May 2009

PS Advisor: Boat Buyers on the Prowl

Every so often, I find myself boat shopping and turn to the reviews in "Practical Boat Buying." I’m looking for a trailerable, 20- to 26-foot, easy to rig, singlehandable boat—and fast wouldn’t hurt either. I am a beginner, thinking about the Rhodes 22, Tanzer 22, O’Day 23, or Balboa 26. Did I mention I didn’t have a lot of money to spend?

Shore-Power Boat Fire Protection

Subscribers Only With the increased demand to have all the electrically powered comforts of home onboard, it should come as no surprise to boaters that the majority of AC-related electrical fires involve overheated shore-power plugs and receptacles. Prime Technology, aims to change all that with the introduction of its Shore Power Inlet Protector (ShIP for short), a monitoring and alarm device that automatically disconnects AC shore power when excessive heat is detected at the power inlet connector. We reviewed the ShIP 110 designed for use with a 110-volt, 30-amp system. The company also offers a similar unit (the ShIP 220) for use with 220-volt, 50-amp service. Charred plugs and receptacles are the result of resistance build-up (due to loose or corroded connections), which generates heat and the potential for fire, a problem especially prevalent among vessels that continually run high energy loads such as water heaters and air-conditioning units. In addition to monitoring the temperature of your vessel’s shore-power inlet plug and its wiring, the ShIP system automatically disconnects AC shore power when an unsafe temperature is detected, providing visual and audible alarms. (The audible alarm shuts down after five minutes to avoid prolonged disturbance to surrounding boats.)

Hobie Mirage i12s Inflatable Kayak

Subscribers Only Alright, we know what you’re thinking: A pedal boat in Practical Sailor? That’s what we thought, too, when Hobie sent us the Mirage i12s in response to our search for an inflatable kayak that could serve as a secondary tender for a cruising sailboat. The 12-foot PVC hull has overlapping glued and welded seams and a slick, abrasion-resistant bottom. The chambers are inflated to a modest 3 to 5 psi (compared to the 6.5 psi for the Walker Bay Airex reviewed in July 2008), which limits stiffness. For the tropics, PS prefers Hypalon to PVC, but that would add weight and push the price up. The hull carries a two-year warranty, not enough for an $1,800 boat (MSRP), in our opinion. Five years would be our minimum. The stern of the boat has bungee cords and an area for lashing down a dry bag, tackle box, or snorkel gear, but potential for provisioning runs is limited. A compartment in the bow will hold small items. To our chagrin, the space was too small to easily stow the hand pump. What sets this boat apart is the drive system. This is not your Camp Hiawatha paddle boat.

Bluewater Sailors Review Tethers Underway

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor had a chance to compare how three common snap hooks and three tether types function in actual use on a passage from Boston to Bermuda. Testers evaluated the pros and cons of elastic tethers and non-elastic tethers, double-legged tethers, single-leg tethers, the new Kong snap hooks, carabineer-style safety clips, and the Gibb-style clip. The Wichard elastic single-leg tether (nearly identical to our 2007 tether test favorite from West Marine, the West Marine 6-foot elastic tether with Wichard’s double-action hook at the deck end) was unanimously preferred over the non-elastic tether. Testers also preferred the Kong snap hooks over the others.

Six-Month Checkup: Long-Term Boat Wood Finish Exposure Test

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor closes in on its search for the best teak oil, best marine varnish, and best synthetic wood finish this month. Testers check in on the 53 coated wood panels on our test rack, which have been enduring the elements for six months. Testers rated the panels for single-season gloss and color retention and coating integrity. The test products included dozens of one-part varnishes, two-part varnishes, synthetic wood finishes and stains, spar varnishes, wood sealants and teak oils from makers like Interlux, Pettit, Epifanes, Le Tonkinois, Minwax, Ace Hardware, Star brite, and West Marine. The long-term evaluation aims to find the best exterior wood finish based on overall ratings for ease of application, gloss integrity and appearance, and how the coating fares over time under real-world conditions. At the six-month mark, this report offers our single-season recommendations for finishing teak decks, cockpit trim, toerails, and other exterior wood surfaces.

The Search for Reliable Hands-free Onboard Communication Systems

Subscribers Only Being able to communicate with a hands-free communication device along the length of the deck allows crew to coordinate activities like anchoring, docking, and going up the mast. Practical Sailor testers experimented with two systems: Motorola SX800R two-way radios and Nautic Device’s Yapalong 3000. Both the Motorola and the Yapalong comprise a cell-phone-sized transmitter/radio unit and a separate handset. We tested them during anchoring, masthead repairs, and docking. The products were used with their mated headsets in various weather and sea conditions, including light rain and spray. The Motorola unit also was tested with a compatible Fire Fox Sportsman Throat Mic.

New Air Breeze Wind Generator Field Tested

Subscribers Only As sailors, wind energy is at the forefront of our lives. The Practical Sailor wind generator test in March 2007 included a prototype of the Air Breeze from Southwest Windpower. Last year, the company debuted the Air Breeze in the alternative energy market for recreational boaters; it is distributed through retail giant West Marine. Using the same criteria as our 2007 test, Practical Sailor tested the Air Breeze for several months under a variety of conditions, using it to charge the ship’s batteries aboard a Union 36. The wind generator’s body is cast aluminum, and its blades are made of glass-filled polypropylene. Testers found it quiet, easy to mount, and reasonably priced at $900.

