Solar Panels vs. Wind Generators

May 28, 2013

As the world’s largest solar-powered boat heads toward Miami for its U.S. debut and the start of a 16-city world tour, I was reminded of one of the most frequent questions I hear from Practical Sailor readers: "Which is best, solar panels or a wind generator?" The answer, like many things regarding cruising equipment, depends on where you cruise and the type of boat you own.
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Ten Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Alternator

May 21, 2013

Before you fire up ye ol’ iron genny for the first smoke-belching run out to the mooring, to the dock, or to the fuel station (I sure hope it’s not to the pumpout station), you might want to think about your alternator belt. It's another one of those inexpensive engine parts that often gets overlooked until it's too late.
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Too Many Layers of Bottom Paint?

May 13, 2013

So, a couple of years back, you acquired a good old boat at a pretty good price—thanks to the market—but now you’re wondering how many coats of bottom paint it has. And what kind? You’ve put on a few coats of ablative antifouling since you’ve owned the boat. It has adhered well and has done its job. But each year, the bottom looks rougher and rougher—with big recesses where paint has flaked off. You sweated out some extra prep-work this season, and thought you had a nice, durable subsurface for painting, but each pass of the roller pulls up more paint. What’s going on here?
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The Chilling Facts About Cold Water Survival

May 6, 2013

We’re wrapping up our test of new children’s life jackets this week, a test that was carried out in 80-degree temperatures near our offices in sunny Sarasota, Fla. After living in Florida for so many years, it is easy to forget the risks associated with colder waters, as the video on cold-water survival that I have included in this week’s blog post demonstrates. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the risk of drowning increases nearly five times if the water temperature is below 59 degrees. That puts many sailors in the Northeast, West Coast, and Great Lakes areas at risk for most, if not all of the year.
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Make Your Own Dinghy Wheels

April 29, 2013

As spring refit projects keep us busy in the boatyard, we find ourselves rifling through back issues looking for buried do-it-yourself gems. This week's blast from the past is a real back saver. Practical Sailor contributor David Liscio describes how to turn some scrap plywood, a few screws, and a lawnmower axle and wheel set into durable and inexpensive portable dinghy wheels.
Posted by David Liscio at 05:32PM Comments (0)

Making Your Own Dimmable LED Light

April 22, 2013

One of my projects this summer will be to help a friend install new interior lights on an Endeavour 42 that he is restoring, so recently, I've been digging through Practical Sailor's many articles on interior marine lighting. While fluorescent lights are an efficient way to illuminate wide areas, such as the galley, he is also interested in using dimmable LEDs for cabin lighting. Our January 2009 article on LED lights featured a good cross-section of what is available, although only one of the lights we tested for that report was dimmable. Dimming LEDs isn’t as simple as dimming an incandescent bulb.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 12:15PM Comments (1)

Caring for Encapsulated Ballast Keels

April 15, 2013

It’s getting warm enough now in most places up north that we can start thinking about getting some actual work done on the hull—thinking about. I checked the weekend in Duluth, Minn., and it still looks a bit chilly for curing epoxy. You’d think that maintenance chores wouldn’t snowball during the off-season, but the freeze and thaw cycles of fall-winter-spring take their toll. One of those places where this becomes most evident is at the keel.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:32PM Comments (4)

A Second Look at Anchor Shanks

April 8, 2013

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re bending anchors here at Practical Sailor. Look for Part 2 of our anchor shank-bending adventures in the upcoming May issue. Coincidentally, right when we were in the middle of bending anchor shanks, we received a 33-pound Mantus anchor for testing. The design is interesting in that it combines some attributes of a Rocna, Manson Supreme, and Wasi Bugel. The anchor has a folded fluke with a small, sharpened toe welded to the fluke. The anchor is shallowly concave but has a roll bar, sufficiently wider than the fluke.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 02:34PM Comments (6)

