September 5, 2012 - So you carried out an exhaustive spring maintenance this year and are now left with several cans of very expensive marine varnishes, bottom paints, and other marine maintenance products—some opened, some untouched—that you don’t want to go bad. What to do?
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August 28, 2012 - Last weekend, I heard from a reader who was lamenting that he’d probably have to replace his DC electrical panel because of the electrical problems he was having. As he ran through the list of symptoms—flickering running lights, frequently blown fuses, a weak bilge pump, great green blooms at butt connectors—I told him it sounded like something he could easily fix, and then dove into our digital library to find the guidance he needed.…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:53PM Comments (4)
August 21, 2012 - Should boaters who travel more than three miles offshore in the U.S. or Great Lakes be required to carry a to carry an EPIRB, a personal locator beacon, some other form of emergency locator beacon? That is the question a National Boating Safety Advisory Council task force is asking as it formulates new safety recommendations for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:06PM Comments (10)
August 7, 2012 - It seems somehow appropriate that today, as I hopscotch among the islands of Ireland’s western coast, U.S. Sailing has released its final report on the fate of the crew of Low Speed Chase. The comprehensive report, available for download at the U.S. Sailing website, covers in great detail the factors that led to the deaths of five sailors on April 14 during the Full Crew Farallones Race out of San Francisco, Calif.
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July 31, 2012 - Still trying to find a place to stow everything for that big summer cruise or that voyage south this autumn? You don’t have to wind up like this sloop we came across in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, with everything but the kitchen sink hanging from the stern arch. With so much sail area aft, the boat has effectively become a yawl a la Sanford and Son, a precarious rig for a passage to the Aran…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:23AM Comments (3)
July 23, 2012 - It’s not often that the sail-training program at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., incites envy among the midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Historically, the Coast Guard Academy’s sail training program has centered on the tall-ship Eagle, and its yacht sailing program has gotten the short shrift. For decades, the USCG academy has had a fleet of offshore yachts—five Luder yawls, built in 1963. These are the same lovely but…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:39PM Comments (7)
July 10, 2012 - Round 1 in our test of gas additives' corrosion fighting ability is in our wake, and even we were surprised by the results. While the full account of how such products as Biobor Ethanol Buster, ValvTect, Sta-bil Marine Formula, Mercury QuickStor, Sea Foam, and others did in our test will be released later this month in the August issue of Practical Sailor, we have put together the following guidance for using ethanol fuels…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:30PM Comments (2)
July 3, 2012 - Do we still want exterior wood on our boats today? Is synthetic a fair substitute? When I stepped aboard the 36-foot Island Packet Estero last week for a test sail, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that the familiar teak caprail was gone. For more than 30 years, the varnished caprail (usually finished in Cetol these days) has been one of Island Packet’s signature features.
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June 26, 2012 - Sweet little Tropical Storm Debby has left a trail of boats on beaches from Punta Gorda to Pensacola, Fla., and a dozen boats from the mooring field at our homeport of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron are among her victims. If you haven’t given hurricane season a thought yet, you might want to start with our July 2008 report, “Lines, Snubbers, and Other Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms.” Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s first-hand account of his storm preparations “Tropical Storm Dos and Don’ts” and “How to Help Your Boat Survive A Major Storm” should also be required reading.
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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)
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.
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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)
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)
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)
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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