October 28, 2015 - The more controversial—in my mind—element of open-source software is how our navigation data is used. The success of open-source software depends on the willingness of sailors to share data via the cloud. We’re told, of course, that this is anonymous meta-data (the sort of non-identifying data with that the National Security Administration scrapes from phone records), and that the user can control which data he shares. Most of us are already sharing all kinds of information with various smart-phone apps, so this is nothing new. Still, I worry.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:26AM Comments (3)
October 20, 2015 - As part of a report on the Dickinson P9000 in the December issue, Practical Sailor tester Drew Frye provides an in-depth guide to a do-it-yourself installation, with special emphasis on safety. The following are important safety tips that generally apply to any propane heating system, whether it is the Dickinson fireplace, a Sig Marine cabin heater, or a similar heater.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 03:32PM Comments (5)
October 14, 2015 - The most common question we were asked in the wake of our recent two-part series on headsails was, “How do I install an inner forestay or Solent stay?” Because either of these stays might one day be depended upon in the direst of circumstances, and because every boat presents different challenges for this project, it's important to do your research and investigate other boats that have carried out this retrofit. Once you have a general idea of what features you like, consult a rigger for the initial design. Here are several resources that can start you down the right path.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:51AM Comments (2)
October 6, 2015 - I loathe thee for your lovely teak decks, prone to leaking, hot to touch in the tropics, and forever accumulating dirt. I loathe thee for thy alluring bowsprit, a precarious perch where no man with two hip replacements should ever be. I loathe thee for thy water tank sloshing in the bow, turning thee into a teeter-totter when the mildest swell rolls into the bay.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:19PM Comments (3)
September 30, 2015 - One of the most startling conclusions from our upcoming jackline test was that despite the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) generalized approach to jackline standards, the ideal material for a jackline changes as boat length increases. But material selection is just one of many details regarding jacklines that deserves careful thought. If you are re-installing your jacklines or installing for them for the first time, be sure to read our upcoming test report. In the meantime, here are some other details to consider.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 07:45AM Comments (5)
September 21, 2015 - Sometimes it is not what has been added to your fuel that matters, but what is missing. Anywhere between 5 to 20 percent of the contents of a portable or installed polyethylene tank can vanish during the course of a year, the result of breathing losses and permeation. The remaining fuel is lower in octane, contains fewer of the volatiles that are so essential for easy starting, and has reduced solvency for gum and varnish. It often looks perfectly good, but is perfectly rotten and potentially harmful as fuel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:17PM Comments (0)
September 16, 2015 - While Joe and I sweated it out poolside, Demetri seemed happy to play the part of guinea pig. He gamely plunged into the pool again and again, trusting his fate to the aging inflatable lifejackets. Our safe, nearly idyllic environment provided little insight into survival at sea, but in the same way that even an ideal first date can expose snags in a relationship, a quiet-water trial can offer ample clues of impending equipment failures; more importantly, there is little risk of drowning—unless, of course, things go terribly wrong.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:12AM Comments (3)
September 9, 2015 - As we continue on with our various studies into fuel additives, PS is interested in hearing about your experiences. We would be particularly interested in hearing about anyone having engine damage attributed to using a fuel additive or a warranty claim rejected on the basis of their using a fuel additive. If you currently use a fuel additive that you know little about, you don't need to panic. Such damage typically would not be the result of a single use, but repeated long-term use. Our own testing with both gasoline and diesel treatments indicate that limited use of the most popular brand name products will not cause any harm, but how much good the additives actually do is tougher to measure.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 11:56AM Comments (13)
September 1, 2015 - In plainest technical terms the tiller gives us immediate corrective feedback, an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, far quicker than any wheel assembly can do. Both devices help us become better sailors, but the tiller just does it faster. It is, at its core, more honest about the conditions we’re facing—sometimes brutally so.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 05:09PM Comments (7)
August 26, 2015 - Whether you view it from the top down or the bottom up, a Solent rig needs to be carefully thought out, well-engineered, and strategically located. Some sailors add a short bowsprit or U-shaped, tubular extension that includes a bobstay and supports the attachment of a new headstay. The old headstay chainplate becomes the new tack point for the Solent stay.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 11:36AM Comments (0)
August 18, 2015 - Freshwater fouling organisms are no weaklings. One of the most notorious, the zebra mussel, introduced by the ballast water of voyaging ships, can wreak havoc with power-plant cooling systems. For sweetwater sailors who have but the summer to sail, the most common threat to the hull is algae. In fact, algae (aka slime) actually tends to grow much faster in fresh water than it does in salt water.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:26AM Comments (2)
August 11, 2015 - In my view, having a foolproof hank-on sail ahead of the mast is not a bad thing. On your average cruising boat, the staysail is usually small, and stay itself is far enough aft that dousing or setting it doesn’t put the crew in jeopardy. The nice thing about this approach is that it greatly reduces the cost of retrofitting a sloop with an inner forestay and sail to set on it.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:47PM Comments (5)
August 4, 2015 - One of the easiest ways to improve the furling efficiency of all types of furlers is tackle the line-lead challenge. It starts with the angle that line leads on and off the drum, progresses into a sweeping arc as the line makes its way to the cockpit and ends with another change in direction that leads the line to the hands of a crew member or a winch drum.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 05:14PM Comments (5)
July 28, 2015 - An important question that comes up in our upcoming report on stainless-steel swivels for anchors is where the shackle should be introduced to the rode. A common approach is to attach the swivel at the end of the chain rode directly to the anchor, in lieu of a common anchor shackle.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:42PM Comments (0)
July 21, 2015 - As our long-term test of sanitation hose winds its way through another long, hot—and progressively smellier—summer, it is a good time to think about ways to keep your plumbing system from becoming an olfactory horror. Here are some of the tips that hose manufacturers shared with us as we launched our test of sanitation hose last summer.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:05AM Comments (7)