January 15, 2013 - My friend Nick and I had a discussion the other day about which bolts were tougher to break free: shaft-coupling bolts or the lug nuts on an old trailer. Nick pointed out that lug nuts are usually torqued down a whole lot tighter than a shaft coupling screw. On the opposite side, I argued that shaft coupling bolts require you to assume the yoga pose “Downward Pretzel” just to see the bolts. The argument…
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January 8, 2013 - While the rest of North America was soaking up the holiday season, our intrepid systems tester Frank Lanier and Managing Editor Ann Key were hip deep in the briney world of watermakers. Although most of the testing was carried out after Thanksgiving, I still had a lot of questions to answer as the New Year came and went—like do I really need one of these things? …
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January 1, 2013 - I want to thank our subscribers new and old who have joined us on this voyage. I say “voyage” because, if anything, that is the word that best describes the day-to-day operations at Practical Sailor. I sincerely wish the best for you and your loved ones in the coming year, and look forward to another productive 12 months of testing and reporting. For new subscribers who are just joining us, or for old-timers who, like me, have trouble remembering what happened last week, much less last January, here are some of Practical Sailor’s highlights from 2012 and a peek ahead to 2013.
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December 20, 2012 - ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the crew couldn’t sleep.
The waves were relentless; with troughs dark and deep.
The windvane was holding a course straight and true,
toward a spot on the chart: “Les îsle inconnues.” As Cap tried to revive his brand new GPS,
Ma delivered the news: “This ship is a mess.
The diesel won’t start; the stove’s out of gas,
and your fancy new flashlight is a pain in the ..."
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December 18, 2012 - I spent the latter part of last week testing two different types of man-overboard alarms. The first product, the Mobilarm V100, couples with the boat’s DSC-capable VHF radio. It broadcasts a loud distress signal on the VHF when activated, and then, as soon as a GPS fix is available (about one minute in our tests), it transmits the device’s position via the DSC VHF. The second product was the Kannad SafeLink R10 SRS, which transmits an alert via the ship’s AIS receiver and, after a GPS fix is available, the MOB position.
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December 12, 2012 - I’m pretty certain that when historians and economists look back on the 30-year-old, $20-billion tax break for turning corn into fuel, it will be seen for what it is: political pandering masquerading as “clean” energy policy. Practical Sailor has covered the effects of ethanol on marine fuel systems in depth over the last several years. Most of our focus has been on helping prevent the problems that ethanol causes in engines and fuel system. I bring up politics in this post only because it relates to an upcoming PS article on recently enacted federal regulations that require fuel-vent filters on new boats with gasoline inboards.
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November 27, 2012 - If you have not yet heard the name Nichole Rider, you will. A star athlete in high school and college, Rider was paralyzed in a car accident in 1995. Technically quadriplegic, the 39-year-old sailor has limited motion in her arms and hands and almost no ability to use her legs, but like her friend and sailing mentor, Kerry Gruson, she refuses to let her disability define her. Gruson, a former New York Times reporter, and another disabled sailor, Juan Carlos Gil, first introduced Rider to sailing in 2010. Two years later, Rider has a laser-beam focus on the 2016 Para-Olympics in Brazil.
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November 20, 2012 - Being stuck on the west coast of Florida, with two shoaling channels offering the easiest access out to the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve suddenly become more interested in centerboard cruisers. Generally, I’m not a huge proponent of adding moving parts to a cruising sailboat, but the attraction of being able to make reasonable progress to windward, feel secure in a blow, and explore skinny-water paradises that are off limits to conventional offshore designs is hard to resist. So this week, I started a short list of 35- to 45-foot boats that look promising. It's just a start, really, and I’d be interested in hearing thoughts from other sailors regarding their favorite centerboard cruisers. (No, Finisterre does not count.)
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November 13, 2012 - In an extensive and carefully worded report, a US Sailing investigative panel cited inadequate lookout as a key factor that likely contributed to the fatal April 28, 2012 accident involving the Aegean, a Hunter 376 participating in the 125-mile race from Newport Beach, Calif., to Ensenada, Mexico. The panel also found it likely that the Aegean inadvertently motored beyond a waypoint set near North Coronado Island.
