September 11, 2019 - One of the most common questions we get regarding marine varnish is what kind of finish is best for a mast. Even though aluminum has long since replaced Sitka spruce as the material of choice for a sailboat mast, there is no shortage of boats that still have wooden masts. Many of the Taiwanese-built boats of the ’70s and ’80s had wooden masts, and of course, a wide range of U.S.-built classics still have their original wooden masts.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:39AM Comments (5)
September 5, 2019 - I’ve waited to write about Jeremy crossing the bar because I was waiting for him to “get out of my head,” as they say. But I’ve given up waiting. Apparently, he has made himself at home in the aft cabin. The witty, talented, and dedicated crew who did some of the best work of anyone who has worked for Practical Sailor will surely be with us for years to come.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:33AM Comments (4)
August 29, 2019 - With Hurricane Dorian threatening Florida and possibly the Carolinas, it is time to start activating your hurricane response plan. If you haven’t given storm preparation a thought yet, you might want to start with our July 2008 report, “Lines, Snubbers, and Other Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms.” Safety expert Ralph Naranjo’s first-hand account of his storm preparations “Tropical Storm Dos and Don’ts” and “How to Help Your Boat Survive A Major Storm” should also be required reading.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:01PM Comments (10)
August 21, 2019 - Our recent PS Advisor article on barber haulers illustrated an arrangement that relied on a low friction ring to control tension on the sheet. Although you can buy pre-rigged control lines that terminate with low friction rings, sailors should be able to do this themselves.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:15PM Comments (2)
August 15, 2019 - I was always amazed at how much water could seep through the chain-pipe and into Tosca’s anchor locker when a sea was up, or we were punching into a headsea—although punching would hardly describe the ungainly motion of a gaff-rigged ketch to weather. Wallowing? Submarining? Regardless, the chain-pipe was like a water main in those conditions …
Posted by at 04:28PM Comments (10)
August 1, 2019 - One of the most common question we are asked regarding standing rigging upgrades is, “How do I install an inner forestay or Solent stay?” Because these stays might one day be depended upon to carry a storm jib in heavy weather, and because every boat presents different challenges for this project, it's important to do your research and investigate other boats that have carried out this retrofit. Once you have a general idea of what features you like, consult a rigger for the initial design. Here are several resources that can start you down the right path.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:51AM Comments (4)
July 25, 2019 - No matter what brand of anchor shackle you decide to use, understanding sizing and grades of shackles is essential, since this connector between your rode and anchor is often the weakest link in your ground tackle. And the weakest point in the shackle is often where the shackle pin meets the body. When the shackle pin or body is loaded from an angle, the shackle body can be forced open, causing the pin to break or fall out. This is the most common failure we have seen in our tests—even when under straight-pull loads.
Posted by at 06:39AM Comments (12)
July 17, 2019 - Hook and loop fasteners are familiar from jacket cuffs and companionway bug screens, but during our many years of fiddling around boats, we’ve come up with a few applications that even a Velcro-lover haven’t yet tried. Let’s look at some new tricks.
Posted by Drew Frye at 03:43PM Comments (3)
July 10, 2019 - The danger in running before a squall (or jibing downwind, a tactic sometimes employed by Transpac racers) is the inevitable wind shift that can cause an accidental jibe. Since squalls are usually short lived, with the strongest winds lasting less than 20 minutes, simply reducing sail to a safe configuration and motoring or motorsailing through or past the squall can be a less taxing approach than trying sail through it. What is a "safe" configuration?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:27PM Comments (6)
July 3, 2019 - About this time of year, when lightning strikes become common, we receive a good deal of mail asking about static dissipators such as the Lightning Master. These are the downside-up, wire-brush-like devices you see sprouting from antennas and rooftops in cities and towns, and, more frequently, on sailboat masts. When these devices first appeared on the market, we did a fair amount of research to find out whether they realistically could be expected to spare a sailboat's mast from a lightning strike.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:16PM Comments (19)
June 24, 2019 - The widespread use of Dyneema and similar high-strength, high-tech lines presents a slippery problem for the knot-tying sailor, especially if they are tying a gripping hitch. A gripping hitch is the knot you would use to tie one line to another (or itself) when you don’t want the line to slip. Here's a look at some of the gripping hitches that we've tested for holding ability and ease of tying.
Posted by at 12:00AM Comments (7)
June 19, 2019 - Summer is here, and our routine maintenance chores now require some serious elbow grease. Our first impulse is to go for the super-strength acids that will take care of the hard growth as well as the stains. But there are kinder, gentler options, if you have the willpower and the patience.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (2)
June 12, 2019 - In the July 2019 issue of Practical Sailor we dive again into the world of inflatable PFD/harnesses. The report, written by marine safety expert Ralph Naranjo, highlights common mistakes mariners make with regards to proper care and use of various inflatable PFDs on the market. The crux of his report, however, is the potentially dangerous shift in perceptions among offshore sailors with regards to this equipment.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:19PM Comments (11)
June 6, 2019 - With the official start of the North Atlantic hurricane season starting earlier this week, boat owners in vulnerable coastal areas should already have a hurricane response plan ready. Practical Sailor has covered storm preparation on several occasions. Here is some of the guidance we can offer.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:55AM Comments (4)
May 29, 2019 - Should sailors wear helmets? As we gain greater awareness of the risks of long-term brain injury linked to concussions in various sports, it is only natural that sailors would reexamine the risks associated with sailing. After all, one of the first things we learn upon boarding a sailboat is to avoid a boom-strike to the head.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:56PM Comments (9)