December 2012

Topside-Paint Endurance Test 3-Year Checkup

PS wraps up its long-term topside-paint test with a look at the test panels after three years of constant exposure to the elements.

Subscribers Only Our topside-paint test panels have endured three full years of 24/7 exposure to the elements. Testers have regularly scrutinized the paint samples and rated the topside coatings on gloss retention, flow out, scratch resistance, and anti-oxidation ability. In this final round of evaluating, we also compared the panel results with the products’ real-world performances aboard our test boats over the last three-plus years. Top performers in the Practical Sailor tests included one-part urethane paints from Interlux, Epifanes, and Pettit, which all delivered handling convenience and a surprisingly long-lasting finish. The best two-part hull paints offered the most durability; picks in this group included coatings from Awlgrip, Interlux, and Sherwin-Williams, a good choice for the budget conscious boat owner.

Simrad Broadband Radar Comparison

The scanners for the Simrad 4G and 3G test units were mounted 20 feet above water level, forward of the mast.

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor has been following the developments of Simrad’s broadband radar since the BR24’s debut in 2009. Just as we were setting up a 3G BR24 for field testing, Navico (Simrad’s parent company) announced the release of the BR24 4G, which promised greater range and better target resolution at close range. A head-to-head test comparing the 3G and 4G broadband radar was impossible to pass up. Testers also compared the units to traditional pulse radar. Our test location just north of Sydney, Australia, was at the southern end of an ocean anchorage for large commercial vessels, about 600 feet long. Using a Simrad NSS7 for a display, we worked 7 nautical miles offshore to ensure the radar had a good “view” of the ships.

Bags Fit for Life at Sea

Watershed Survival Equipment Bag

Like flares and life jackets, abandon-ship bags are purchased and outfitted with the hope they’ll never be needed. Designed to store and protect emergency supplies—and to keep them readily available—ditch bags allow sailors to supplement the often paltry supplies stored in life rafts.

Last-minute Gift Ideas

Searching for last-minute gifts? Check out this roundup of giftable goodies.

Stopping Holding-tank Odors Part II

The line-up in Round Two from left: Zoal, Happy Camper, Rid-X, Raritan C.P., Odorlos, Raritan KO, and BacTank 3.

Subscribers Only In response to our summer report on chemical treatments for holding tanks, Practical Sailor readers wrote in, suggesting we check out the products that have kept their boats smelling sweet. Our initial look at odor-fighting agents included some disappointing deodorizing products as well as the latest generation of holding tank treatments—those that use enzymes, bacteria nutrients, and live bacteria to kill odors more naturally, and often more effectively. This round, we included additional new-generation products from Happy Camper, Zoal, Bactank T3, Raritan, Forespar, Yara Chemicals, and Rid-X. Once again, the bacterial products were favored over the disinfectants.

Equipping Drones for At-Sea Search and Rescue

The ScanEagle has been used for everything from tracking Somali pirates to assessing flood threats in North Dakota.

The radio crackles with an emergency dispatch: A sailboat is sinking 50 miles east of Cape Hatteras. There’s no EPIRB signal, just a garbled mayday overheard by a commercial ship. The weather is snotty and getting worse. Within minutes, a Jayhawk helicopter and Falcon jet are airborne, roaring toward the search zone, where they’ll meet up with two unmanned drones launched from a cutter on patrol. Sound far fetched? Not really. Early-generation unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) armed with lightweight cameras are already being deployed on limited search missions. Fitted with high-resolution cameras, infrared, and other sensors, the drones cover wide swaths of ocean for up to 20 hours without refueling.

Sailing Shoe Test Update

Subscribers Only Whenever we report on sailing shoes or sandals (PS, Sept 2010, July 2010, June 2007, July 2007, Dec 2007), we get a heap of reader mail with recommendations for grippy, comfortable foot protection fit for sailors. Recently, the top reader-recommended shoes included styles from Crocs and Shoes for Crews. Curious to see whether these would measure up to our sailing-shoe criteria, we rounded up a few models from each maker. We added Adidas’ Boat CC Laces water shoes to the fray since they are the sportswear giant’s first foray into marine footwear. In total, we collected 10 different styles and put them through our standard shoe-test methods.

Mailport: December 2012

We got a half-taste of your Florida hurricanes here in New Jersey. I had my boat hauled out a few days before super-storm Sandy arrived. The yard blocked her with just four jack stands and a bow jack stand. I asked for four more for the hurricane, and they said “no,” so I built my own midship stands for $16! I wanted to share the how-to since they worked so well.

Where Credit is Due: November 2012

My wife and I bought a Vesper Watchmate 850, and after delaying the installation a few months, we finally got it in and powered it up. After it ran fine for several hours, it gave us a Voltage Standing Wave Ratio error. (VSWR is basically an efficiency measurement of the antenna system.) After some troubleshooting, I sent a note to Vesper Marine in New Zealand ( There was a prompt and very thorough reply to all my questions. I had a very informative conversation with Jeff from Vesper, and I tried his troubleshooting suggestions. The problem certainly did appear to be the antenna, but after using another antenna and cable, Jeff said to send him back the unit and they would analyze it to be certain.

Goo vs. Gaskets for Bedding

I am wondering why boat manufacturers use bedding compound instead of gaskets to seal deck hardware and fittings. It seems, at least on my boat, that the bedding compound dries up within a few years, and then the fittings no longer keep out water. Sure, bedding compound is much less expensive, but wouldn’t gaskets a better solution requiring less maintenance?

Farewell, Sandy . . . and Good Riddance

Hurricane Sandy spirals toward the New Jersey coastline on Oct. 28, 2012.

After Typhoon Paka tore through Guam back in 1997, I remember digging through piles of timber, tin-sheet roof, and sailing gear at the storm-ravaged home of Capt. Stan Hall and his gracious wife, Linda, a science teacher. The couple had generously allowed my wife Theresa and I to store our sails and other bulky gear in an outbuilding on their property while we carried out a refit on Tosca. The shed was a complete disaster—roof blown off; stuff piled everywhere. We found some of the lightweight gear, like seat cushions and sails, strung across a barb wire fence far from the Hall’s property. Other possessions, like a weathered life-ring that we had kept more for its sentimental value than for its usefulness, we never found.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

PS Tests and the Death Spiral of Curiosity

by Darrell Nicholson on April 28, 2015

Being blessed with product testers who are passionate about their areas of expertise can be a double-edged sword. Their intense interest means they'll be particularly thorough in their research and testing; but their testing can spiral out of control as fascinating minutiae piques their curiosity. As it turns out, the best cure for a PS tester trapped in this downward "more-research-is-needed" spiral is the imminent approach of sailing season. Spring, therefore, is harvest time for the editors at Practical Sailor—and this spring has been particularly fruitful. Here's a glimpse of what's ahead:

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Reader Questionnaire

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