As the report states: “Based on all factors, the panel concludes that the skipper set a waypoint that took Aegean on a path that intersected North Coronado Island, that Aegean was motoring under autopilot as she approached the island, and there is no evidence of any intervention to prevent Aegean’s running into the island.”
The report also indicates a need for better safety practices, improved race management, and points out weaknesses in the SPOT tracking system, calling the portable GPS tracking device "unreliable in transmission of position fixes on a timely basis.”
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October 30, 2012 - By now, most every Practical Sailor reader is probably aware of the fate of The Bounty, the tall ship of Hollywood movie fame. It sunk in stormy seas off Cape Hatteras on Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Northeast. At the time of this writing, the ship’s captain, 63-year-old Robin Walbridge of St. Petersburg, Fla., was still missing at sea. Crewmember Claudene Christian, 42, was pulled from the water, taken ashore, but pronounced dead in the hospital. In all, Coast Guard helicopters airlifted 14 crewmembers from two life rafts. The rescuers arrived on the scene quickly, not long after the famous ship sank below the waves. Some dramatic video footage of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers and helicopter crew at work is posted here.
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October 24, 2012 - We made an unpleasant, although not surprising, discovery this week as we revisited the topic of ground tackle. Many readers will recall that we began a series of mooring chain tests back in 2006, with corrosion reports in 2007 and in 2008. As one Practical Sailor tester put it, the test could be described as an attempt to determine how long it took our hard-earned money to turn into a pile of rust. (As it turned out, this happened a lot faster than we expected.) At the end of 2.5 years in the water, when we decided that no one in their right mind would trust their boat to any of the seven badly corroded 5/16-inch chains, we pulled them out for the final inspection.
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October 16, 2012 - If you're putting your boat into storage this winter, one of the simplest jobs you can do to save you headaches next spring is to make sure you’ve treated your fuel system for storage. For owners of diesel engines, you want to protect your tank year-round against biological growth—primarily fungus and bacteria. For owners of gasoline powered boats—the bad side effects of ethanol fuel are your chief enemy. Our test of biocide treatments safe for diesel fuel singled out products from Biobor, Racor, Starbrite, and Valvtect as good choices.
For those with gasoline engines, the problems with ethanol require a specialized product. This month’s issue has an update on our test of ethanol fuel additives for marine engines. BioborEB again proved its superior ability to fight corrosion. Sta-Bil Marine Formula, Star Tron, and Mercury QuikStor (the most expensive treatment, by far) picked up recommendations. Sea Foam came in as the low-budget contender.
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October 9, 2012 - Ralph Naranjo, Technical Editor of Practical Sailor, will be the moderating a US SAILING Sanctioned Safety-at-Sea Seminar at Strictly Sail Long Beach, Southern California’s only all-sail boat show on October 20, during the show. Topics for the full-day seminar include rendering first aid, damage control and predicting weather at sea—essential skills for any offshore sailor or racer. The course also qualifies graduates to sail in long-distance sailing races – US SAILING certification is becoming a mandatory practice for many races across the country.
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October 2, 2012 - Some of my favorite PS tests are those that pit ordinary dime-store products against gold-plated “marine-grade” stuff. This month’s bottom paint test called to mind an investigation into the antifouling properties of diaper cream that took place in 1995 (before my time at PS, when my wife and I were still cruising in the South Pacific). Diaper cream contains zinc oxide, a known biocide, but it does not regulate the release of biocides the way bottom paint does. Nevertheless, you’ll find many bulletin-board posts that recommend diaper cream for depth-sounder transducers, props, and dinghies. My take-away from our 1995 report is that the product worked (sort of) for a limited period, but it is an impractical solution for hulls . . . better to let you read and decide for yourself.
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September 25, 2012 - As we point out in the October 2012 issue of Practical Sailor, cuprous oxide still rules the roost when it comes to long-term antifouling protection, with hard paints and ablative paints fairly evenly matched for durability. For those who care about reducing their impact on the ocean, this raises a question. If we want to stick with copper (as opposed to an eco-friendly, copper-free antifouling), which type of paint—hard or ablative—is easier on the environment?
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