Fighting Off Marine Electrical System Corrosion

August 28, 2012

Last weekend, I heard from a reader who was lamenting that he’d probably have to replace his DC electrical panel because of the electrical problems he was having. As he ran through the list of symptoms—flickering running lights, frequently blown fuses, a weak bilge pump, great green blooms at butt connectors—I told him it sounded like something he could easily fix, and then dove into our digital library to find the guidance he needed.…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:53PM Comments (4)

Is an EPIRB Requirement on the Horizon?

August 21, 2012

Should boaters who travel more than three miles offshore in the U.S. or Great Lakes be required to carry a to carry an EPIRB, a personal locator beacon, some other form of emergency locator beacon? That is the question a National Boating Safety Advisory Council task force is asking as it formulates new safety recommendations for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:06PM Comments (10)

Do-It-Yourself Fuel Tank Cleaning

August 14, 2012

Depending on the size of your fuel tanks, having a professional clean your tank and dispose of the dirty fuel can cost more than $1,000. But for the careful, competent do-it-yourselfer there is another option. For those sailors whose tanks have reached the contamination point-of-no-return, here’s a helpful article on DIY tank cleaning that accompanied our July 2009 test of diesel biocides.
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U.S. Sailing Releases Report on Farallones Accident

August 7, 2012

It seems somehow appropriate that today, as I hopscotch among the islands of Ireland’s western coast, U.S. Sailing has released its final report on the fate of the crew of Low Speed Chase. The comprehensive report, available for download at the U.S. Sailing website, covers in great detail the factors that led to the deaths of five sailors on April 14 during the Full Crew Farallones Race out of San Francisco, Calif.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 07:19AM Comments (3)

You Can Take It All With You! (Sort of)

July 31, 2012

Still trying to find a place to stow everything for that big summer cruise or that voyage south this autumn? You don’t have to wind up like this sloop we came across in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, with everything but the kitchen sink hanging from the stern arch. With so much sail area aft, the boat has effectively become a yawl a la Sanford and Son, a precarious rig for a passage to the Aran…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:23AM Comments (3)

Public-Private Partnership Lifts New Leadership 44

July 23, 2012

It’s not often that the sail-training program at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., incites envy among the midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Historically, the Coast Guard Academy’s sail training program has centered on the tall-ship Eagle, and its yacht sailing program has gotten the short shrift. For decades, the USCG academy has had a fleet of offshore yachts—five Luder yawls, built in 1963. These are the same lovely but…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:39PM Comments (7)

More Great Tips for Stopping Boat Stink

July 17, 2012

As our long-term test of sanitation hose winds its way through a long, hot—and progressively smellier—summer, it is a good time to think about ways to keep your plumbing system from becoming an olfactory horror. Here are some of the tips that hose manufacturers shared with us as we launched our test of sanitation hose last summer.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:05AM Comments (4)

Do Ethanol Additives Offer Corrosion Protection?

July 10, 2012

Round 1 in our test of gas additives' corrosion fighting ability is in our wake, and even we were surprised by the results. While the full account of how such products as Biobor Ethanol Buster, ValvTect, Sta-bil Marine Formula, Mercury QuickStor, Sea Foam, and others did in our test will be released later this month in the August issue of Practical Sailor, we have put together the following guidance for using ethanol fuels…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:30PM Comments (2)

Farewell to the Wood-trimmed Boat?

July 3, 2012

Do we still want exterior wood on our boats today? Is synthetic a fair substitute? When I stepped aboard the 36-foot Island Packet Estero last week for a test sail, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that the familiar teak caprail was gone. For more than 30 years, the varnished caprail (usually finished in Cetol these days) has been one of Island Packet’s signature features.
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Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

June 26, 2012

Sweet little Tropical Storm Debby has left a trail of boats on beaches from Punta Gorda to Pensacola, Fla., and a dozen boats from the mooring field at our homeport of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron are among her victims. If you haven’t given hurricane season a thought yet, you might want to start with our July 2008 report, “Lines, Snubbers, and Other Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms.” Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s first-hand account of his storm preparations “Tropical Storm Dos and Don’ts” and “How to Help Your Boat Survive A Major Storm” should also be required reading.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:01PM Comments (4)

Aegean SPOT Distress Signal Details Emerge

June 19, 2012

If you recently bought a SPOT Connect for its distress calling capability, or are looking at similar satellite messaging devices such as the SPOT Messenger, DeLorme InReach, or Briartek Cerberus, you'll want to read our upcoming story about the tragic April 28 accident involving the Hunter 376 Aegean during the Newport to Ensenada Race.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:54PM Comments (20)

All Sailboats Great and Small

June 12, 2012

Each time I put together the lineup for an issue of Practical Sailor, I try to envision a sailing club with our subscribers’ boats, a sort of maritime menagerie. A few Lasers sit on dollies by the beach. The back lot is packed with older trailer-sailers like the Catalina 22 and San Juan 24. A stroll down the dock passes by wooden beauties like the Friendship sloop, classic pocket-cruisers like the Pearson Triton, and even a few luxury cruisers like the Oyster 61. A pier is dedicated to racing sailors fitting out C&Cs and J/Boats for the summer season. And, of course, several slips and a wide swath of the adjacent mooring field are occupied by 30- to 50-foot cruising boats—ranging from 30-year-old Tayana 37s to custom-built Chris White catamarans—gearing up for adventures great and small.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:39PM Comments (1)

Incommunicado in the Satellite Age

June 5, 2012

There is something mildly annoying about receiving a semi-automated e-mail from a Practical Sailor tester “hard at work” in the Bahamas while I'm stuck in the office. I’m not sure why I found these recent communiques so irksome. They were seemingly harmless notes from a friend, with the subject line “Check-in/Ok message for Frank’s Spot."
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:36PM Comments (1)

Volvo Race Village Flops in Miami

May 29, 2012

Being raised on the shores of Biscayne Bay, I should have known better than to expect crowds of sailing fanatics to converge on Miami when the Volvo Ocean Race sailed into town last month. Still, I held faint hope. Now, as the race fleet closes in on the coast of Lisbon and the flurry of press releases begins anew, I'm reminded of my many disappointments in the Miami stopover.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:55AM Comments (10)

Keel Bolt Repair Options

May 22, 2012

Following up on our May 2012 report on boat financing, the June 2012 issue of Practical Sailor examines how to pre-inspect your potential dreamboat before committing to the next step, bringing in a surveyor. Although the article is 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 03:11PM Comments (3)

Reader Questionnaire

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