January 2012

Traction in Action: PS Tests DIY Nonskid Options

Subscribers Only Boat owners looking to put some stick back into a slip-and-slide deck have a few options: apply a deck paint with a nonskid additive or glue sections of specialized nonskid mat to the deck. Choosing which type of nonskid is the right one for your boat makeover is a balancing act between aesthetic taste, traction needs, and budget. Practical Sailor tested 11 commercially available nonskid options that the average boat owner can easily apply: one paint with no filler media, five paints ready mixed with nonskid compounds, three nonskid additives that testers mixed with two-part topside paints, and two nonskid mats (one is self-adhesive, and one is glued on with an epoxy). All of the products can be applied to fiberglass, wood, or metal. Manufacturers included Pettit (Kop- Coat), Epifanes, AkzoNobel (Interlux and Awlgrip), West Marine, Pachena (KiwiGrip), Durabak, Tiflex (Treadmaster), and SeaDek. Using some creative bench tests, we evaluated how much traction, grip, and drag resistance each offered; we also rated how easy the products were to apply, how uniform the grit was, and how easy they were to clean.

Slippin' and Slidin

Subscribers Only A good DIY nonskid offers effective traction (obviously) and is easy to apply, easy to clean, durable, and gentle enough on knees and elbows that a foredeck monkey won’t leave blood stains behind. Testers focused on these criteria during bench testing, and when considering final ratings, we weighed the results according to their importance. For example, a product that had great grip but was hard to clean rated better overall than one that was easy to clean but offered no traction. This was a fairly close race, so we used a plus-minus system in the ratings (see accompanying Value Guide)—something we don’t often do—as every point mattered.

Testers Search for an All-star LED Spotlight

Testers were impressed by the three single-LED spotlights, from left, Streamlight Waypoint, Streamlight Vulcan, and Coleman CPX 6.

Subscribers Only With numerous types of spotlights flooding the market, Practical Sailor testers narrowed the test field to seven LED spotlights from manufacturers that have done well in our past tests: West Marine, Sirius, Coleman, Brinkmann, and Streamlight. Prices ranged from $50 to $150, and all but one test light had a rechargeable battery. The evaluation focused on several key criteria in choosing the best spotlight: ergonomics, beam pattern, beam luminance, beam effectiveness at a distance, and service time (how long to half strength and how long to recharge).

Testers Check Beam Patterns and Illumination

Multi-LED spots varied significantly in size, from left: West Marine SuperSpot, Brinkmann Q-Beam, Coleman (4351-700), and Cyclops.

Testers evaluated a number of spotlight features. Although some points such as ergonomics involved a small degree of subjectivity, features such as brightness carried much heavier weighting in the final ratings. Here is what we looked at: Ergonomics. Some models merely have an on–off switch; others add one or two controls to change power, or activate a strobe feature, or turn on a red beam. There were, however, as many configurations of use and meaning of the switches as there were spotlights. Testers concentrated on how these are used: Is one–hand operation possible? Are the controls logically placed? Do they snap into position, providing satisfying feedback? Can the light be turned on by accident, possibly leading to a depleted battery?

Practical Sailor Reviews Iridium and Inmarsat Satphones

This screen shot taken from AGI Viewer 9 software used to track satellites shows the orbits of the current Iridium constellation, along with debris (represented as dots) from a collision between Iridium 33 and the Russian satellite Cosmos 2251 in 2009.

Subscribers Only If you are considering buying a satellite phone, much depends on how long you will need it, how you will use it, where you are going and what your cost limitations are. As with cell phones and other communication services, total costs can get complicated with setup charges, access fees, service plans, features packages, and air time bundles. Today’s satphones offer cruising sailors the peace of mind to keep in touch with the office, family, and friends with a private conversation while anywhere on the high seas and open ocean. Practical Sailor looked into the availability, features, functions, limitations, and pricing of the handheld portable satellite phones on the market today. We reviewed the Iridium 9555, Iridium 9575, and Inmarsat Isatphone Pro.

What’s In the Practical Sailor Toolbag?

Formerly the manager of a full-service boat yard, Practical Sailor Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo offers a survey of the tools he can’t live without. His toolbag is chocked full, and a peek inside finds saws, trimmers, planers, grinders, belt sanders, multi-tasking power tools, and drivers. His tool inventory—comprising top-of-the-line power tools and tried-and-proven devices, is one that enables him to handle most any boat project. If you’re looking to fill in you’re the gaps in your tool lineup or to stock your workshop, be sure to check out this special report.

