February 2014

Testing Top-down Furlers

Subscribers Only Top-down furlers have proven to be a legitimate means of taking the drama out of spinnaker setting and dousing, and they represent a new breed of hardware that’s carefully designed and manufactured to be durable for the long haul. In Part I (PS, January 2014) of this two-part report, we introduced five top-down furlers, detailed how they work, and made a good case for their use. In this article, Part 2 of the series, we’ll take a closer at the furlers and the results of on-the-water and bench tests. Spinnaker furling systems we tested were made by Colligo, Karver, Profurl, Ronstan, and Selden.

Reader Experiences with Top-down Furlers

Subscribers Only Following the publication of Part 1 of this report, we heard from several readers about their experiences with top-down furlers. Here are a few of their comments.

Keeping Canvas in Tip-top Shape

Practical Sailor’s canvas-treatment panel test (above left) narrowed the field down to four finalists that advanced to on-the-boat testing (above right). Testers were careful not to cross-contaminate the test panels with spray from other products.

Subscribers Only Canvas dodgers and biminis are the hallmark of a cruising yacht, but they aren’t cheap to come by. We wanted to find the best way to protect the investment and get the most life out of the canvas. Sunbrella makers recommend that routine maintenance include frequent freshwater rinsing, plus spot cleaning, and applying a treatment to restore the fabric’s repellency. In this article, we take a look at treatments designed to keep on-board canvas water repellent and looking its best. We tested seven: Aquatech, Marykate, 3M, 303 Products, NikWax, Star brite, and Iosso.

Anchor Rode Report

This test anchor, a 35-pound Mantus, was painted yellow for better visibility. The test wire (recycled lifeline wire) and chain rodes stand ready to be deployed. If cable were ever to make it into the realm of anchor rodes, swaged terminal fittings would be a poor choice, given their susceptibility to crevice corrosion. Stainless steel, in general, is not a good choice for anchor-rode components.

Subscribers Only In our continuous research of ground tackle, we noticed that large oil rigs are often anchored into place with a spider web of stranded wire—or in some cases, Dyneema, a low-stretch, high-strength synthetic fiber. We wondered whether Dyneema or a wire cable might have some application in recreational sailboat anchoring, and we launched field tests to find out. These tests also looked at how changing the diameter of your anchor chain affects anchor performance.

Rodes Tested from Shore and Catamaran

Like similar concave anchors that we have tested, the Mantus picked up a fair amount of mud during testing.

Subscribers Only Our test anchors included a small, 11-pound Spade anchor, which we set using a chain winch off a beach in Pittwater, Australia. We set the anchors using two different rodes: 30 feet of 5/32-inch stainless wire strop that we fabricated using old lifelines and 33 feet of quarter-inch, short-link BBB chain. We extended each rode with 5/16-inch chain and aimed for length-to-depth ratio of a 5-to-1.

Mantus Upgrades to a Stronger Shank

Subscribers Only Late last year, we had our first look at the bolt-together Mantus anchor. Although we liked the design, and prices were favorable (around $330 for a 35-pounder), we raised concerns about the shank strength, which by our estimation was the weakest of all anchors of a similar design.

Comparing Medivac Services

Members of the all-volunteer VISAR (Virgin Islands Search and Rescue) team practice transporting an injured sailor. While an air-ambulance service can provide peace of mind, everyone on board a cruising boat should have basic first-aid training.

If your cruising plans include bluewater voyaging or sailing to the far-reaches of the world, then packing a first-aid kit and getting travel insurance may not be enough. Should you contract a company that offers tele-medical advice, air-ambulance, and remote evacuation contract services? To help you decide, Practical Sailor submitted questionaires to three medivac companies—Global Rescue, International SOS, and Remote Medical International—to find out what services are available and how to decide which suits your needs.

The SPOT Sat Phone

SOS buttons and two-way texting are handy, but nothing beats being able to actually speak with someone in the event of an emergency. This is the great appeal of owning a satellite phone, but the prices of both sat phones and service plans have stubbornly remained above the pain threshold most sailors are willing to bear, even though they’ve certainly become more affordable over the last decade.

Tankless Gas Water Heaters

Tankless propane water heaters carry serious risk of causing carbon-monoxide poisoning or oxygen depletion when mounted in a tight or sealed space. Because a boat is more tightly sealed than a shoreside home, the carbon monoxide is more likely to become trapped. Multiple boater deaths have been attributed to tankless water heaters, and several brands have been recalled over the years—among them Wolter Water Heater, Paloma, and Rheem-Rudd—because they posed a carbon-monoxide poisoning hazard.

Mailport: February 2014

The magnetism test that reader Ed Carter refers to in his Mailport letter was only part of the hose clamp test. A series of bench tests also determined the corrosion resistance (left), clamps thickness, and compression ability.

Sailboats have a bit of advantage over their power cousins in that we have more high spots that can be used creatively. In my installation, the diesel vent line (fuel-grade hose) loops high inside at the transom and back down to the through-hull. Through the use of a check valve, air flows out, but intake air comes in through the AVD, which is attached to the underside of the deck; no additional support needed. The unit is readily available for inspection or replacement through the transom locker, and it is not in the way of any equipment that needs to go in or out. Love the H2Out AVD2 vent filter; kudos to Pindell Engineering.

PropSpeed in the Field

Mahina Expeditions' Capt. John Neal shows off how well his year-old PropSpeed coating has held up. Neal said coating his MaxProp with PropSpeed has saved him numerous hours of prop-scrubbing since it was applied.

We first reported on PropSpeed (www.propspeed.com)—an expensive two-part etching primer with a silicone-based top coat designed to prevent propeller fouling by being super slick—in the November 2006 issue and gave an update on our field tests in the July 2010 issue. A recent field report from PS contributor and bluewater voyager Capt. John Neal of Mahina Expeditions (www.mahina.com) confirmed our past findings: While the coating is intact, PropSpeed works. However, we've had mixed reader and…

Where Credit Is Due: February 2014

PS readers already know MacENC (PS, July 2013) is a good charting program. I recently experienced terrific customer service from the company. I used MacEnc (www.gpsnavx.com/macenc/) as my backup chartplotting software on a trip to Bermuda in 2007. A month ago, preparing for another offshore trip, I emailed their customer service, asking whether I could update the program and transfer it to a newer laptop.

Father and Son Sail

Feeding pelicans mark the end of another winter day in Florida.

The boy’s father was at the helm—though you wouldn’t know it at first glance. He sat to the side of his son with his hand casually nudging the spoke around seven o’clock, so his son wouldn’t notice. The boy stood rigid behind the wheel, both hands tightly wrapped at 10 and 12. He stared straight ahead with curious, excited eyes that rarely fixed on one object or person for very long. A bird. A channel marker. The sky.

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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