June 2013

Mainsheet Tackle Bench Test

The test field included eight 4:1 mainsheet tackle systems from well-known marine-hardware manufacturers.

Stroll through your local marina, and you’ll likely see plenty of resurrected, vintage sailboats sporting fresh paint and new rigging, but all too often, antique mainsheet blocks have somehow escaped the upgrade. Part of the reason for this oversight is that the sheaves get only an occasional, no-load test spin, and all but the most severely deteriorated pass the scrutiny. A mainsheet tackle upgrade can be a relatively inexpensive investment that pays high dividends in improved sail efficiency. Practical Sailor tested eight 4:1 mainsheet tackle systems sized for 20- to 30-foot sailboats to find out which is the best. The test field included fiddle blocks and fiddle blocks with cams from Antal, Garhauer, Harken, Ronstan, and Selden.

Kids’ Life Jackets for Active Sailors

Our group of male testers, ages 5 to 12, weighed between 50 and 135 pounds. Body types ranged from husky to rail thin.

Subscribers Only For this test, we rounded up six high-performance, U.S. Coast Guard certified Type III personal flotation devices (PFDs) designed for children (50 to 90 pounds) participating in active sailing and other watersports. The test lineup comprised life jackets from five manufacturers: Astral Designs, Extrasport, Gill, MTI Adventurewear, and Stohlquist. Testers rated the PFDs on fit (in and out of the water), buoyancy, comfort, ease of donning and doffing, and safety features like crotch straps and whistles.

Dehumidifier Field Tests

Once boats are buttoned up in humid climates, the battle against mildew begins. Keeping humidity below 65 percent is adequate. (Photo courtesy of Mahina Expeditions, www.mahina.com)

When boats are buttoned up in humid climates, the battle against mildew begins. With the goal of keeping onboard humidity below 65 percent, we compared compressor dehumidifiers and thermo-electric dehumidifiers, two “active” systems for removing moisture, with passive-drying desiccants to determine which is best for keeping mildew at bay. The test products included the Eva-Dry 2000, a small, quiet thermo-electric dehumidifier; two compressor dehumidifiers, the Mermaid Dry-Pal and a Sears 30-pint; and two desiccants we’ve tested before, Damp Rid and Absorbag. The test platforms were an outside garden shed and a 32-foot catamaran moored on the Chesapeake.

Practical Tips for Survival at Sea

Boarding a life raft is not as easy as it looks, especially in the middle of a storm or emergency. Proper storm prep includes practicing getting into a raft from the boat’s deck or the water. Familiarize yourself with the boarding and inflation methods. (Photos by Ralph Naranjo and courtesy of Michael Tougias.)

In the course of writing five books about accidents and survival at sea, Michael Tougias interviewed many survivors who shared with him the things they would have done differently, as well as what helped them survive. They did this to help prevent accidents and to help those who find themselves in trouble. Their tips and insights include decisions taken before the trip, actions taken when disaster strikes, and choices made during search and rescue. Add their insights to your survival-at-sea arsenal.

Shockles Snubber Test

We tested the Shockles to a maximum extension of 42 inches at a load of just over 600 pounds (274 kilograms).

Subscribers Only The string of anchor tests we’ve carried out in the last year presented a good opportunity for us to also test an anchor accessory: the Shockles anchor snubber. Makers claim it helps your anchor stay set by reducing the constant shock loads during strong winds or in rough seas. We did some real-world testing aboard a 6-ton Lightwave 38 catamaran in a range of conditions and anchorages, and we also bench-tested the snubber, using a load cell and chain winch.

Summer Sailing Gear

The Tower Adventurer is stable and packs into a 36-inch by 12-inch roll.

Summer’s warm breezes and lazy weekends have arrived, so PS testers have put together a lineup of cool toys and tools for the dog days. Tower Adventurer Inflatable Standup Paddleboard: Inflatable SUPs are sprouting up everywhere on the Internet; many boards are identical, made by different brands at the same factories in China. Quality varies. Generally, boards 6 inches or thicker offer better stiffness and stability, making them easier to ride.

Anti-Mildew Weapons

I was wondering whether you might have any comments on using bottom paint on the boat’s interior to help fight mold and mildew. Many bottom paints are ineffective out of the water, but I was wondering whether some of the new eco-friendly paints might prove to be a new weapon in the fight to work less and play more.

Mailport: June 2013

How thick is too thick for the buildup of old layers of bottom paint? This question arises because I have just finished painting the bottom of my boat. Even though I diligently sought out potential flaking spots with my knife, while rolling on the paint (Pettit Ultima Eco), I would frequently get a mess caused by the paint flaking off. I have only owned this boat for three years, so I really do not know how many layers there are.

Where Credit Is Due: May 2013

Subscribers Only Two years ago, I replaced my incandescent stern light with a “waterproof,” sealed LED unit from OGM (www.miseagroup.com). This winter, while the boat was on the hard, I noticed that the seal had failed and drops of water fogged the lens. Although the LED continued to work, I was concerned that the moisture would reduce the visibility, or that the light would fail when I needed it most.

The Science of Safety

The calm days of summer make it easy to forget the inherent risks of sailing.

We got some heartbreaking news just before this issue was on its way to the printer: On May 9, British Olympic sailing medalist Andrew Simpson died when Sweden’s America’s Cup boat, Artemis, pitchpoled and broke apart during a windy sail on San Francisco Bay. Simpson, who joined the team as a strategist in February, was apparently pinned under the wreckage of the 72-foot catamaran. The tragedy casts a pall over the America’s Cup series set for this summer.

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)