September 2012

Practical Sailor’s Picks for Best Sailing Gear of 2012

The Raymarine e7D (right), tested here against the Garmin 740s (left), earned the Practical Sailor Editors’ Choice award as the compact chartplotter-sounder pick.

Subscribers Only Of the dozens and dozens of sailing products Practical Sailor tested between September 2011 and August 2012, only 18 earned the designation as 2012 Editors’ Choice gear. These are marine products that clearly stood out among their peers during our independent tests as the best in their category—marine maintenance, marine electronics, sailing apparel, personal gear, etc.—and whose performance earned the confidence of Practical Sailor’s editors. A hybrid touchscreen multi-function display that can link with your iPhone; an iPad app that can serve as a backup for your chartplotter; a powerful, rechargeable LED spotlight that floats; an affordable vent filter that eats up holding tank odor; and a single-part varnish that retains a mirror-like gloss for more than a year—these are just some of the picks for the year’s best sailing gear.

PS Boat Review: Island Packet Estero

Subscribers Only Florida-based Island Packet targets a relatively narrow niche, so the toughest competitors to its new boats are often older Island Packets. Introduced in 2010, the 36-foot, shoal-draft Estero is the company’s latest attempt to introduce a distinctive model that doesn’t stray too far from the company’s proven formula for success: moderate displacement, full-keel cruisers designed to be lived on, sailed far and in comfort, and endure the bumps, scrapes, and storms that cruising boats inevitably encounter. After sailing the Estero on Florida’s Sarasota Bay and inspecting its interior, construction, and systems, Practical Sailor testers noted that the shoal-water cruiser will appeal strongest to Island Packet fans who’ve been waiting for a shoal-draft, easy-to-sail boat that compares to the IP37 in terms of interior space. These strengths will be most apparent on intracoastal or riverine adventures like the Great Loop.

Estero’s solid FRP hull, balsa-free deck is built to last

The Estero features a solid mahogany and oak sole—not veneer.

Subscribers Only Island Packet Yachts has been building cruising boats for over 32 years. It builds five different hull designs—about 80 boats per year—to American Boat and Yacht Council and European Category A (offshore) standards.

Navisafe’s Handy ‘Mini’ LED Light

Subscribers Only Specializing in lighting for nautical and other outdoor activities, Norway-based Navisafe’s products include the U.S. Coast Guard-certified Navi light 360, Practical Sailor’s Recommended small-boat rail light (PS, May 2011), and now, the Navi light Mini.

Seeing Under the Sea

The AquaLens streams real-time video to a small LCD screen worn on the user’s forearm.

Subscribers Only Ever wish you had X-ray vision and could see under the water—without going for a swim—to check the anchor or prop, or to inspect your hull? Well, Aquabotix Technology Corp. developed a product with the goal of giving you that power—at least a limited version of it.

Thermos Thermal Cooker Review

The 4.5-liter Thermos Shuttle Chef comes with an inner saucepan and has an optional steamer basket. To its right is the 1.5-liter model.

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor contributor Jonathan Neeves—a bluewater cruiser living aboard his Lightwave 38 catamaran in Australia—has used thermal cookers for 30 years and says that he would never sail without one. In this article, Neeves reviews the Thermos-brand thermal cookers that he uses on board for cooking stews, casseroles, soups, desserts, and other dishes. The thermal cooker is a large, stainless vacuum flask containing one or two fitted saucepans. The insulation traps the heat in the food and uses it as the heat source for cooking the dishes. Using thermal cooker saves cooking-fuel (or power) and allows sailors to safely cook a meal while underway—without constant stovetending or worry over spilled pots—even in foul weather, when slaving over a galley stove can prove challenging and dangerous.

Long-term Test Evaluates Synthetic Lifelines

Although some class rules allow crew to hang outside the lifelines, this practice challenges the structure of the lifeline system and jeopardizes the crew.