Galley Gadgets and Advice Wanted

April 1, 2013

Historically, the cook has always enjoyed a privileged position on board a boat. And no wonder, since the cook almost always works the hardest, whether the boat is underway or at anchor. While the navigator and helmsman’s job is no less critical, the nerve-wracking labor of maintaining a steady course and plotting an accurate DR position has nearly evaporated in recent years, thanks to GPS, chartplotters, and autopilots. The cook’s job, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier. So, in honor of the hardest working crew, I’ve put together a list of five items that can help make a cook’s life easier underway. I’d be interested in hearing what other suggestions our readers have.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:10PM Comments (15)

PS Readers Divided Over America's Cup Coverage

March 26, 2013

Early this year, my provocative blog article asking readers to help decide whether PS should dedicate some ink to the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer generated an overwhelming response, and at this point, the “yeas” have only a slight edge over the “nays.” Almost all of those who’d rather not see Cup coverage were emphatic: “Please don’t fill your great magazine with America’s Cup dribble. As a cruiser, I have absolutely no interest in it,” wrote one reader. And most readers who encouraged PS to cover the event did so with reservation: “If you pick your topic, the AC certainly has practical value. For example, when these boats break, how are they repaired? As more boats are made from exotic materials, which structures are found to be more durable, more flexible, more brittle, or less repairable after damage?” In other words, "keep it real."
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:51PM Comments (25)

In Search of the Perfect Sailing Hat

March 19, 2013

Ever since October 2011, when the dermatologist announced that I had skin cancer at the age of 46, I’ve been looking for good hats and other accessories to keep my face, in particular, out of the sun. I’m a sailor, and I’m not ready to change my life completely, but I do need to make a diligent effort to prevent this dangerous, but generally preventable and treatable form of skin cancer—squamous cell carcinoma—from becoming more serious. I’ve been cancer-free for the past 18 months, but I’ve now got a nice battle scar running down my right cheek, and I would prefer not to have any more.
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A Boat Maintenance Schedule that Can't Fail

March 12, 2013

Rule number one of any maintenance program is simple: Never trust your memory. A written maintenance log is essential. It can be as basic as a hand-written notebook or as sophisticated as a computer spreadsheet. There's even proprietary computer software for creating maintenance logs. Whether sophisticated or simple, the basic requirements of any maintenance log are the same: 1. Divide jobs into categories. 2. Define the task. 3. Determine the service interval. 4. Note specialized tools or materials required. 5. Inventory consumable materials. 6. Record the date the job is actually done. When carried out with regularity, these six steps can save you days that might have otherwise been wasted over the course of a single cruising season.
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Rethinking Anchor Shaft Strength

March 5, 2013

One topic often overlooked in any anchor discussion is shaft strength. Yet, as anyone who has spent any time around boats knows, bent anchor shafts are hardly rare. Sure, sometimes the anchor gets wedged into a crevice where bending might be excused, but we’re hearing about more and more anchors bending under what would be considered normal use. In the upcoming April issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Jonathan Neeves explores this topic in great detail. In his view, the reasons behind bent shafts are many.
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Fortifying Marine Fabrics Against the Elements

February 26, 2013

We had an unusually soggy Miami Boat Show a few weeks ago, which gave us an opportunity to look at something we haven’t paid much attention to in a few years: waterproofing coatings for fabrics. Textile technology has seen some significant new developments since our last complete test of waterproof coatings. Chemical engineers have found new ways to impregnate fibers with coatings that can last through dozens of wash cycles. Some new after-market spray protectants have emerged as well. But are those sprays even necessary in today's nano-particle world—when chemical engineers are building weather protection right into their products?
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Hard Antifouling Paints and Haulouts

February 19, 2013

Some of our best performing antifouling paints in our most recent test were hard, modified epoxy paints. One of the drawbacks of these paints is that they can lose their effectiveness after being hauled out and stored ashore for more than 30 days. Even newly painted hulls can lose their effectiveness, if the launch is delayed too long—something to keep in mind, if the boat you are buying is newly painted, but has been in storage for a long time. What many people don’t know, however, is that there are ways to reactivate a hard paint on a newly painted boat that has been stored ashore for less than a year, or one that has been hauled out for less than 30 days.
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Reader Questionnaire

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