Practical Sailor Tests and Reviews the Latest in Boat Ratchet Blocks

Subscribers Only The racket block is one of the most recent innovations in the world of line-handling blocks. The most common use of a ratchet block is on smaller racing boats, where you are adjusting a spinnaker sheet or mainsheet by hand, without using a cleat. Uses on larger boats include running a line through a ratchet block when releasing the control line on a headsail furler, and for traveler control lines and genoa lead adjusters. In a search for the best ratchet block, Practical Sailor tested four ratchet blocks with on/off switches; three ratchet blocks with auto-sensing that will automatically flip the ratcheting on or off; and one ratchet block that has both an on/off switch and an automatic sensor. The head-to-head ratchet block comparison included products from top marine hardware makers Selden, Wichard, Ronstan, Holt Allen and Harken.

Eco-friendly Boat Maintenance

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor’s May 2008 issue looked at green practices in marine maintenance outside the hull. This spring, we look at eco-friendly products and techniques for the boat interior. We focus on areas belowdecks where we can reduce our impact on the environment. Proper disposal of petrol fluids used in most inboard engines—fuel, lubricant oil, and transmission fluid—is paramount. Preventing engine fluid spills by using careful filling techniques is key, as are careful preparation for a possible spill and proper cleanup should a spill occur. The best products we found for preventing oil spills and cleaning up oil spills include 3M Sorbent Pads and MDR Oilzorb Engine Pads; Jabsco Oil-Changing System; and the Vetus Bilge Water/Oil Separator. We recommend RydLyme Marine and Barnacle Buster for a green descaling of a boat’s heat exchanger. Eco-friendly bilge cleaners that we recommend include CRC Industries’ Big Bully Natural Orange Bilge Cleaner, Clean Water Solutions’ Microbial Powder, Star brite’s Sea Safe Biodegradable Bilge Cleaner, and Star brite’s Super Orange Bilge Cleaner. Eco-friendly soaps and detergents recommended for green cleaning include Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and some cleaners in the Simple Green, Spray Nine, and Thetford Marine lines. And, don’t forget plain old blue Windex.

Mailport: 05/09

In light of your recent letters on copper/epoxy antifouling bottom coatings, I’d like to share my experience. Near the end of my Searunner trimaran boatbuilding project, I decided to apply a product known at the time as Copperpoxy. I applied the coating to all three hulls to about 20 mils thick, and then sanded this "orange peel" surface down to about 10 mils. I finished up with 220-grit sandpaper. In the end, it was beautiful. It was just like a perfectly smooth, new copper penny, and just a bit thicker than recommended. We started our cruising adventure in the foul waters of Beaufort, S.C. Very soon, I was doing a huge scrape job every week. The bottom was covered with grape-size barnacles. I noticed that the aft half of the main hull, the part with underwater metals, was fouling the worst. (I was changing zincs every week.) Two years later, in Pensacola, Fla., we decided to give up on this product and paint over it with Pettit Trinidad SR bottom paint. When doing the weeks-long prep for this painting, we could see that the skin of our epoxy/ply boat was electrically conductive and corroding all the way through in the entire area of the bonded shaft, strut, prop, gudgeons, and copper mast ground. We put on three coats of Trinidad, waited a few days, and splashed the boat. Within two weeks, the new paint had peeled off in the electrically active area. We re-hauled, stripped the paint in this area, and coated the problem Copperpoxy area with three coats of epoxy. After sanding and repainting, we set off for the Western Caribbean. Over the following six months, we noticed that even the epoxy would not stick to the Copperpoxy.

Hope, Boats, and the Promise of Spring

Subscribers Only Spring could not have come at a better time. Winters don’t bring much drama here in Sarasota, Fla., but there’s a chilly mood upon the land, and I’ll be glad to finally be rid of it. Spring, no matter the latitude, brings with it new hope. There is nothing quite like the first breath of May in northland, when a grey fog gives way to warm sunshine, and the promise of June suddenly becomes real. I remember well spring in my former home state of Rhode Island—cherry blossoms, red-wing blackbirds, and the faint whiff of summer when we finally shook the tarp clear of our O’Day Javelin, Misty. There is a reason why we’re alive, and spring reminds me of that. I don’t pretend to know what it is, but I’m sure of what it’s not. It’s not to moan about missed chances, lament financial losses, or measure ourselves against marks set by other men. A sailor, above all others, knows that good fortune is like the wind. Today’s warm westerly will be tomorrow’s nor’easter, and we must make the best of each. I can curse the foul tide at the top of my voice, but that won’t make it turn. Turn it will . . . but in its own good time.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Mechanical Rigging Terminals: To Seal or Not

by Darrell Nicholson on May 19, 2015

Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s recent market survey of mechanical rigging terminals in the June 2015 issue of Practical Sailor demonstrated just how long these terminals can last if they are installed correctly. That report came close on the heels of rigger Brion Toss photo essay on what can go wrong if they are not assembled correctly, or assembled without any sealant. Yet manufacturer's are still not entirely clear where they stand on the use of sealants in these fittings.

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Reader Questionnaire

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