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.
Posted by at 02:18PM Comments (5)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:35PM Comments (0)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:14AM Comments (5)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:40AM Comments (1)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:00PM Comments (7)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:27PM Comments (4)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Gordon West at 01:04AM Comments (7)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:46PM Comments (4)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:34PM Comments (5)
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.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 10:30AM Comments (3)
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.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:08PM Comments (2)
July 9, 2014 - Instead of fixing or replacing tired mechanical equipment with new gear, we can often find a less-expensive substitute on the used-gear market. In many cases, this is equipment that is just as good as new gear, if not better than new. The trick is separating the gems from the junk. A poster child for this sort of refit quandary is the old Simpson Lawrence manual windlass, a British-engineered oddity that has long been a source of cruising sailor ire. Commonly found on cruising boats made in the 1980s, these windlasses use a troublesome chain drive rather than a gear drive. This, along with the dissimilar metals used in its various components (cast-steel gypsy, aluminum case, etc.), make these windlasses a poor candidate for rebuilding.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:19AM Comments (2)
June 30, 2014 - Probably one of the most frustrating projects when restoring an old boat is dealing with gelcoat cracks and chips. It would seem that these minor blemishes would be an easy matter to fix, but they’re not. Achieving the same level of gelcoat gloss, adhesion, and color of the original hull or deck is a kind of black art, and it is a field full of pretenders. You could run a weekend movie marathon with all of the YouTube DIY channels offering bad advice on gelcoat repairs.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:09PM Comments (6)
June 24, 2014 - Does a wireless masthead wind indicator make sense? This is the question with wind instruments, and there are certainly some pros and cons to consider. For sailors with wiring-unfriendly masts, the wireless approach is a good one. These include wooden spars, ones with conduits that are full with other wiring, and masts that are regularly unstepped. The downside of going wireless is that the batteries will need to be changed on occasion, and in some cases, signal interference is possible.
Posted by Bill Bishop at 03:18PM Comments (6)