May 2014

Imtra, Hella Dome Lights Shine

Practical Sailor testers used multiple light sensors and meters to evaluate each LED light’s performance and efficiency.

Subscribers Only In our previous cabin light reviews (PS, May 2010 and January 2009), the transition from incandescent lighting to fluorescent and finally to LED was favorably noted. Since then, the evolution has turned into a solid-state revolution, and LEDs bolstered by dimmers, touch switches, and watertight seals now own the show. And a clean-sweep conversion to LED cabin lighting can knock out the grotto-like ambiance that haunts many sailboat interiors. Often, it’s not a problem of having too few lights; it’s an energy shortfall revolving around too few amperes to spare. An LED makeover is also an opportunity to illuminate the lockers, engine room, and other cave-like confines that cause you to reach for a flashlight and wish for an extra hand to hold it. Not only is the timing right to tap into a new genre of energy-efficient lights, but the product range and pricing offer a gameplan for every budget.

Where to Steer, Eat, Anchor on the ICW

Testers navigate the Dismal Swamp, Va., during a months-long ICW cruise and field test of various cruising, anchoring, marina, and navigation guides.

Subscribers Only Most sailors find entering a new anchorage or harbor after a long day on the ICW an adventure. However exciting it may be, most of us also find that it carries a considerable amount of stress, particularly if entering in fading daylight or deteriorating weather. Not only do you have to contend with navigational issues, but there are other burning questions like where’s the best place to anchor; where can I get supplies or fuel; is tonight “all you can eat ribs” at Hawg Heaven Restaurant; or is there a dinghy dock nearby? To help you navigate all these questions and concerns—not to mention the unknown waterway—you need a good ICW guide that has all the facts, figures, and the right array of local knowledge.

‘Doin’ the Ditch,’ Frank style

Tester Frank Lanier highlighted important info, like shoal areas, for quick reference during his trip-planning sessions.

Subscribers Only The key to safe, stress-free ICW cruising (or less-stress at least) is proper planning. Get the most up-to-date ICW guidebooks and charts, and study them well in advance. When planning the field-test trip down the ICW for this article, PS tester Capt. Frank Lanier came up with a general timeline and lists of major stops he wanted to make along the way, but he let his day-to-day progress drive his schedule. He always planned out the next day’s run prior to heading out (typically the night before), which also gave him a chance to review the latest weather forecasts and its potential effect on travel plans.

Restoring Clear-vinyl Windows

How’s the view? 1. The clear-vinyl control panel was badly yellowed and too blurry to see through clearly. 2. The EisenShine test panel shows major improvement after it is buffed and polished. 3. A panel of new Regalite 30 vinyl is crystal clear.

Subscribers Only Clear vinyl dodger windows, through which we keep watch, are annoying tattle tales, recording and announcing every bit of rough handling and neglect. They burn in the sun. They bleed plasticizers, turning yellow and sticky. And unlike mildew in the cockpit or an upholstery stain, we can’t simply ignore their flaws by turning our heads.

Restoring Vinyl Windows: DIY or Hire a Pro?

Subscribers Only If your vinyl dodger windows are more than five to seven years old and looking tired but your canvas is still looking good, it’s likely time to breathe some new life into them. Vinyl-window restoration can remove surface oxidation, plasticizer residue, imbedded dirt, scuffs, and very shallow scratches; it also can provide a durable coating to seal the surface, which will be more porous after buffing. Smaller window restorations can be handled by the do-it-yourselfer, but for big—or particularly gnarley—jobs, you may want to consider hiring someone to do it for you.

Wind Systems Part 2: Data Display and User Interface

Practical Sailor tester Bill Bishop wires up the displays for testing. Installation travails varied with the complexity of the system.

Subscribers Only It’s dusk on an overcast, gusty day, and raw data is pouring into your wind display from the masthead, GPS, and the knotlog. Can you clearly see the information on the display, and more importantly, is it meaningful? Can your gloved fingers push the buttons? Can you easily change the way wind data is collected, processed, and displayed so that it best reflects the conditions? These are among the things testers examined for this report, Part 2 of our wind-sensor evaluation, which focused on the display and user interface. In Part 1 (PS, March 2014) we focused on accuracy and durability of the anemometer and vane sensors that feed into the displays.

Standouts from METS

The Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) held annually at the enormous RAI convention center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is the ultimate candy store for nautical gearheads. Divided into 11 pavilions, a seemingly endless grid of aisles, and probably hundreds of thousands of products, it’s overwhelming. Technical representatives from companies around the globe—China, Turkey, New Zealand, Argentina, Italy, Thailand—stand in their booths ready to explain the amazing attributes of their latest products, from deck shoes to gensets, turnbuckles to carbon fibers, life jackets to bow thrusters, windlasses, pumps, portlights … you name it, it’s there.

Mailport: May 2014

In response to your recent blog on removing bottom paint: We totally stripped our 1984 Camper Nicholson 58 in two days. Without a doubt, the best tool in our kit for stripping many layers of bottom paint was a massive linoleum floor scraper. It has one straight blade and one slightly curved. I used the belt sander with 800-grit sandpaper to keep it razor sharp. Sharpening was needed every 5 square feet.

Testing EZ Splice Finds a Knot is a Better Choice

The EZ Splice, above and at right, was a breeze to use, and the resulting splice was consistently neat, but it just couldn’t hold up to the loads that knots can.

Rope splicing is a sailorly art form that has many boaters scared skinny. They haven’t learned the skill, and they fear that using a knot instead displays their ignorance and is perhaps less secure. The EZ Splice (www.ezspliceusa.com) promises a means of splicing a rope in minutes without any special skill. The lines are trimmed to length, inserted into the EZ Splice’s tough plastic housing with just a little tail sticking out, and 12 stainless pins are pounded in with a hammer. We found it to be fast and easy, and the result was a consistently neat splice. But the million-dollar question remained: How secure was it?

Where Credit Is Due: May 2014

While my wife and I have given up sailing, our current boat, a 1998 Eastbay 38, is equipped with a Maxwell Freedom 800 windlass. When preparing the boat for launch this year, I noticed that the sight glass had been splintered. Likely due to a previously broken seal that allowed water into the gearbox and the water freezing during one of the coldest winters in Connecticut in years.

What to Pack in a Ditch Kit?

Any suggested references or sources that I might check for an abandon-ship checklist? It’s not the most pleasant of topics, and I know it will vary from boat to boat, but I would like any information on the basics that should be on any such list. We appreciate any help you might provide.

Share Your Hobie Memories with Us

Capt. Frank Lanier’s Union 36 glides through the Alligator-Pungo Canal in North Carolina. (

When Hobart “Hobie” Alter died at the age of 80 on March 29, I thought about how Hobie Cats touched my life. I grew up just a few miles from Miami’s Hobie Beach, so the boats were a staple of my summers. One sharp impression kept coming back, an afternoon at Magens Bay on St. Thomas, USVI.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Finding the Right Mix of AntiFreeze

by By Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye on July 23, 2014

While the polar vortex was pummeling the northern states last winter (ahhh, remember those days?), Practical Sailor contributor Drew Frye was knee deep in glycol antifreeze and engine coolants. One of the test's most important findings was that how you use antifreeze is as important as what product you use. The only sure way to know how effective your antifreeze will be this winter is to measure the glycol as it comes out the other end of the plumbing. There are a couple ways to do this.

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