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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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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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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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?
Posted by at 02:32PM Comments (2)
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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February 12, 2013
Author Kathryn Miles has written a gripping article on the tragic end of the Bounty, the replica of the original Bounty used in Hollywood movies that went down in Hurricane Sandy, claiming two lives, including the captain's. The article, which appeared in the March issue of Outside Magazine, offers a detailed, and even-handed account of the ship’s sinking. Miles suggests many causes for the ship’s foundering, but it seems obvious that the ship never should have sailed. So the question remains: why did it?
Posted by at 04:17PM Comments (9)
February 5, 2013
I think sailors learn sooner than most people the importance of paying attention to little things. The devil is in the details, as they say. I learned that lesson the hard way, in a gale off the coast of Colombia when the smallest cheapest block on board our little ketch exploded in a mess. Since February is a good time for our snow-bound brethren to sit around the fire practicing ropework, I’m resurrecting an article on an often overlooked topic—gripping hitches—that can have big consequences for cruising sailors.
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January 29, 2013
Today, I received an email with the subject line, “America’s Cup: Media Services Update - 1.” According to the email, this was the first official notice to the media regarding the upcoming America’s Cup competition in San Francisco this summer. I’m conflicted. The river—correction—ocean between Practical Sailor and the Cup is deep and wide. Apart from the gee-whiz technology behind 72-foot wing-sail cats ripping past the Golden Gate Bridge at 40 knots, is there anything in this for our readers? Is there?
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January 22, 2013
The rescue early this week of Alain Delord, the French single-hander whose boat was dismasted and holed on Jan. 18 in the Southern Ocean, after he spent three days in a life raft offers a graphic reminder of the importance of choosing a raft that matches your voyage. In the age of EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Beacons), it's easy to be lulled into thinking that prolonged life raft ordeals like the one described by Steve Callahan in his classic tale "Adrift" are a thing of the past. Had it not been for the assistance of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who dropped Delord a better raft with food, water, and a survival suit, the 63-year-old singlehander might not be alive today. Delord was eventually picked up by a cruise ship that detoured more than 700 miles to rescue him.
Posted by at 02:51PM Comments (1)
January 15, 2013
My friend Nick and I had a discussion the other day about which bolts were tougher to break free: shaft-coupling bolts or the lug nuts on an old trailer. Nick pointed out that lug nuts are usually torqued down a whole lot tighter than a shaft coupling screw. On the opposite side, I argued that shaft coupling bolts require you to assume the yoga pose “Downward Pretzel” just to see the bolts. The argument…
Posted by at 04:22PM Comments (14)
January 8, 2013
While the rest of North America was soaking up the holiday season, our intrepid systems tester Frank Lanier and Managing Editor Ann Key were hip deep in the briney world of watermakers. Although most of the testing was carried out after Thanksgiving, I still had a lot of questions to answer as the New Year came and went—like do I really need one of these things? …
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January 1, 2013
I want to thank our subscribers new and old who have joined us on this voyage. I say “voyage” because, if anything, that is the word that best describes the day-to-day operations at Practical Sailor. I sincerely wish the best for you and your loved ones in the coming year, and look forward to another productive 12 months of testing and reporting. For new subscribers who are just joining us, or for old-timers who, like me, have trouble remembering what happened last week, much less last January, here are some of Practical Sailor’s highlights from 2012 and a peek ahead to 2013.
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December 20, 2012
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the crew couldn’t sleep.
The waves were relentless; with troughs dark and deep.
The windvane was holding a course straight and true,
toward a spot on the chart: “Les îsle inconnues.” As Cap tried to revive his brand new GPS,
Ma delivered the news: “This ship is a mess.
The diesel won’t start; the stove’s out of gas,
and your fancy new flashlight is a pain in the ..."
Posted by at 02:39PM Comments (2)
December 18, 2012
I spent the latter part of last week testing two different types of man-overboard alarms. The first product, the Mobilarm V100, couples with the boat’s DSC-capable VHF radio. It broadcasts a loud distress signal on the VHF when activated, and then, as soon as a GPS fix is available (about one minute in our tests), it transmits the device’s position via the DSC VHF. The second product was the Kannad SafeLink R10 SRS, which transmits an alert via the ship’s AIS receiver and, after a GPS fix is available, the MOB position.
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December 12, 2012
I’m pretty certain that when historians and economists look back on the 30-year-old, $20-billion tax break for turning corn into fuel, it will be seen for what it is: political pandering masquerading as “clean” energy policy. Practical Sailor has covered the effects of ethanol on marine fuel systems in depth over the last several years. Most of our focus has been on helping prevent the problems that ethanol causes in engines and fuel system. I bring up politics in this post only because it relates to an upcoming PS article on recently enacted federal regulations that require fuel-vent filters on new boats with gasoline inboards.
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