September 2009

PS Advisor: The Curse of the Pox

Boat maintenance master Don Casey, on the BoatUS website (, suggests cleaning the surface using a mild abrasive like Bar Keeper’s Friend ( and fine bronze wool, and then sealing the surface with a wax. Sparmaker Seldén Mast recommends applying Woody Wax ( using bronze wool to seal the surface and remove the pox. Casey cautions against using a polish on aluminum as some are so abrasive they will peel away the anodizing. We’ve had success with Mothers ( and Prism Polish (, but we do not recommend using the Mothers with the Powerball on aluminum. Be sure to read the label on any polish before using it; some advise against use on anodized aluminum.

How Do Acrylic Finishes Hold Up Compared to Boat Waxes?

Subscribers Only Our July 2009 issue compared 26 bottled waxes and gave an update on our test of 10 traditional paste waxes. This month, we offer a one-year checkup on acrylic coatings. Acrylic coatings differ from paste waxes in their chemistry and how they are applied. Acrylic finishes penetrate pores and chemically bond to the boat’s surface. We tracked down seven products, applied them to our blue-hulled test boat, and rated them at the one-year mark. Products tested were Vertglas from Lovett Marine, Poli Glow, NewGlass2, Star brite Glass Cote, Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze, Higley FiberGloss Restorer, and Presto Gelcoat Rejuvenator.

Tender Trimmings

Subscribers Only Tenders come in all shapes and sizes—from 6-foot inflatable kayaks to RIBs capable of towing skiers—and they serve a variety of transportation needs. Where the live-aboard couple will need a dinghy suitable for grocery and laundry runs, the small-boat daysailor usually needs only a fuss-free, easy ride to a moored or anchored boat. A few accessories that we checked out recently can add to such tender experiences.

Practical Sailor Tests Lightweight Tether Aimed at Racing Sailors

Subscribers Only There’s a reason why we recommend safety tethers—the umbilical cords that connect the jacklines on our boats to the harnesses on our bodies—be 6 feet long or shorter. Getting dragged behind a boat, even at the sedate speed of 4 knots, can easily drown a person. Unless someone is on hand to haul you on board, survival relies on a superhuman burst of adrenaline. Though rare, there have been some highly publicized deaths involving harnesses. The story of Harvey Shalsky, a sailor in the 1999 Double-handed Farallones Race, is familiar to most racers. Shalsky, racing with longtime partner Mark Van Selst, drowned while tethered to his J/29 White Lightning. Van Selst was unable to slow the boat or haul his partner in, and eventually cut loose Shalsky (who was by then unconscious) so that following boats could recover him. The hazards associated with a tether that cannot be easily released under load prompted the International Sailing Federation (ISAF, the council responsible for regulating offshore sailing races) to recommend this feature in tether designs. It is not a requirement, only a recommendation, and ISAF does not stipulate what method should be used for the release.

Practical Sailor Tests a Ruggedly Built Safety Harness and Tether for Kids

Subscribers Only Never mind what your experience tells you. Children do not go to sea. At least that is the only logical conclusion we can reach as we deal with the lack of adequate offshore safety equipment for kids. In October 2006, we ran down more than a dozen life jackets for infants and toddlers. There were only a few worth writing about, and none met our full expectations. Of the lot, we pegged the MTI Adventurewear Bay Bee 201-1, the Mustang Survival MV-3150 and MV-3155, and the Sospenders 12ACH as standouts, and all of these products are still available today. In the December 2006 and January 2007 issues, we dug into the topic of safety harnesses and tethers, and the outcome was worse. One product in that test, a safety tether designed for children more than 50 pounds, snapped under the load of a 35-pound weight being dropped from six feet. The tether, from Jim Buoy, underwent an upgrade immediately after our report.

Practical Sailor Tests AIS Class B Transceivers from West Marine and Navico

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor last looked at Automatic Identification Systems, or AIS, in November 2008, reviewing the Raymarine AIS250, a receive-only device. Since that report, the pool of AIS products has grown to include several affordable transceiver options for recreational sailors. In this head-to-head test, we review two AIS-Class B devices capable of sending and receiving AIS data: the Navico NAIS-300 and the West Marine AIS1000. AIS transceivers are split into Class A (commercial) and Class B (recreational). AIS devices improve safety at sea by receiving and broadcasting a wide variety of information about a ship, including its name, latitude and longitude, course over ground, speed over ground, heading, status, and Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number.

