Hidden Risks of Life Jackets

April 26, 2016 - Testing any sailing equipment entails a high degree of responsibility, but this is especially true of safety equipment. A tragic accident off the coast of Costa Rica this week called to mind an important study that Practical Sailor did in March of 2013 on the dangers that life jackets can pose to sailors in the event of a capsize. No one will challenge the fact that life jackets save far, far more lives than they ever put at risk, and the accident in Costa Rica is proof of this. However, sailors need to be aware that in certain rare circumstances a life jacket can be an impediment to keeping you alive.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 02:22PM Comments (2)

Can a Snubber Hook Weaken Your Rode?

April 20, 2016 - In the March 2016 article “Changing views on chain hooks,” we pointed out that the major manufacturers of marine anchor chains caution that some chain hooks can weaken chains under extreme loads. These chain hooks are often used to attach an anchor snubber to the anchor chain. We confirmed this effect with testing and advised that if you want to use a hook on your anchor snubber, you should choose a hook that doesn’t weaken the chain through point-loading (concentrating shock loads on a small area of the chain link). Greg Kutsen, president of Mantus, the maker of one of the chain hooks that we tested, contends that the real-life loads encountered when anchoring with a snubber are not significant enough to worry about any point-loading caused by the hook on the chain. Kutsen explains the reasons for his view here.
Posted by at 07:12AM Comments (2)

Keel Bolt Repair Options

April 13, 2016 - In a few of our past reports on boat financing, Practical Sailor discussed how to pre-inspect your potential dreamboat before committing to the next step and how to bring in a surveyor. Although the articles are geared to the prospective buyer, it is just as relevant to the owner of an older boat. If the boat in question has more than 20 years behind her, one item that will likely come up on a survey is keel bolts - the heavy duty fasteners that keep your keel from going on a bottom tour while you reach for handholds on your suddenly tippy craft.
Posted by at 12:00AM Comments (1)

Clipper Fatality Highlights Adventure Sail Risks

April 5, 2016 - Most conclude that football is a contact sport and that sailing takes the other tack. But after the amateur crew aboard the 75-foot ocean racer IchorCoal suffered its second fatality in six months, many have suggested that it’s time to take a closer look at just what went wrong and what’s really at stake in pay-to-play big boat ocean racing.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 03:29PM Comments (5)

Choosing a Sailmaker

March 28, 2016 - If you are planning to add a new mainsail or genoa during the Northeast winter, now is the most likely time to be able to negotiate a good price. While the migration to high-volume lofts abroad has smoothed the peaks and valleys of sail prices, there are still seasonal bargains to be had. Generally, the lull occurs October through December. By the time spring rolls around and the sailmakers find themselves swimming…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:59AM Comments (3)

Tips for the Havana Daydreamer

March 23, 2016 - Now that U.S. sailors can so easily can go to Cuba, the question remains should they go? I think most cruisers would not want to miss the chance. To explore the reefs of the fabled Jardínes de la Reina, to reach close along the green mountains between Punta Maisi and Boracoa, to wander the streets of La Habana— what more could the cruising life offer than to explore far (and not so far) corners of the world under sail? If you are Havana daydreaming here are some helpful resources to set you on your way.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:32AM Comments (1)

Florida Anchoring Battles Begin Anew

March 15, 2016 - While the Florida Senate approved House Bill 1051 prohibiting anchoring in parts of Miami-Dade County, over on Florida’s west coast, a live-aboard sailor was still working to have his 36-foot Hunter hauled off the beach. Although the two events would at first seem unrelated, any sailor would likely see a clear connection.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:49AM Comments (3)

Safe Navigation in Poorly Charted Waters

March 9, 2016 - I often worry that the topic of chart accuracy, which we revisit in the upcoming April issue of Practical Sailor, downplays the importance of other skills, published sources, and equipment we should use to solve a navigational puzzle. A recent bottom-scraping cruise I took along the ever-changing coast of Southwest Florida reiterated some key points regarding coastal navigation.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:19AM Comments (3)

Swaged Rigging Terminal Failures Raise Concern

March 2, 2016 - Among the many chores to add to the spring to-do list, a rig inspection should rank high. And any rig inspection should include a close look at any swaged terminals on the shrouds and stays. Although corroded or cracked swages have been know to be a common point of failure on older rigs, the environment and working loads are almost always the main contributing factors. But our recent tests suggest that the weaknesses on some terminals may exist since the day they were assembled.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:47AM Comments (6)

Bottom Paint Anti-slime Additive Goes Away

February 24, 2016 - Last year, multi-national chemical company BASF decided it would not renew its U.S. license for the pesticide Irgarol. A common additive to copper-based paints, Irgarol helps prevent the growth of algae and other soft growth. Bottom paints containing Irgarol are priced around $30 higher than similar formulas without the additive. If you are interested in a “slime-resistant” ablative paint, be sure to confirm that Irgarol is still an ingredient before plunking down the extra cash.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:59AM Comments (3)

Boat Bottom Blues

February 17, 2016 - Sure, spring is still a ways off for some of us, but it's never to early to start planning, especially if you've got a big bottom project. If you own an older boat, that project probably includes doing something about the years of antifouling paint that have built up on the bottom. In this blog post you'll find links to a number of useful articles to help guide you through this process.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (2)

Darwin, barnacles, and organ envy

February 10, 2016 - The oceanic equivalent of implacable in-laws, the barnacles addled me to no end. Do they ever stop eating? Do they ever sleep? Why won’t they leave my boat alone? Their unrelenting click, click, clicks on the hull kept me up at night. An obsession bordering on madness set in. My only comfort was that barnacles on the brain can have interesting side effects, like an idea that changes our view of the world.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:48AM Comments (5)

How Well Do Swivels Reduce Twist?

February 2, 2016 - We know the theory behind using an anchor swivel: The swivel releases any twists in the chain when an anchored boat swings through 360 degrees or more. Still, we question the logic of using one. Our skepticism is supported by our own experience, previous testing, and input from long-term cruisers, but we wanted to devise a test to investigate chain twisting. The results were surprising.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 05:43PM Comments (8)

Rethinking Anchor Snubbers

January 27, 2016 - Anyone who has spent a night pitching in an exposed anchorage would not be shocked to learn that in many dragging incidents the snubber parted, or was stretched to its limit, allowing the chain and boat to absorb some teeth-rattling shock loads before something finally gave. Recently, PS testers have devised a series of tests to determine what the ideal snubber looks like. Some of our findings run contrary to popular assumptions. Some will surely surprise you, and may even—one day—save your boat. What does your snubber look like?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 07:36AM Comments (10)

Maximizing Bottom Paint Coverage

January 19, 2016 - In my own experience, I’ve found that I rarely can match the manufacturer’s coverage estimates using a 3/8-inch nap roller cover, so for this project we decided to do a comparison. One section of the boat would be painted with a foam, solvent-resistant hot-dog or sausage roller cover, a technique that has worked for me in the past. The roller, more commonly used for topside finishes, soaks up far less paint than a conventional, 3/8-inch cover. An adjacent section would be painted using a conventional roller.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:09PM Comments (12)