What Old Gear Do You Swear By (or at)?

July 9, 2014

Instead of fixing or replacing tired mechanical equipment with new gear, we can often find a less-expensive substitute on the used-gear market. In many cases, this is equipment that is just as good as new gear, if not better than new. The trick is separating the gems from the junk. A poster child for this sort of refit quandary is the old Simpson Lawrence manual windlass, a British-engineered oddity that has long been a source of cruising sailor ire. Commonly found on cruising boats made in the 1980s, these windlasses use a troublesome chain drive rather than a gear drive. This, along with the dissimilar metals used in its various components (cast-steel gypsy, aluminum case, etc.), make these windlasses a poor candidate for rebuilding.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:19AM Comments (2)

Gelcoat Repairs Revisited

June 30, 2014

Probably one of the most frustrating projects when restoring an old boat is dealing with gelcoat cracks and chips. It would seem that these minor blemishes would be an easy matter to fix, but they’re not. Achieving the same level of gelcoat gloss, adhesion, and color of the original hull or deck is a kind of black art, and it is a field full of pretenders. You could run a weekend movie marathon with all of the YouTube DIY channels offering bad advice on gelcoat repairs.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:09PM Comments (6)

Masthead Wind Sensors: Wired vs. Wireless

June 24, 2014

Does a wireless masthead wind indicator make sense? This is the question with wind instruments, and there are certainly some pros and cons to consider. For sailors with wiring-unfriendly masts, the wireless approach is a good one. These include wooden spars, ones with conduits that are full with other wiring, and masts that are regularly unstepped. The downside of going wireless is that the batteries will need to be changed on occasion, and in some cases, signal interference is possible.
Posted by Bill Bishop at 03:18PM Comments (6)

Do-it-Yourself Chafe Protection

June 17, 2014

In this post, I’ll revisit one solution that comes up again and again anytime we talk about chafe protection: the leather chafe guard. We hand-stitched the leather in place, tucking locking stitches into the rope at each end. Holes were made with a pliers-like hole punch, and we fashioned our chafe strips to be long enough to cover the hard points, adding an additional 25 percent to the length to handle stretch and any minor slippage.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:54AM Comments (3)

Matchmaking: First Date for Garmin and B&G

June 11, 2014

Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve highlighted the many advantages and disadvantages of the NMEA 2000 (N2K) marine electronics standard. From a consumer’s perspective, one of the most obvious advantages of installing N2K electronics is the ability to mix and match components from different manufacturers. While this sounds terrific on paper, we've often run into installation hurdles when trying to get sensors and displays from different manufacturers to play nicely—even those that advertise being N2K-compliant. Our foray into the world of wind systems has yielded a much more positive NMEA 2000 experience.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Bill Bishop at 01:16AM Comments (2)

Is the Single-sideband Radio Still Relevant?

June 2, 2014

As satellite communication equipment becomes more reasonably priced, more reliable, and more compact, we often hear sailors raise the question, “Are single-sideband radios even relevant anymore?” As contributing writer Capt. Frank Lanier points out, the question is easy to answer. Here is an excerpt from his forthcoming report on single-sideband radios, which also will look at some of the latest products for simplifying SSB installation.
Posted by at 06:34AM Comments (12)

Cheeki Rafiki Loss Puts Spotlight on Keels—Again

May 27, 2014

If you’ve been following the tragic story of Cheeki Rafiki, the Beneteau First 40.7 that lost its keel with fatal consequences while crossing the Atlantic last week, and you’re sailing a production boat with a similar high-aspect, deep-ballast keel, you might be asking yourself, “Should I be concerned?”
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:14PM Comments (3)

Chain Jams and Other Anchor Windlass Woes

May 20, 2014

I spent last weekend tuning the rig aboard boatbuilder Robert Helmick’s Endeavour 42, Lost Boys, and got a first-hand look at the problems reader Scott Rimmer encountered with his vertical windlass back in 2009. When Helmick's son, Kameron, went to work deploying the anchor, he soon ran into trouble; the chain was jammed in the naval pipe, kinked with hockles. Helmick started plying me with questions about anchor swivels—questions we often get at the magazine.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:00PM Comments (6)

