Aegean SPOT Distress Signal Details Emerge

June 19, 2012 - If you recently bought a SPOT Connect for its distress calling capability, or are looking at similar satellite messaging devices such as the SPOT Messenger, DeLorme InReach, or Briartek Cerberus, you'll want to read our upcoming story about the tragic April 28 accident involving the Hunter 376 Aegean during the Newport to Ensenada Race.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:54PM Comments (20)

All Sailboats Great and Small

June 12, 2012 - Each time I put together the lineup for an issue of Practical Sailor, I try to envision a sailing club with our subscribers’ boats, a sort of maritime menagerie. A few Lasers sit on dollies by the beach. The back lot is packed with older trailer-sailers like the Catalina 22 and San Juan 24. A stroll down the dock passes by wooden beauties like the Friendship sloop, classic pocket-cruisers like the Pearson Triton, and even a few luxury cruisers like the Oyster 61. A pier is dedicated to racing sailors fitting out C&Cs and J/Boats for the summer season. And, of course, several slips and a wide swath of the adjacent mooring field are occupied by 30- to 50-foot cruising boats—ranging from 30-year-old Tayana 37s to custom-built Chris White catamarans—gearing up for adventures great and small.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:39PM Comments (1)

Incommunicado in the Satellite Age

June 5, 2012 - There is something mildly annoying about receiving a semi-automated e-mail from a Practical Sailor tester “hard at work” in the Bahamas while I'm stuck in the office. I’m not sure why I found these recent communiques so irksome. They were seemingly harmless notes from a friend, with the subject line “Check-in/Ok message for Frank’s Spot."
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:36PM Comments (1)

Volvo Race Village Flops in Miami

May 29, 2012 - Being raised on the shores of Biscayne Bay, I should have known better than to expect crowds of sailing fanatics to converge on Miami when the Volvo Ocean Race sailed into town last month. Still, I held faint hope. Now, as the race fleet closes in on the coast of Lisbon and the flurry of press releases begins anew, I'm reminded of my many disappointments in the Miami stopover.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:55AM Comments (10)

Keel Bolt Repair Options

May 22, 2012 - Following up on our May 2012 report on boat financing, the June 2012 issue of Practical Sailor examines how to pre-inspect your potential dreamboat before committing to the next step, bringing in a surveyor. Although the article is geared to the prospective buyer, it is just as relevant to the owner of an older boat. If the boat in question has more than 20 years behind her, one item that will likely come up on a survey is keel bolts—the heavy duty fasteners that keep your keel from going on a bottom tour while you reach for handholds on your suddenly tippy craft.
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San Fran 'Stand-down' = Government Meddling?

May 15, 2012 - The Coast Guard’s request late last month that sailors “stand-down” and suspend any offshore racing outside San Francisco Bay in the wake of last month’s tragedy in the San Francisco Yacht Club’s Farallones Race rankled more than a few Bay area sailors. The response was not surprising. Critics decried the move as draconian, driven by overzealous safety mavens, an example virulent government intrusion, trampling of personal freedoms, etc. etc. etc. It is a…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:51PM Comments (13)

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.
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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)