In the recent Velux 5 Oceans Race, four solo sailors piloted their 60-foot boats some 30,000 miles around the globe, putting a number of innovative products to the test. The race required each boat to be equipped with at least three means of power generation, and two had to be alternative forms of energy. Racers Brad Van Liew and Zbigniew Gutkowski each supplemented power from their auxiliary engines, solar panels, wind generators, with two new Watt & Sea hydrogenerators. Because of the reported efficiency of these transom-hung devices, the singlehand sailors enjoyed the rare phenomenon of surplus power. Two other racers, Chris Stanmore-Major and Derek Hatfield, relied on more traditional alternative energy sources: wind gens and solar panels. All four were enthusiastic about the example they might be setting for other sailors, but are emerging technologies like hydro-power generation practical for the typical cruising boat?
If the recent Velux 5 Oceans Race yielded one breakthrough, it would have to be the hydrogenerators from Watt & Sea. Racers Brad Van Liew and Zbigniew Gutkowski both used these devices. The sailors not only found themselves reliant upon the units, but were impressed by their capability and reliability as well.
Subscribers Only Each year, as the fall boat showsand the deals that come with themappear on the horizon, we pore over the numerous products weve reviewed in the previous 12 months to select the cream of the crop for our Editors Choice awards. We hope the list will help readers better navigate any boat-show or end-of-season shopping. This year, we picked from the Best Choice products evaluated in the September 2010 through August 2011 issues. The 2011 GOTY roster includes an electric outboard, some stout bullet blocks, electric marine toilets, bilge pumps, chafe gear, and marine maintenance products like bottom paint.
Subscribers Only Practical Sailor spent much of the last 12 months testing marine-systems productsflushing toilets loaded with faux poo and cycling bilge pumps till they would pump no more. So it was no surprise to us that the bulk of our top gear picks for the year were systems related. PS tapped three marine headsRaritans Marine Elegance, Planus Artic Standard, and Dometic/Sealands SailVacand two Shurflo electric bilge pumps for the 2011 Gear of the Year (GOTY) list.
Subscribers Only With the gazillion marine maintenance products out there, its an annual challenge to narrow the field down to just a few superior products for our Gear of the Year (GOTY) list. This year, our top maintenance picks came out of our endless antifouling-paint testing and our performance evaluation of multi-purpose cleanersproducts we suspect most of you buy and use regularly.
Testers applied dozens of exterior wood finishes (22 one-part varnishes, six two-part varnishes, 18 synthetics and satins/varnish alternatives, and eight teak oils and sealers) to small panels of bare solid teak and set them out to face the rigors of South Florida's weather. Two years later, our search continues for the ideal wood finish—relatively easy to apply, easy to maintain, lasts multiple seasons, and is affordable. Given that most wood coatings are rarely expected to last longer than two years in the marine environment—particularly in super-sunny locales—it’s no surprise that we’ve seen more significant changes in the coatings in the last six months than we had in previous checkups. With the exception of a few two-part products, the test coatings had lost their sparkle at the two-year mark, ratings slipped across the board, and we’ve come to accept that perhaps there’s no Holy Grail of exterior wood finishes.
Practical Sailor often supplements panel testing with product challenges aboard our test boats to see whether top products still earn their keep in the real world and to try out new products. Two such evaluations are our exterior wood finish tests. In the January 2011 issue, we introduced a head-to-head matchup of varnish alternativesmarket-newcomer PolyWhey from Vermont Natural Coatings versus perennial favorite Interluxs Sikkens Cetol Natural Teakthat had been applied to our Cape Dory 25 test boat. For that test, weve just let nature run its course: no band-aid touchups, no maintenance coats, no freshwater rinses, no TLC at all.
Subscribers Only The safety tether is the sailors leasha short stretch of webbing or rope that keeps a sailor from going overboard. Its purpose is complicated by the fact that it must be capable of two opposing functions: It must offer a secure means of attachment to the boat, and, when the need arises, provide a quick means of release. The recent Chicago-Mackinac Race tragedy and similar accidents, recent product recalls, and findings in Practical Sailors latest round of tether testing also bolster the argument that sailorsand manufacturersneed to pay more attention to the safety tethers on the market today. For this test, we evaluated three different West Marine tethers and found that despite improved engineering, they still fall short of perfection.
Subscribers Only The capsize of WingNuts is not the first fatal accident that has put the spotlight on the harness-to-tether connection. Since 1986, several widely publicized fatal sailing accidents have prompted inquiries into the harnesses and safety tethers used by sailors.
Subscribers Only Once youve settled on the types of clips you want on your tether, the next choice is the webbing construction. Currently, there are two main types of tethers: single tethers with one hook at each end; or double tethers, with two legs and three hooks. Double tethers have an extra clip, usually attached to a short leg at the mid-point of the tether, that shortens the length to about 3 feet.
Subscribers Only Keeping bugs at bay has always been a conundrum for boaters, particularly when that calm, idyllic anchorage becomes a refuge for black flies, mosquitoes, and other flying bloodsuckers when the sun goes down. No one wants to slather on smelly chemical creams or sprays to enjoy happy hour in the cockpit, but bug repellent options have been rather limited until recently.
Letters to Practical Sailor, September 2011. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Shoes for Crews, Washing Dock Lines, and More!
Subscribers Only In the July 2011 Mailport, Practical Sailor reported that a new Orion handheld flare had malfunctioned during an emergency training course at the Annapolis School of Seamanship. The defective flare had melted through its end cap, allowing hot, melted slag to drip out.
Subscribers Only In the wake of questions about the tensile strength of steel used in the shafts of Rocna anchors, West Marine has issued product specification notices to customers who have purchased Rocna anchors since 2010 and recently posted the notice on its website (www.westmarine.com). West Marine is one of worlds largest distributors of the Rocna, a plow-style anchor sold in 34 different countries. The Rocna (www.rocna.com) earned a Recommended rating in our 2008 tests of heavyweight anchors, finishing behind the Manson Ray and the Manson Supreme (November 2008).
Letters to Practical Sailor, September 2011. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Johnson Pumps, Raymarine, Edson and More!
Sailing harnesses and safety tethers were put to the ultimate test in July when a storm packing winds of more than 50 knots swept through the fleet of sailboats racing in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Race. One of the boats, the Kiwi 35 WingNuts, capsized in a powerful gust. It stayed inverted, forcing the crew of eight into the water. At the time of capsize, the crew were wearing safety harnesses and tethers, and most were clipped in to jacklines on the boat. All but two of the sailors, skipper Mark Morley and his girlfriend, Suzanne Bickel, were able to unclip themselves and survived.
I sail an Areodyne 38 in New England, primarily on weekends and a two-week annual cruise. I use 25 feet of 5/8-inch chain with 200 feet of oversized braided rode and a 35-pound Bruce anchor. In 12 years of cruising this boat, the setup has dragged only once, yet Im still unable to relax at anchor. Im considering going to all-chain. Also, because my boat is pretty light with a fin keel and bulb, the rode wraps around the bulb when the current is stronger than the wind, requiring diving to free the mess. This is manageable in July, not so fun in October. Can you recommend a type, size, and length of chain given my criteria? My boat weighs in at 10,000 pounds, and I am the windlass.
Inside Practical Sailor Blog
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.