Sailboat lifelines have jumped back into the spotlight thanks to a growing acceptance of—and some controversy over—high-modulus rope like Dyneema and Spectra being used as an alternative to stainless steel. These high molecular weight polyethylene (HMPE) ropes are as strong as stainless-steel wire of equal diameter, yet they weigh far less. To determine whether the synthetic lifelines are practical for cruising applications, Practical Sailor launched a longterm, in-depth set of seatrials (linked with lab testing at the U.S. Naval Academy) aboard an Ericson 41. The evaluation compares several options and their installation, durability, and cost.

USNA Lifeline Test Reveals Weak Spots

Stanchions bent and pulpits bowed during lifeline load testing at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Subscribers Only During the time PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo worked as the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, he organized a research project that was carried out by first-class midshipmen (seniors) in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The goal was to design a steel box beam jig replicating the perimeter of a Navy 44.

Remote VHF Mics Test

The test field comprised six waterproof remote microphones of similar size and function. Only one is a wireless model.

Subscribers Only Remote microphones for fixed VHF radios are great tools for both coastal and bluewater sailors, but they can be essential for shorthanded crews. Practical Sailor rounded up and tested six units, each designed to work with two or more compatible, fixed-mount marine VHF radios. The test field included the latest wired and wireless remote mics from Icom, Standard Horizon, Raymarine, and Garmin. To select the best VHF remote mic, testers considered performance, audio systems quality, user-friendliness, features, durability, and ruggedness.

Ocean Tested: Rock-climbing Gear

Subscribers Only In this “Ocean Tested” report, PS contributor Drew Frye, an avid sailor and rock climber, makes the case for using recreational climbing gear in marine applications. He’s had over 20 years of experience with the climbing products—aluminum carabiners, bolt hangers, climbing slings, etc.—in all sorts of marine applications and has found that the crossover gear can save money while doing double duty. His report offers an overview of the gear and its potential uses onboard, as well as tips on where to find it.

Mailport: September 2012

Reader Jack Valdouw was disappointed in the performance of his antifouling. Above is his Downeaster 38 with a fresh bottom job. At right, the hull and prop after 2½ months.

Letters to Practical Sailor, September 2012. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Bottom Paint Woes, Measuring Epoxy Success, Fleet Tracking Apps, and more!

Standard Horizon GX1700 Requires Firmware Update

Subscribers Only If you purchased a Standard Horizon GX1700 VHF with GPS (PS Best Choice, June 2012) before mid-July 2012, it likely is in need of a firmware update. A bug in the original programming made it nearly impossible to save a waypoint using the Mark Position function.

Where Credit is Due: September 2012

Letters to Practical Sailor, September 2012. This month's letters cover topics such as: Marina in westBrook, Polyform, Questus Marine, and more!

A Boat Buyer’s Recourse

PS tester and SAMS-certified surveyor Capt. Frank Lanier inspects a 1903 Friendship sloop.

The AC pump passed inspection, but it never turned on again. Then there was the leaking diesel fuel. The previous owner had added see-through, 30-micron filters where the fuel exited the tank because the metal ones at the engine are hard to reach and inspect. I have since learned that this type of filter is sure to leak, as diesel will soften the plastic housing. I am told that the Coast Guard will hammer you if they find them installed.

Settling the Keel-shape Debate

With the Intracoastal Waterway shoaling getting worse each year, its no wonder that we’re seeing a flurry of shallow-water cruisers. Recent debuts include Rod Johnstone’s J/95 (PS, August 2010) and Rodger Martin’s Presto (PS June 2011), both centerboarders. This month, we look at another shoal-draft cruiser, the Island Packet Estero, a 36-footer with a full keel.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Pocket Cruisers Unite!

by Darrell Nicholson on December 16, 2014

Anytime you talk about pocket cruisers you have to clarify what you mean, for the term is loosely applied to a wide range of small boats, some with very little in common besides displacement. Size is certainly a factor, but size is relative. I’ve seen 26-feet length overall (LOA) being a commonly cited as the upper limit for the “pocket” appellation, and that seems about right, although a few decades ago a 26-foot sailboat was called something else—a yacht.

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