September 2014

Mainsail Halyard Shackles

Quality halyard shackles must be immune to pin slip, corrosion, and peak tension load distortion.

Subscribers Only A mainsail halyard shackle needs to be as reliable as an on/off switch on a table saw. It’s a one-act pony that’s counted on to perform perfectly each and every time. These essential shackles fly under the radar and have become so much a part of every sailor’s routine that they are simply taken for granted. They terminate mainsail, mizzen, and foresail halyards aboard sailboats ranging from dinghies to mega yachts. We become so familiar with the hardware, that idiosyncrasies like a slightly bent clevis pins, damaged threads, or a misshapen stamped fork opening are tolerated.

A Look at Silicon Bronze Versus Stainless Steel

A look at decades-old silicon-bronze mainsail halyard hardware: aboard Wind Shadow (above left) and aboard the big Herreshoff ketch, Ticonderoga (above right).

Brass is a pretty poor marine metal. An amalgam of copper and the much less costly and corrosion-prone zinc, brass’ reign afloat, at least in load bearing hardware, was short lived. But when copper is alloyed with less corrosion-prone metals, the result can be quite different. And although brass and bronze sound confusingly similar, their attributes tell very different stories.

The Year’s Top Gear

Two rubbing compounds were among the 15 products named to this year’s Editors’ Choice lineup.

During the 12-month period from September 2013 through August 2014, Practical Sailor evaluated dozens of boating products, ranging from autopilots and water heaters to hose clamps and sanitation hose. The following products not only earned Practical Sailor’s Best Choice rating, marking each as the best in its category, but they also earned a spot on our list of 2014 Editors’ Choice products. To be named to the Editors’ Choice roster, a product must excel in Practical Sailor’s tests, and clearly stand out above others in its field.

PS’s Top Picks for Winterizing

Subscribers Only Protecting marine water systems from freeze damage is a deceptively simple goal. The terminology and various product claims can be confusing, and what seems like a good common-sense decision can lead to trouble. We tend to think that all water systems are the same; that boats as well as RVs can be protected by the same pink antifreeze without any further thought. However, many of the problems we associate with age, or normal wear and tear—stiff impellers, cracked pipes, ruined joker valves, and foul-tasting tap water—can often be attributed to errors during winterization.

Test Checks Burst Point and Freeze Protection

To test burst point, testers used vials with various concentrations of glycol products (above left). The seawater vial shows what happens when a line is not protected with anitfreeze. Seals, and even pipes can be broken by the force of expansion.

Subscribers Only We tested each product for glycol content using a refractometer and either the ethylene glycol or propylene glycol scale, as appropriate. In the case of Camco’s Arctic Ban and Sudbury’s Winter Stor, some portion of the freeze protection is provided by ethanol, and such mixtures cannot be easily evaluated by any field method (test tape, gravity, refractometer) unless the exact proportion is known, which we find troublesome.

Step-by-step Winterizing Tips

Valves must be exercised (opened and closed) during winterization, to insure that glycol gets in the ball and hidden voids.

Winterizing agents should never be used in freshwater tanks or hot-water tanks. Doing so will greatly increase the chances of biological growth, which can result in foul-smelling, bad-tasting water. If your boat’s water system does not have bypass fittings that allow you to add glycol to waterlines, install them. The addition of a few simple fittings can reduce the annual process from hours to minutes for the cost of a few jugs of glycol.

Refractometer Takes Out All the Guesswork

A pocket refractometer indicates glycol concentration in seconds. You can also use it to check your battery’s electrolyte.

What matters most, our testing confirms, is not so much which brand of “pink stuff” you choose, but how you use it. Even the best product, mixed with too much water left in the line, results in a blend with unknown and perhaps unsatisfactory performance. While this may not be critical in North Carolina, sailors in Wisconsin need to get it right.

EV-1 System Check

Raymarine Evolution EV-1 wheelpilot

Subscribers Only After the roller-furling jib, the most valued piece of gear aboard for many sailors is the autopilot. So fond of autopilots are skippers and first mates, many even name their units—“Otto” the autopilot, “Joshua” (after infamous sailor Joshua Slocum), “Amelia” (after historic female pilot Amelia Earhart), and “WTF” are a few that we’ve met during our cruises.

