August 2013

Multihulls for the Masses

The Hobie Getaway 17 epitomizes the advantages of a beach-launching cat—a fun-per-dollar ratio that is hard to beat.

Subscribers Only With the America’s Cup immersed in multihull-mania and brimming with a controversy over the safety implications of too much speed, we decided to take a look at performance multihulls for recreational sailors. We split the test field into the latest iteration of beach-launching cats and tris, and a second fleet of trailerable multihulls. The boat test compared the Hobie Getaway, Windrider 17, Weta 14, Searail 19, Corsair Sprint 750 MkII, Motive 25R, and a proa kit boat from Chesapeake Light Craft.

Spreader Light Test

Subscribers Only Sailors often have a love-hate relationship with spreader lights. They can turn a dark deck into broad daylight, making foredeck tasks much easier, but the downside is the pitch-black abyss that extends beyond the deck. Testers reviewed 10 LED and xenon lights designed for mast, deck, and spreader mounting. We considered useful light output, power draw, durability, and price. The test field included lights from Dr. LED, Forespar, Hella, Scandvik, and Signal Mate.

Keep Your Lid On

Subscribers Only What’s the best sailing hat? Testers set out to find a wide-brimmed sailing hat that offers lots of sun protection, even in a blow, and is breathable, lightweight, and durable. The review included 14 hats from Tilley, Columbia, Sunday Afternoons, Outdoor Research, and Gill.

Diesel Additives

Whether by condensation, through a deck fill leak, or contamination at the fuel dock, water inevitably finds its way into our diesel tank. How much damage it does over time depends on our tank’s design, material, and maintenance regimen. Can fuel additives help? We tested seven diesel additives to determine which is the best at battling tank corrosion: Hammonds Biobor JF, Valvtect Bioguard, Fuel Right, Stanadyne, Sta-Bil Diesel, Star brite Star Tron Enzyme, and Sea Foam.

Weather4D iPad App Review

Subscribers Only As a followup to our April 2012 report on useful iPad apps for sailors, we recently sea-trialed the new Weather4D app, comparing it to the older WeatherTrack app. Both enable users to view GRIB weather files, but which one does it the best and which one offers the best value?

Nautilus Lifeline VHF

During our recent test of man-overboard electronics (PS, May 2013)—alarms, beacons, and self-rescue devices—we came across a rescue communication product that’s been making waves in the diving community: the Nautilus Lifeline marine rescue radio. Being lost at sea is one of the fears that divers and sailors share—remember the 2004 movie, “Open Water”? The Nautilus Lifeline is a handheld VHF radio that has GPS and DSC capabilities.

Quatix Superwatch

There is no shortage of sailing watches on the market, and we’ve reviewed our fair share. So when Garmin released its first mariner-specific GPS watch, we were interested to see what features, if any, set it apart from the crowd. After nearly six months of testing Garmin’s Quatix watch on and off the water, we can report that it is not your ordinary sailing watch. It bundles multiple miniature marine electronics into one small, impressive, hands-free package that is made to withstand life at sea.

Silencing The Iron Genny

I really need to reduce the noise of our engine. Everyone seems to want to “line” the engine box to dampen noise. That scenario in my situation would be difficult as there is little space to line the interior of the box around the engine. I could line the outside of the engine box. Is this an adequate scenario? Has anyone determined whether this will have the same sound-insulating results?

Where Credit Is Due: August 2013

Subscribers Only Two years ago, I purchased a Water Witch bilge pump switch. When it developed a glitch, I called Kathleen at Water Witch Inc.’s San Diego office (www.waterwitchinc.com). She asked me a couple of questions, then assured me the replacement part would be shipped the following day. It was, followed by an email saying it had shipped. It arrived 10 days later (international), complete with a personal note. Does it better than this? I think not.

Mailport: August 2013

On strolling through Port Townsend (Wash.) Boat Haven, while I was having some work done on my boat, I saw this boat (photo at right) and the owner’s attitude written on a sign in front of the boat. It reminded me of your June 18, 2013 blog, “Don’t Let Refit Pitfalls Derail Your Cruising Plans.”

Seeing the Light on Night Vision

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the desert at night and reflected upon how much the wide expanses of sand and rock in the American Southwest resemble the sea—especially after the sun has set. Away from the loom of the lights of Moab, Utah, my wife and I stood in an empty parking lot looking to the east, where the pyramid peaks of the La Sal mountains were silhouetted by the light of the full moon, still invisible below the horizon. We’d arrived to Arches National Park at night, driving through the blackness, following our headlights to the third or fourth pullout on the winding road into the park. We missed the sign identifying the pullout, so the geographical feature that the viewpoint was meant to serve remained a mystery.

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.

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