September 2010

PS Advisor: Rig Loads and Reefing Lines

This sketch of a single reef line controlling both the luff and the leach shows one approach to setting up a reefing system that’s fast and easy to use.

Recently, while working to add third-reef controls to the mainsail reefing on my Morgan 382, I realized I had no idea how to calculate loads and, therefore, no concept of the size and strength of hardware to install.

Women’s Sailing Shoe Test Update

Subscribers Only Boat decks are mazes of toe-stubbing hardware and slippery surfaces, making foot protection a key component to a sailor’s kit. Over the years, Practical Sailor tested has tested boat shoes, sea boots, and sailing sandals. For this update, we focused on the latest women’s kicks from the top performers in past marine footwear tests: Helly Hansen, Harken, and Columbia Sportswear. The new shoes were the Helly Hydro Power 3, Helly Hydro Moc, and Columbia Outpost Hybrid. We also re-tested the top picks from the 2007 test, the Teva Sunkosi and Helly Hydro Power original, to see how they’re holding up after three years of on-deck duty.

Battle of the Electric Bilge Buddies

Subscribers Only Not only do bilge pumps serve to clear incidental water, but they can also give the crew extra time when a boat is taking on water—time that can be spent repairing a leak, donning life jackets, or making a distress call. Practical Sailor tested more than a dozen centrifugal pumps from Attwood Marine Products, Rule/ITT Corp., Shurflo, and Johnson Pump. In this report, we look at the eight higher-capacity electric bilge pumps (output rated at or above 1,600 gallons per hour, or GPH) and see how they fared in exhaustive bench testing. A follow-up report next month will examine pumps rated for 1,500 GPH or less. Testers measured bilge pump flow rates and power ratings at two voltages and tested for compliance with the American Boat and Yacht Council’s standards for dry run performance. In the final analysis, we picked the best bilge pump based on performance, warranty, wiring, and price.

The State of the Main: A Look at Sail Materials and Sailmaking Methods

Subscribers Only Sails are a fascinating engineering statement, and when all is said and done, what’s sought after is the lightest material possible that will neither stretch nor tear as it withstands the ravages of wind-induced pressure, vessel righting moment, and harassment from sunlight, chafe, atmospheric deposition, and other deteriorating effects. Practical Sailor toured sailmaking facilities and talked to several pros in the know to find out what sail materials are best suited for cruising, racing, and passagemaking. While cotton cloth lies well astern as a sail material, Dacron—which has been powering boats for five decades—has yet to be relegated to the junk pile. However, those willing to pay more to optimize performance have a wide range of just-out-of-the-lab, high-modulus material options to choose from, including high-modulus materials like Kevlar, Spectra, carbon, Vectran, North Sails’s Cuben Fiber that are strung into high-end sails in much the same way that carbon fiber is used in a hull skin.

Real Kids’ Sunglasses

Subscribers Only Only a few sunglasses manufacturers featured in last summer’s test (July 2009) offer children’s sunglasses, and those shades are usually just scaled down versions of the adult kind. After experimenting with several different styles for kids ages 3-13, we found that the younger children, ages 7 and under, were a tough bunch to fit. Harder still were kids ages 3 and under. Uncomfortable ear pieces were a common complaint.

Salus PFD Fits Infants Less Than 20 Pounds

Subscribers Only In October 2006, Practical Sailor tested infant’s life jackets and our top pick was MTI Adventurewear’s Bay Bee 201-I, one of the few jackets we looked at that met our chief criteria for an infant life vest: flotation that turned the infant face up and kept his head well above water, comfortable snug fit, easy donning, and a wide grab strap near the top that allowed someone to easily lift the child from the water or dinghy.

A Year Later: Liquid Wax Test Results 2010

Subscribers Only Gelcoat, particularly porous gelcoat, requires a more specialized wax than what you’d use on your car. And while most of the liquid waxes we tested are liquid polymers designed specifically for gelcoat surfaces, we also tested some automotive waxes to see how they’d fare against the best marine waxes. These test products are designed to be the final layer of hull protection applied to a new boat or to a boat with oxidized gelcoat that has been thoroughly compounded and polished to a smooth, shiny finish. We tested liquid waxes from Star brite, Cajun Shine All, Collinite, 3M, Mother’s, Restructure, Interlux, Imar, Nu Finish, Flitz, Yacht Brite, Woody Wax, Marine Shield, Meguiar’s, Flagship, Glare, West Marine, Turtle Wax, Island Girl, MP Pros, and Zaino Brothers.

The Best Sailing Gear of 2010

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor offers the annual selection of Editor’s Choice products for the Gear of the Year 2010 lineup. We hope the list will guide you through the dizzying array of gear at the fall boat shows, or at least help you whittle down your wishlist for Santa. The roster covers a broad spectrum of products—from gadgets for measuring speed to a performance multihull built for speed—that have bested their peers in our tests. The lineup includes gear from Spinlock, Brion Toss, Lopolight, Selden Mast, DuBarry, Keen, Standard Horizon, and Mastervolt. It covers LED navigation lights, bosun chairs, footwear for sailors, and marine electronics. Boat maintenance products from Polymarine and Interlux also made the list.

Mailport: September 2010

Letters to Practical Sailor from our readers. September 2010's topics include barnacles, teak finish, knots for a bosun chair and LEDs.

Whirring Wizards of the Bilge

Subscribers Only The rhumb line route from Rabaul, New Britain, to Guam is about 1,300 miles. Most of the year, the passage leads you through the doldrums, then puts you hard on a starboard tack, clawing against the prevailing northeasterlies, then creeping northwest through typhoon alley. If you’re in a heavily laden, gaff-rigged boat that tacks through 116 degrees and close reaches at the breakneck speed of 4.6 knots, it seems more like 10,000 miles.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Calling Mayday on an SSB

by Darrell Nicholson on 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.

Read More

Reader Questionnaire

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