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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 (3)

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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 (11)

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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)

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What to Look For in a Sailboat Winter Cover

October 24, 2018 - The approach of winter in the northern hemisphere brings with it that age-old question: How best to protect the boat from snow and ice? Already boats on Lake Superior are being pulled from the water, and sailors as far south as the Chesapeake are beginning to think about buttoning up for winter. While many power boats choose shrink-wrapping over a more permanent solution, sailboats—with their masts stepped or unstepped—are perfectly suited for reusable, custom, or semi-custom covers.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:28PM Comments (22)

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Upgrading the Cruising Mainsail

October 17, 2018 - The old main was constructed of Dacron, and polyester continued to offer the best balance of cost, longevity, and performance for our particular situation. We decided to go with a premium-grade polyester (Dimension 360AP-MTO 8.4 ounce). Premium polyester is tightly woven and has a high yarn count that provides good shape retention and good performance over a wide range of wind speeds.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:17PM Comments (3)

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Keep it Simple Sail Repair Kit

October 10, 2018 - If you’re going to sail you’ll be doing some stitching—no two ways about it. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard with sail repair tools. Don’t jump into the $100 do-everything kit. Start with a modest kit, adding tools and materials only as your skills grow and projects require them. Chances are, you already have most of what you need in your other supply lockers or tool boxes.
Posted by Drew Frye at 11:25AM Comments (1)

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Tool Buying Guide for the Cruising Sailor

October 3, 2018 - When it takes longer to find the right tool for the job than to actually complete the job, consider creating your own “doctor’s bag” of boat tools. In this week’s Inside Practical Sailor blog, you’ll find great advice on taming your toolbox from veteran circumnavigator Evans Starzinger, as well as links to some of our most popular tests of hand tools and power tools—just in time for Father's Day.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:36AM Comments (10)

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Bracing for Cold and Wet Sailing

September 26, 2018 - As any cold-weather sailor will tell you, the battle against the elements involves more than just bibs and a jacket. Keeping out the wind and wet begins with underlayers, boots, and gloves. Whether you’re dreaming of high latitude adventures, or just want to keep sailing through October, we’ve got you covered. Here is a summary of past reports on cold-weather sailing apparel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:10PM Comments (11)

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Quick and Dirty Anchor Shank Strength Test

September 19, 2018 - So you've read our many reports on anchor shanks, and you're thinking, "I wonder what kind of steel my anchor shank is made of?" You could go to the maker, but you might find, as we did, that some manufacturers consider this proprietary information - as if the strength of the steel is not worth sharing with the consumer. So you decide to find out for yourself.
Posted by at 11:36AM Comments (10)

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A Better Hand Grip

September 12, 2018 - Most boat railings are a spindly ¾-inch or 1-inch diameter polished stainless. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, on the other hand, requires hand rails be 1 ½-inch diameter. The average baseball bat, hockey stick or hammer is about 1 ¼-inch, often fattened with tape beyond that. Why would we accept anything less secure on a wet and wildly pitching deck?
Posted by Drew Frye at 11:24AM Comments (5)

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What Dog Breed is Best Suited for Cruising?

September 5, 2018 - Over the years, we've encountered everything from chihuahuas to huskies (yes, huskies) living aboard sailboats, so I'm not convinced that breed matters much, but some dogs are clearly better adapted to boats and the water. Our dog-loving readers helped us compile this list of relatively small dogs, good traveling dogs that like the water and are happy to curl up in tight spaces during passages.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:52PM Comments (42)

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Coast Guard Warns of Radio Interference from LEDs

August 29, 2018 - In response to ship reports of radio interference from LED lights, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a step-by-step guide to checking for interference on VHF frequencies used for radiotelephone, digital selective calling (DSC) and automatic identification systems (AIS). Because mariners use these frequencies for communication and tracking of nearby vessels, interference can create a safety hazard. Practical Sailor has been warning sailors about problems with LED lights for several years, and has tested several LED navigation lights for VHF interference.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:33AM Comments (6)

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Marine Fuel Vent Filter Maintenance

August 22, 2018 - We wished the silica gel drying filters used in marine fuel tank vents could be as maintenance-free as the carbon canister on your car, but our simple DIY filters (as well as those made by various manufacturers) don’t have programmed regeneration cycles like the automotive carbon canisters. The makers of silica gel fuel filters say the silica gel resin should be replaced annually, but Practical Sailor testers have found that three years is about right for diesel and five years for E-10 gasoline.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 11:05AM Comments (0)

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Don't Kill That New AGM Battery

August 15, 2018 - Battery manufacturers want their batteries recharged to 100-percent state of charge after each discharge. In reality, few cruising boats (or any boats kept on a mooring) return their batteries to 100-percent state of charge after each cycle. If this partial state of charge operation continues, your very expensive AGM battery will soon perform no better, if not worse, than a common deep-cycle flooded battery bank. To keep that from happening, we have a few tips.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Rod Collins at 04:47PM Comments (18)

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Celestial Navigation and Weather Classes on Tap

August 8, 2018 - If you’re headed to the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis October 4-8, we encourage you to stick around a few days to pick up some wisdom from Practical Sailor’s Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo. Ralph will be teaching a couple of his signature courses at the Annapolis School of Seamanship in downtown Annapolis during the days shortly after the show.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:14PM Comments (2)