January 20, 2015 - Left to their own devices, some sailors buy rope the way Imelda Marcos used to buy shoes—impulsively, profligately, with a kind of obsessive urge. Even today when some of us go to a boat show we have to stand for a long time next to the booth with the stacked coils of multicolored climbing rope and odds-and-ends in all lengths and diameters, wishing we could come up with a reason to get just a little bit more. There's no such thing as too much. We're melded with Imelda.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:18AM Comments (3)
January 13, 2015 - The Fortress anchor tests bore out a commonly known fact: Danforth-style anchors, which feature flukes that are proportionally larger than other types of anchors of the same mass, tend to hold better than older, plough-style anchors in soft mud. One of the most interesting results—although not entirely surprising given the nature of the bottom—was the poor performance of some reputable anchors that have done well in past tests. Some anchors refused to set at all.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 01:30PM Comments (11)
January 6, 2015 - The problem with survival suits is that there’s no telling when the big wave or brutal wind gust will hit, and it may not leave time to don a survival suit. Some survival suits have sewn-in gloves that make it almost impossible to turn on the radio or deploy a personal locator beacon. That’s why wearing a comfortable, breathable drysuit makes sense. It leaves you much more ready to manage the boat in heavy weather. And should the unexpected happen, your odds of survival in the water are better than they would be in foul weather gear.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:25AM Comments (5)
December 23, 2014 - As any cold-weather sailor will tell you, the battle against the elements involves more than just bibs and a jacket. Keeping out the wind and wet begins with underlayers, boots, and gloves—all of which we’ve looked at in recent years. Whether you’re dreaming of taking a turn around the Pacific on one of Mahina Tiare's expeditions, joining on one of Skip Novak’s high lattitude adventures, or just want to stay warm next summer in Maine, we’ve got you covered. Here is a summary of past reports on cold-weather sailing apparel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:10PM Comments (2)
December 16, 2014 - Anytime you talk about pocket cruisers you have to clarify what you mean, for the term is loosely applied to a wide range of small boats, some with very little in common besides displacement. Size is certainly a factor, but size is relative. I’ve seen 26-feet length overall (LOA) being a commonly cited as the upper limit for the “pocket” appellation, and that seems about right, although a few decades ago a 26-foot sailboat was called something else—a yacht.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:53PM Comments (9)
December 9, 2014 - I got the impression that most of the young sailors were looking for boat show deals on gear and ideas on how to improve their own Pearson 26s, but seeing so many young faces was encouraging nevertheless. I sense that the growing number of blogs and YouTube videos created by young people engaged in the adventure of a lifetime are gradually filtering down to other sailors. Is cruising going viral among younger sailors? Given the state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for newly minted grads, I wouldn't blame them for shoving off. The economic doldrums of the eighties was one of the reasons Theresa and I took off at 22 and 23 respectively.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:52PM Comments (6)
December 2, 2014 - I’ve put enough boats on rocks and shoals and had enough near misses to sympathize with the skipper and crew of Vestas Wind, who piled up the multi-million-dollar Volvo Ocean 65 on Cargados Carajos Shoal in the Indian Ocean on Nov. 29. The accident occurred during Leg Two (Cape Town to Abu Dhabi) of the Volvo Ocean Race, the most widely followed around-the-world racing event on the planet. Thankfully, all the sailors on board were rescued safely. At the time of this writing, the fate of the boat is still undetermined, but the longer it pounds on the reef, the less likely it seems that the boat will be able to continue racing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:31AM Comments (3)
November 25, 2014 - I don’t want to come down too hard on the good people at Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission; many of the underpaid, overworked officers seem genuinely interested in doing the right thing. But the most recent survey, and the accompanying “informational” video preceding it, lead me to believe that the FWC has been puffing swamp gas again. …
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:32PM Comments (17)
November 17, 2014 - Surprisingly, one of the best chains in our most recent test was one of the generic Chinese chains. This chain showed good strength, and had a thick galvanized coating that showed a high resistance flaking and abrasion. However, the other generic Chinese chain in our test showed appalling performance, so bad, that we believe it is unconscionable for any marine chandler to sell it. And here is the quandary. We’ve identified a promising, economically-priced chain, but it is virtually impossible for the average boater to distinguish it from junk.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 04:53PM Comments (3)
November 11, 2014 - November is the time of year when the procrastinating catches up to us. The big projects we avoided all summer stare us in the face. Do nothing, and you risk a summer wasted pulling epoxy from your hair instead of sailing. If your boat is 20 years old or older, a fuel tank replacement—a bear of a project, even in ideal circumstances—might be that project you’re postponing. If it is, well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got a fair bit of information to help guide you through the process.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Steve D'Antonio at 12:26PM Comments (9)
November 4, 2014 - If you haven’t put much thought into storing your battery for the winter yet, don't delay any longer. The batteries should be removed from the boat and stored in a cool place that does not drop too far below freezing. A basement or garage is fine. Today’s batteries can be safely stored on a concrete floor without risk of discharge, but it’s a good idea to insulate them on a block of wood anyway—if only for peace of mind.
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October 27, 2014 - If you’re in the used boat market, late fall usually offers a good opportunity for buyers. Owners in snow-bound states face haulout and storage expenses for a boat they will only put on the market again in the spring. But before you can start filtering through the used-boat websites looking for desperate sellers (hint: add the search term “reduced”) you’ll want to get a clear picture of what your insurance options are. Back in October 2012, we probed the insurance market for the best rates in various regions and the experts we spoke with offered a number of excellent tips on how to find the right insurance policy at the best rates.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:43PM Comments (4)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:18AM Comments (5)
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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