Recommended Winter Reading

As we ease into 2012—the Year of the Dragon—we’ve rounded up some winter reads from dragons in the sailing and writing communities. Offshore voyager and Practical Sailor contributor Ed Mapes, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael D’Antonio, and bluewater sailor Charles Doane have recently published new titles, and sailing journalist Herb McCormick has two new books out. Professional meteorologist Alan Watts recently added to his stockpile of weather books, and Laura Hillenbrand’s latest bestselling non-fiction book, “Unbroken,” has already been optioned for a movie. We’ve also included Yan Martel’s “Life of Pi” for this year’s picks for off-season reads because a movie based on the book is due out later this year—if you haven’t already, we suggest reading it before the movie launches. And the children’s adventure tale, “The Lion’s Paw” by Rob White is a must-have for those with young sailor’s on their crew. Enjoy!

Sea Flush Eases Winter Woes

The Sea Flush in action: The insert enables hands-free hose-clearing with a shop vac (top photo), and the reservoir allows users to empty an upended jug of antifreeze into the cooling circuit.

Subscribers Only For those in colder climes, the only drag bigger than the end of the sailing season is the need to winterize engines, generators, and air-conditioning units in preparation for their long winter’s nap. Wandering the docks at the 2011 Annapolis Boat Show, we came across the Sea Flush, a new product designed to make the process relatively painless, eliminating the struggle to pull a cooling-system hose end or installing a “Y” valve in order to flush and winterize “raw water” cooling systems or the open side of a closed cooling system.

Mailport: January 2012

Reader Tim Stone was racing this Pearson 30 in some stiff weather when a chainplate (inset) failed, dropping the mast and forestay.

Letters to Practical Sailor, January 2012. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Flare disposal, Chainplate failures, MOB Pole storage and more!

Orion Replacing Potentially Faulty Flares

In the wake of “repeated product failures,” Orion Safety Products has instituted a replacement program for older XLT flares and 12-gauge signal systems that some boaters may still have in their emergency kits. According to the company, some XLT and 12-gauge signals made before October 2008—when the designs were revamped—have failed to launch or to ignite.

Where Credit is Due: January 2012

Reader Matt Kling’s Beneteau 361, Luftig, lies at anchor alongside sistership Arthur off the Washington coast.

Letters to Practical Sailor, January 2012. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Shurflo, Ronstan, and Keen Footwear

Bottom Paint Stripping

Readers Joan Hildal and Ken Church are sailing their 50-foot Privilege cat, Dancing Walrus, around the world.

Although we’ve tackled our share of varnish with a heat gun and scraper, we’ve never used them to strip bottom paint. The obvious concerns would be marring the gelcoat and the noxious fumes created by heating paint solvents and active ingredients. Our first choice for removing antifouling would be sodablasting (PS, October 2011), but as that’s not an option for you, we’d consider chemical stripping (PS, April 2008 and March 2009), wet-sanding, or vacuum sanding.

Bold Predictions from Charlie the Tetra

Highlights from 2011 here at Practical Sailor included the long-awaited debut of the new website, with 13 years of archives now open to subscribers. And then there were the downers: Scrap metal scavengers ran (limped?) off with the 600-pound keel for Jelly, the Catalina 22 that is the focus of our excruciatingly slow-moving boat restoration project. Then, the over-enthusiastic workers hired to clean up our workshop property mistook our elegant wood-coatings test rack for scrap. Straight into the dumpster. So itís back to square one on wood coatings, and dear Jelly is now a boat in search of a keel.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Decontaminating a Tainted Water Tank

by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye on May 26, 2015

Those of you who missed Practical Sailor's report on how a weak winterizing solution can create a Sandals Beach Resort for waterborne bacteria may be noticing a pungent odor coming from your galley tap. Regardless of the cause of your onboard water woes, our favorite chemist-sailor Drew Frye offers a series of simple steps to decontaminate that tainted water tank.

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Reader Questionnaire

Which of the following best describes your approach to bottom paint?
I choose my own paint, but I let a professional apply (521 votes)


I let a professional apply the paint that he (or boatyard) recommends. (329 votes)


I choose my own paint and I apply it. (1639 votes)


I apply paint that a local professional or boatyard recommends. (254 votes)