with Active Captain, a free service that requires registration. It cost $8 and took only a few minutes to download the charts needed for the cruising area—from Tampa to Ft. Myers, Fla.—including detailed harbor charts. One thing I liked about the charts was that they were raster charts, nearly identical to the government versions that appeal to my analog brain. Redraw rates were a little slow, as a result, but at sailboat speeds, this isn’t a major issue.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:37AM Comments (2)

Custom Catamaran Loaded with PS Picks

June 28, 2011

Practical Sailor was recently invited to check out a custom Fastwater 52 sailing cat. The invite was prefaced with the explanation that the boat is a Practical Sailor posterchild of sorts, outfitted with electronics, hardware, and other gear that has survived PS testing and garnered our recommendation. How could we turn down an invitation like that? Our dockside tour did not disappoint.
Posted by Ann Key at 10:40AM Comments (0)

What’s Happening in the World of Owner’s Manuals?

June 17, 2011

We’re seeing several errors creep into owner’s manuals. Many of the mistakes seem to be the lost-in-translation variety, but others seem to be just poor writing, or sloppy editing. As General Motors' recent recall demonstrates, mistakes in an owner’s manuals can have costly—possibly dangerous—ramifications.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:00AM Comments (4)

Two Good Sailing Books About Shallow-draft Sailboats

June 14, 2011

Whenever I feel like contemporary yacht designs are losing touch with their raison d’ etre, these are two of the books I turn to.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:15PM Comments (2)

Quick and Easy Gelcoat Repair

June 6, 2011

When making gelcoat repairs, the Preval Sprayer combines the best of the Badger 250 and the paint brush. It's quick to set up and clean, and provides adequate coverage in a single application. Best of all, it's available in auto supply and hardware stores for just $7, so when you are done with it, you can just throw it away.
Posted by at 02:25PM Comments (4)

Toilet paper, Vacuflush, and a search for PS testers

June 1, 2011

Last month’s report on fast-dissolve toilet paper took on a new significance this past week as we began testing Sealand’s Vacuflush toilets, toilets that literally suck waste into the holding tank. The chief advantage of the Vacuflush system is the reduced requirement for water for flushing. These units required very little water to flush, but this also makes it harder for toilet paper to dissolve.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:23AM Comments (11)

Summer Dreams, Brad Van Liew, and Moitessier

May 27, 2011

I can feel it. This will be a very big summer. The solstice still lies ahead, and look what the year has brought us already. The America’s Cup slips into San Francisco. Brad Van Liew sashays into La Rochelle with a clean sweep in the Velux 5 Oceans around the world race.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:37PM Comments (0)

Reader Questionnaire

Which of the following best describes your approach to bottom paint?