Headsail Furlers Sans Swivels Face-Off

Subscribers Only A follow-up to our evaluation of jib furlers with head swivels, Practical Sailor reviews roller furlers that use no swivel. For many years, the Flexible Furler from Cruising Design Inc. (CDI) was the most prominent player in this category, but some new products and innovative designs are offering more options for sailors looking for easy-to-install furling. Along with the CDI furler, we look at four roller-reefing systems: Alado A-2, Spin-Tec Triumph 2000, and Reefurl. Having no upper halyard swivel, these furling systems put the foil sections in compression and use an external halyard system to attach the head of the jib to a built-in halyard or a fitting at the top of the foil system. Although PS regards conventional roller-bearing furlers with top swivels (tested in August 2009) as the most sensible choice for serious offshore cruisers, these alternative jib furlers offer a cost-effective, easy-to-install option.

Five Rides that Push the Limits of High-performance Sailing

Subscribers Only After sifting through the field of sailing sports cars on the market today, Practical Sailor identified five very different watercraft that met our “speedster” criteria. At the top end of our size and cost profile is yacht designer Bill Lee’s legacy, the Santa Cruz 37, a wolf in wolf’s clothing that offers performance as priority one, two, and three. Next in line is the Andrews 28, a breakaway racer/cruiser that packs performance and a Spartan minimalist’s cruising package into a 25.7-foot waterline. Hard to miss is the Open 6.50, an out-an-out go-fast sportboat with room below for little more than a cooler and bevy of high-tech sails. For the diehard dinghy sailor, we highlight the quick-planing Stealth, a 14.5-footer that redefines reaching, and in true giant-slayer fashion, can fly by most 40-footers on a power reach. And if that’s not action enough, we hop aboard a turbo-charged windsurfer, the Starboard Futura. Powered with a Neil Pryde sail, it runs away with the award for most speed and fun for our dollar.

Practical Sailor’s Gear of the Year 2009

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor editors pored over the dozens of products reviewed in the previous months to find the best of the best sailing gear, products that are worthy of the designation Gear of the Year. This year’s editor’s choice list includes a rugged rope clutch (Spinlock), a grippy ratchet block (Ronstan), feature-filled VHF handheld radios (Standard Horizon and Cobra), high-quality nesting cookware (Magma), a proven paste wax (Collinite), an ocean-ready first-aid kit (Adventure Medical Kits), a reliable LED bulb for cabin lighting (Imtra), an economical ice box conversion kit (Frigoboat), an innovative ultrasonic tank sensor (BEP Marine), cold-weather gloves (Gill), and an easy-to-install Wi-Fi booster (5mileWiFi).

Mailport: 09/09

As a prior owner of a Charley Morgan yacht, I greatly appreciated your article on the Morgan 30. I could relate to the difficulties of that boat, having had to replace a broken centerboard pennant, replace the Palmer M60 with a Yanmar diesel, install a second battery, and live with fairly primitive belowdecks amenities. Yet for all those issues, I loved the boat. The centerboard could be used to move the lateral resistance forward or back, so it was possible to get the boat to balance perfectly and track with barely a finger on the tiller. I’ve sailed the Chesapeake Bay for 39 years and have owned a Morgan, Bristol, and Pearson. Of the three, the Morgan was the most fun to sail.

Who’s Lurking Behind Those Blog Posts?

In the magazine business, our calendar is set forward several months, so while summer sailing is reaching its peak, we’re stowing away editorial acorns for winter. Articles on cold-weather sea boots and heavy-weather sailing are on the horizon, along with a two-part series on inverter-chargers. The upcoming story that bothers me most, however, is a long-overdue update on maritime websites. It’s something of a sore subject because we’re undergoing the painful revamping of our own website (a process akin to rebuilding your diesel engine in the middle of your galley), but also because the deeper we dig into the world of websites, blogs, and reader forums, the more trouble we find.

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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