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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 (5)

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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)

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Rope Washing Advice from the Pros

January 3, 2019 - The rope should be tightly coiled or tied in a daisy-chain, and then placed inside a pillowcase. Front-loading washing machines are recommended; an up-and-down motion is preferable to the rotary motion of most common household machines. Without coiling or daisy-chaining, a rope can turn into an impressive tangle. The pillowcase further restricts the motion of the rope and prevents the rope from wrapping around the central agitator, which can destroy ropes and break washing machines.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:02PM Comments (5)

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Fuel Storage Tips for Sailors

December 20, 2018 - Sometimes it is not what has been added to your fuel that matters, but what is missing. Anywhere between 5 to 20 percent of the contents of a portable or installed polyethylene tank can vanish during the course of a year, the result of breathing losses and permeation. The remaining fuel is lower in octane, contains fewer of the volatiles that are so essential for easy starting, and has reduced solvency for gum and varnish. It often looks perfectly good, but is perfectly rotten and potentially harmful as fuel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:17PM Comments (2)

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Propellor Paints Versus Barnacles

December 12, 2018 - Practical Sailor’s search for longer lasting prop paints has led us down many rabbit holes, we've experimented with several different prop paints with varying degrees of success, although none of the results so far have been dazzling. Some of our testers have had better success with dedicated “slick” prop paints such as PropSpeed. In our testing, however, mostly in Chesapeake Bay, no prop paint had lived up to our increasingly faint hope that the paint repel growth as effectively as our hull paint.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:01PM Comments (14)

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Complacency and the Modern Sailor

December 5, 2018 - In recent years it seems as if not a fall sailing season goes by without at least one presumably sound vessel and experienced crew running into trouble off Cape Hatteras. It is almost as if today’s sailors are suffering a severe case of amnesia, causing them to forget that this stretch of water has rightly earned the moniker “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Or perhaps this is just another example of how improved weather forecasting and state-of-the-art navigation and communication systems (not to mention distress signaling) has led us to become complacent?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:01PM Comments (8)

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Drysuit vs. Survival Suit for Offshore Sailing

November 28, 2018 - The problem with survival suits is that there’s no telling when the big wave or brutal wind gust will hit, and it may not leave time to don a survival suit. Some survival suits have sewn-in gloves that make it almost impossible to turn on the radio or deploy a personal locator beacon. That’s why wearing a comfortable, breathable drysuit makes sense. It leaves you much more ready to manage the boat in heavy weather. And should the unexpected happen, your odds of survival in the water are better than they would be in foul weather gear.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:25AM Comments (12)

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Repairing Plastic Water Tanks

November 21, 2018 - In our recent report on plastic tank repairs, we explore several different methods of repair, including heat-welding using commonly available welding kits. As that article points out, the manufacturers of these tanks do not recommend such repairs. However, our long-term tests of steel-mesh reinforced repairs of water and holding tanks (not fuel!) have so far been very promising.
Posted by Drew Frye at 09:20AM Comments (4)

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Sailboat Steering System Check-up

November 14, 2018 - The sensible approach to steering maintenance, of course, is to prevent steering failure in the first place. Like rigging, sails, and hull integrity, steering is one of those essential items that needs close monitoring. Here are a few things to consider when inspecting your steering system each season, or before any long passage.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:54AM Comments (5)

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Preserving Leftover Paints and Varnishes

November 8, 2018 - Perhaps the best reason to touch-up or add a coat of varnish in the fall is to avoid having to do it in the spring, when you are anxious to get back in the water and have so many other critical tasks to carry out. But once your varnish work is done, what do you do with partially full cans that you don’t want to go bad?
Posted by at 12:04PM Comments (13)

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Pro Tips to Hauling Out

October 31, 2018 - Once a boat has been shored and blocked, it’s a good idea to layer tarps or plastic sheeting beneath it. That keeps cleaners, paint, paint removers, and other chemicals from contaminating the ground. Layering the tarps means you can remove a soiled one and have a clean surface to kneel or stand on.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:33PM Comments (4)