Sun Protection and Sunscreen for Sailors

May 13, 2014

While I’m sure that some of these “all natural” products are exploiting a vaguely defined marketing niche, I do worry about some of the chemicals found in skin-care products. One of the reasons we're seeing more “natural” sunscreens is that groups like the Environmental Working Group are taking a fairly strong stand against certain sunscreen ingredients. It recently released a list of sunscreen ingredients and formulas “not to bring on vacation,” which includes spray sunscreens and sunscreens with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:36PM Comments (5)

Hobie Alter, Cheryl Tiegs and a Yard Full of Hobie Cats

May 6, 2014

Hobie asked: “Are you near Norfolk or New York?,” and I said no to both. He then paused and said: “I could sell you one, but if you buy three boats you can be our dealer in that area.” . . . My wife was not too pleased with 140 cardboard boxes (each box holding a hull) in our backyard. She had just given birth to our first child three months earlier!
Posted by Darrell Nicholson (with Rob Mairs) at 11:05AM Comments (6)

Conquering (or Coexisting with) Waterline Stains

April 29, 2014

Sometime in mid-April, our regrets for jobs left undone set in. The raw-water intake blossoming with barnacles, the brown waterline stains, the heat exchanger in need of a good cleanse—these can all wait until spring. Well, spring is here, and our routine maintenance chores now require some serious elbow grease. Our first impulse is to go for the super-strength acids that will take care of the hard growth as well as the stains, but there are kinder, gentler options, if you have the willpower and the patience.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:58PM Comments (3)

Simple Tips for Maintaining Stainless Steel

April 22, 2014

When applying a paste cleaner, a toothbrush is useful for buffing tight spots and working into the pores of welds; follow by buffing with a cotton cloth. A green 3M scrubby pad helps for removing more aggressive stains. Continued rusting in welded areas might indicate a developing failure, requiring replacement. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water and mild soap when done buffing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:43PM Comments (4)

Rope Washing Advice from the Pros

April 15, 2014

The rope should be tightly coiled or tied in a daisy-chain, and then placed inside a pillowcase. Front-loading washing machines are recommended; an up-and-down motion is preferable to the rotary motion of most common household machines. Without coiling or daisy-chaining, a rope can turn into an impressive tangle. The pillowcase further restricts the motion of the rope and prevents the rope from wrapping around the central agitator, which can destroy ropes and break washing machines.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:02PM Comments (4)

Rebel Heart and Emergencies at Sea

April 8, 2014

The story of the rescue of a sick 1-year-old girl, her parents, and toddler sister from aboard the boat Rebel Heart last week provoked a storm of controversy over whether ocean voyaging with young children is sensible. One of the reasons that Theresa and I chose not to have and raise children aboard our boat were our own dicey experiences with illness in the tropics. (Our threadbare, vagabond lifestyle at the time raised other salient concerns, as Theresa put it—“I’m not giving birth in the forepeak!”) But if we had decided to cruise with young children, we would have likely avoided long passages and kept pediatric care within close reach.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:21PM Comments (14)

Doing 'The Ditch' Capt. Frank's Way

April 1, 2014

Be aware that a less-experienced sailor’s report of a “great” anchorage with plenty of depth, or statements like “We ran aground here!” don’t do you much good if they fail to include basic info such as their boat's draft, state of the tide, etc. Other sailors' facility reviews should also be taken with a grain of salt. For example: “The dockmaster hates Algerian Snaggle-tooth Poodles (like our Fluffy), so we’re never coming back, and you shouldn’t either!”
Posted by Frank Lanier at 03:24PM Comments (6)

Reader Questionnaire

Which of the following best describes your approach to bottom paint?