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LPG Fireplace Safety Guidelines

April 18, 2019 - As part of a report on the Dickinson P9000 in the December issue, Practical Sailor tester Drew Frye provides an in-depth guide to a do-it-yourself installation, with special emphasis on safety. The following are important safety tips that generally apply to any propane heating system, whether it is the Dickinson fireplace, a Sig Marine cabin heater, or a similar heater.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 03:32PM Comments (9)

A Diaper Cream Cure for Barnacles?

April 11, 2019 - Some of my favorite PS tests are those that pit ordinary dime-store products against gold-plated “marine-grade” stuff. This month’s propellor antifouling test called to mind an investigation into the antifouling properties of diaper cream that took place many moons ago. Diaper cream contains zinc oxide, a known biocide, but it does not regulate the release of biocides the way bottom paint does. Nevertheless, you’ll find many bulletin-board posts that recommend diaper cream for depth-sounder transducers, props, and dinghies. My take-away from our 1995 report is that the product worked (sort of) for a limited period, but it is an impractical solution for hulls . . . better to let you read and decide for yourself.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:20AM Comments (8)

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Coast Guard Nav Light Safety Alert

April 4, 2019 - The U.S. Coast Guard has determined that an increasing number navigation lights being used on sailboats do not meet the basic requirements for these lights, making them less visible to nearby ships. According to the Coast Guard's Inspections and Compliance Directorate, part of the problem is that some boat owners are retrofitting existing incandescent nav lights with LED lights, or LED components that were designed for powerboats.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:24AM Comments (11)

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Check Chafe Before Switching to Fiber Lifelines

March 28, 2019 - Fiber lifelines exhibit two kinds of chafe. There is visible chafe that occurs when lifelines are used as handholds (a bad habit), or where sails and sheets bear on them. More troublesome is the chafe that occurs in the stanchion holes. Clearly, if you’re considering switching to a fiber lifeline, you’ll want to closely inspect any possible chafe points, and deburr and polish (with 600 grit sandpaper) any places where the line makes contact with stanchions.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 08:13AM Comments (1)

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Bilge Pump Installation and Maintenance Tips

March 20, 2019 - The best bilge pump in the world won’t keep your boat dry if it’s not properly installed and maintained. While bilge pump installations are fairly straightforward—and definitely within the scope of DIY projects—there are several factors to consider (capacity, wire size, hose diameter, fuse size) before you begin, and there are some good rules of thumb to follow.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:25AM Comments (18)

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When Splicing Isn't an Option

March 13, 2019 - My previous blog post on rig inspection prompted a question about how to splice old ropes that are too stiff to splice. It wasn’t long before the ice-climber in our group of contributors, Drew Frye, decided to grab this rope by its braided cover, so to speak, and see where it leads. Here is a brief description of the method that Frye found worked best, perimeter round-stitching. Perimeter round-stitching will take place over a length of rope that is the equivalent of six to eight times the diameter of the rope. For example, stitching 3/8-inch line requires about 2.5 inches of available line, not counting the tail of the line (about 3.8 inches in length) that will not be stitched.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:46PM Comments (5)

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Respirator and Dust Mask Safety

March 6, 2019 - A respirator can’t protect you if it doesn’t fit your face. It’s that simple. Anything that prevents a good seal—whether facial hair or a hollow under the side of your jaw—is unacceptable. In a workplace this fit test will be performed in a very rigid manner by a trained technician. However, for the sailor/occasional boat yard worker, we offer this shortcut procedure that is far better than nothing.
Posted by Drew Frye at 05:24PM Comments (1)

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Striving for a Stronger Boat Cleat

February 27, 2019 - Zinc, though often found chrome-plated on low-end powerboats, is too weak a metal to be used for cleats on a sailboat. Aluminum alloys are light and relatively strong as long as the casting process has kept void (air bubble) content to the barest minimum possible.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 03:20PM Comments (3)

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Varnish Touch-ups and Take-downs

February 20, 2019 - To keep brightwork healthy, approach it as you do your own health. Whether its a touch-up or a complete take-down that's on your horizon, here are a few tips on wood care that can save you hours of sweat down the line.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:21PM Comments (5)

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What Old Gear Do You Swear By (or at)?

February 13, 2019 - Instead of fixing or replacing tired mechanical equipment with new gear, we can often find a less-expensive substitute on the used-gear market. In many cases, this is equipment that is just as good as new gear, if not better than new. The trick is separating the gems from the junk. A poster child for this sort of refit quandary is the old Simpson Lawrence manual windlass, a British-engineered oddity that has long been a source of cruising sailor ire. Commonly found on cruising boats made in the 1980s, these windlasses use a troublesome chain drive rather than a gear drive. This, along with the dissimilar metals used in its various components (cast-steel gypsy, aluminum case, etc.), make these windlasses a poor candidate for rebuilding.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:19AM Comments (7)

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Going Overboard in Icy Water

February 6, 2019 - When you get to the surface, focus on floating and stabilizing your breathing. You are not going to be able to swim or do anything productive for several minutes, and as a cold water overboard victim, there is nothing you need to do for a minute or two. Focus on not drowning. If you have a PFD, that will be a huge help. If not, try to tread water with as little effort as possible. Calm down and realize you have some time.
Posted by Drew Frye at 04:20PM Comments (3)

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Capt. Marx Memorial Safety at Sea Seminar

January 29, 2019 - Join Practical Sailor Editor-at-large Ralph Naranjo for a day-long Safety at Sea Seminar in Hampton Roads, VA on February 24th. The seminar is aimed at mariners of all levels and will cover navigation, heavy weather sailing, and man-overboard recovery. The cost is $130 ($150 after Feb. 1). The unique event is being in honor of Capt. Henry Marx, a respected safety-at-sea expert and frequent contributor to Practical Sailor.
Posted by at 11:27PM Comments (5)

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Anchor Design for Soft Mud

January 23, 2019 - Most recreational anchors are optimized for hard sand or clay bottoms, which provide much better holding than softer bottoms (or rocky or weedy bottoms, for that matter). This logical bias toward hard-sand bottoms might actually hinder anchor performance in soft mud. For example, one of the observations from our 2006 test of anchors in soft bottoms was that anchors equipped with roll bars performed far below our expectations in soft bottoms. But there was one exception.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:40AM Comments (16)

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Cutless (not Cutlass!) Bearing Care

January 15, 2019 - To determine if your cutless bearing needs replacing, look for signs of wear or deterioration at both ends of the bearing. Rapid or unusual wear patterns (i.e. top wear on one end of the bearing, bottom wear on the other) are indications of significant shaft misalignment issues and should be addressed immediately.
Posted by Frank Lanier at 09:31AM Comments (4)

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Overheating in Docklines and Rodes

January 8, 2019 - Dock lines are particularly susceptible to overheating. If the boat is exposed to short-period chop from the side, the frequency can be high and the force can exceed the 10:1 safe working limit. Core temperatures above the boiling point are possible in dry conditions, and even with spray to cool the rope there may be significant weakening. Add to this considerable frictional heating at contact points and special precautions are required.
Posted by Drew Frye at 09:20AM Comments (7)