Combatting Onboard Toilet Odors

August 5, 2013 - We’ve had a lot of fun with toilets and sanitation systems in the last couple of years, and after last weekend, when I descended into the smelliest brokerage boat I’d ever set foot on, I thought I’d revisit some of our findings here.The good news is that a stinky head is curable. The better news is that it need not cost you an arm and a leg. That’s not to say a cure is cheap—this is a cruising boat we’re talking about—but in many cases, a change in maintenance habits and less than $20 can put you on the path to deep breathing again.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:01PM Comments (11)

Pondering Options for Varnishing a Mast

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)

Towed Water Generators: Are They Worth It?

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)

The Sailing Books that Inspire Us

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)

Adventures in Onboard Coffee-making

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)

What Dog Breed is Best Suited for Cruising?

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)

Antifreeze: ethylene glycol vs. propylene glycol

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)

Do-It-Yourself Water Filtration

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)

Solar Panels vs. Wind Generators

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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Ten Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Alternator

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.
Posted by at 11:46AM Comments (5)

Too Many Layers of Bottom Paint?

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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Make Your Own Dinghy Wheels

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)

Making Your Own Dimmable LED Light

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)

Caring for Encapsulated Ballast Keels

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)

A Second Look at Anchor Shanks

April 8, 2013 - In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re bending anchors here at Practical Sailor. Look for Part 2 of our anchor shank-bending adventures in the upcoming May issue. Coincidentally, right when we were in the middle of bending anchor shanks, we received a 33-pound Mantus anchor for testing. The design is interesting in that it combines some attributes of a Rocna, Manson Supreme, and Wasi Bugel. The anchor has a folded fluke with a small, sharpened toe welded to the fluke. The anchor is shallowly concave but has a roll bar, sufficiently wider than the fluke.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 02:34PM Comments (6)