October 21, 2014 - Based on US Coast Guard statistics, surprisingly few boaters enable the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) function on their VHF radio, or have it operating correctly. From what we are hearing from some marine manufacturers like Icom, the numbers for marine single-sideband (SSB) marine radios—the topic of our ongoing series of tests—are just as discouraging. It doesn't have to be that way. With a few simple tools and maybe a trip to a Radio Shack, getting your radio (VHF or SSB) DSC-ready can be carried in a single weekend.
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October 14, 2014 - PS Editor Darrell Nicholson offers his take of the Annapolis boat show in 100 words or less . . . and plenty of photos.
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October 7, 2014 - [IMGCAP(1)] Being afflicted by an affection for wooden boats, I’ve always been perplexed by the faux teak trend. In my book, you’re either in love with wood and you pay for your love in labor, or you bow to the apparent pragmatism of plastic. For me, a boatbuilder who is seduced by a synthetic wood deck or trim is akin to Ferdinand the Bull ecstatically romping through a field of plastic flowers—that is to say, more…
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September 30, 2014 - Just as the incurable text-sender spends more time staring at his phone than noticing the people around him, sailors intoxicated by their display screens can lose the ability to recognize natural patterns in the weather, the waves, and wind. Nurturing environmental awareness is more than just a matter of safety. To hide behind a digital wall diminishes the art of sailing into something easily quantified, which it simply isn’t. To punch a few buttons and safely sail across a pixelated sea is truly amazing, but it isn’t sailing.
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September 23, 2014 - Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s new book, “The Art of Seamanship,” is rolling off the presses at McGraw-Hill. Although it is being billed as a textbook (it will be used in many of the educational programs that Ralph teaches at the Annapolis School of Seamanship) Ralph and the editors at McGraw-Hill have done a terrific job of interspersing meaty instruction on everything from anchoring to riding out a gale with real life stories that Ralph has collected over the years.
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September 17, 2014 - The state of Florida is at it again. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission held a couple of poorly advertised “workshops” earlier this month to discuss the future of anchoring in the state. The public hearings made it clear that the state is once again trying to tighten anchoring restrictions in coastal areas, particularly in urban areas along the Intracoastal Waterway.
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September 10, 2014 - Last weekend at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington I was reminded of the hidden dangers of boat shows. I was sitting in the cockpit of a custom Ed Monk design offered for sale and had forgotten that I had a mortgage and a job that required regular appearances at an office.
I caressed the freshly varnished tiller. It seemed to fit my hand perfectly.
“The previous owner sailed it all over the Pacific,” the owner said.
I suddenly realized I’d violated the first rule for attending a boat show: Never go alone.
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September 2, 2014 - Last month, I had the chance to do some preliminary testing of Delorme’s InReach Explorer. The inReach Explorer is the third generation of the original inReach that we tested in March 2013. Later that year, Delorme added a display screen and some functions, calling it the inReach SE. The Explorer adds even more functions to the SE frame, including an internal digital magnetic compass, altimeter, and accelerometer that allows for rudimentary route planning. The device is not intended to be a full-fledged handheld GPS navigator; it’s a communication device with some navigation features.
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August 26, 2014 - I peered into the bilge. A steady stream of water flowed from the aft cabin, under the engine and spilled into the sump. I dabbed my finger in it—salt. Definitely not the icebox. The electric bilge pump was keeping up with the flow, but the water was troubling. Maybe the stuffing box, I thought.
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August 18, 2014 - The worst squalls we encountered struck near Papua New Guinea, where vicious, but short-lived storms always seemed to arrive on the blackest nights and brought torrential rain. We usually tried to reduce sail early, but if we were caught off guard, our usual tactic was for Theresa to take the tiller and run before first gust, blanketing the jib with our gaff main while I shimmied out on the bowsprit and dropped the yankee. Of course, modern boats with a roller-furling jib make dealing with squalls much easier, but as I found last week, that ease can breed complacency.
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August 9, 2014 - While the high-frequency (HF) marine radio landscape has shifted dramatically in recent years, amateur radio guru Gordon West’s advice for those who are trying to choose between a marine SSB or a ham radio has remained relatively steady. When we contacted Gordon for our upcoming update on marine SSBs, he pointed out that there remains a lot of confusion regarding the differences between ham and marine SSB, and the pros and cons of each. He also explained that in many cases, while there are practical differences, the decision often comes down to personal preference.
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August 4, 2014 - My previous blog post on rig inspection prompted a question about how to splice old ropes that are too stiff to splice. It wasn’t long before the ice-climber in our group of contributors, Drew Frye, decided to grab this rope by its braided cover, so to speak, and see where it leads. Here is a brief description of the method that Frye found worked best, perimeter round-stitching. Perimeter round-stitching will take place over a length of rope that is the equivalent of six to eight times the diameter of the rope. For example, stitching 3/8-inch line requires about 2.5 inches of available line, not counting the tail of the line (about 3.8 inches in length) that will not be stitched.
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July 29, 2014 - When going aloft, you can save yourself a lot of worry and hassle by taking a few simple steps:
• Harnesses: Although not as comfortable as traditional chairs, harnesses bring you closer to the top of the mast and are more secure. Wear long pants and good shoes.
• Halyards: Use two halyards—one primary, one safety. One should be an external halyard on a ratchet block leading from your harness back to you, so that you can have control over your own safety and ascent/descent.
• Shackles and winches: Don’t rely on snap shackles or self-tailing jaws on winches. To attach the halyard to the harness, use locking screw-pin shackles or a buntline knot, which brings you closer to the masthead sheave than a bowline.
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July 23, 2014 - While the polar vortex was pummeling the northern states last winter (ahhh, remember those days?), Practical Sailor contributor Drew Frye was knee deep in glycol antifreeze and engine coolants. One of the test's most important findings was that how you use antifreeze is as important as what product you use. The only sure way to know how effective your antifreeze will be this winter is to measure the glycol as it comes out the other end of the plumbing. There are a couple ways to do this.
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July 15, 2014 - If you find a surprisingly cheap, well-equipped, used cruising boat these days, chances are it has a teak deck in dire need of attention. The owner of a boat like this has a few options. Fix the deck in piece-meal fashion, sealing bungs, replacing rotted subdeck, and recaulking. Or, more expensive options include removing the teak and either installing new teak or laminating a fiberglass deck.
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