Cruising the Com-Pac 35

The Com-Pac 35’s appearance belies a sail area-displacement ratio that gives it respectable performance, even in light air.

Subscribers Only Com-Pac Yachts is a Florida boat builder with a particularly interesting history. The company was formed in 1957 by W. L. “Hutch” Hutchins Sr., an entrepreneurial tool-and-die maker who operated a metal-stamping and fabrication shop in St. Louis, Missouri. A successful inventor, he created everything from automobile accessories, including the “Ah-ooo-gah” horn often retrofitted on Model A Fords, to a unique folding high-chair.

Constructing the Com-Pac 35

Chainplates are stainless-steel straps attached outside the hull and bolted through backing plates on the inner surface.

Subscribers Only The primary components of the Com-Pac 35 are the hull, a pan that provides housing for cabinetry and the motor mount, a headliner, and the deck. The hull construction begins with the application of a coat of Neste gelcoat. The skin coat is a layer of 1.5-ounce mat bonded with Riechold Hydrex vinylester resin to prevent osmotic blistering.

SWL vs. WLL in Padeye Search

I am looking to place some folding padeyes on my boat for jacklines and tethers. The price range for stainless-steel padeyes is extreme, and the distinction between safe working load (SWL) and working load limit (WLL) is not easily understood—even though I’m an engineer. It would be useful to know the consensus SWL/WLL recommendation for a jackline / tether application.

Maintenance Must-Reads

For many boatowners, it’s time to start thinking about the off-season layup. If you’re planning some pre-haulout maintenance projects so you can avoid the hassle next season, check out these helpful gems from our online archives.

Mailport: September 2014

Jared Thibodeau (above) and his father, Frank, have enjoyed many adventures aboard Airhead, a Hobie 16.

In response to your May 2014 editorial on the passing of “Hobie” Alter, I’d like to share a Hobie memory: At the ripe age of 14, my son, Jared, negotiated the purchase of a used Hobie 16, Airhead. On gusty days, I would be “invited” to take the helm, so he could dance on the wire as the hull flew. Eventually, our small lake became too confining, so we ventured into larger bodies, ultimately taking the Hobie to our favorite cruising ground and home to our 41-foot Sceptre, Penobscot Bay, Maine.

Where Credit Is Due: September 2014

PS subscriber and contributing writer Evans Starzinger sent in kudos for B&G. Here, his boat, Hawk, is moored off Calata Brecknock, Chile.

While cruising up in a remote part of Labrador, I had a B&G autopilot failure. I called Jake Marantz at the B&G service center ( on my Sat phone, and over about an hour and a couple calls, he helped me diagnose the problem and fix it. He was tremendously helpful and obviously knowledgeable.

Reasons to Stick with Teak

PS reader Patrick Smart’s Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 gets a new teak deck.

About two miles up the Lumut River in western Malaysia, a local entrepreneur known simply as “Mr. Chan” ran a small mooring field with a tin-roof club house and a railway slipway. It was inexpensive, and Chan’s hospitality was renowned. People went to Chan’s for the camaraderie, for the potlucks, for a haulout . . . When we were cruising, we went for the teak. A modern teak plantation is like an M.C. Escher painting; you stare, mesmerized, down the rows of evenly spaced trees that seem to stretch forever. The ground sponges under your feet, and the branches overhead seem pruned to cast identical shadows on the ground.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Barnacles Consume Test Panels at 18 Months

by Darrell Nicholson on February 24, 2015

Our semi-annual inspection of bottom paint panels always yields surprises, but during the nearly ten years I've been barnacle-counter-in-chief, I haven't been more surprised than I was last month. My inspection in January marked the eighteenth months of continuous immersion for approximately 60 paints that were undergoing testing. During a normal year, I would expect roughly 12-15 of those panels to still be fighting barnacles, but that's not what I found.

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