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Reframing Our Views on the Auto-inflate PFD

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 (10)

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Preparing a Marina-Bound Boat for a Tropical Storm

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)

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Sailing Helmets and the Risk of Head Injury

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)

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Installing and Maintaining A Watermaker

May 22, 2019 - Installing a watermaker can be a serious project, and it’s not to be taken lightly. First, you need to find a suitable location for the system. For those with limited mounting space, consider a modular watermaker.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:14PM Comments (3)

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Boat Bottom Blues

May 16, 2019 - While spring usually heralds the start of boating season for most of us, for others it means facing up to long-postponed projects. If you own an older boat, that project probably might be removing the years of antifouling paint that have built up on the bottom. In this blog post you'll find links to a number of useful articles to help guide you through this process.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (2)

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Do-It-Yourself Bird Deterrents

May 1, 2019 - As we found in our last major test of bird deterrents, there is no perfect solution for every bird problem, but we’ve come across one that seems to work well in the marina in Florida where we keep one of our test boats, an Endeavour 42 Lost Boyz owned by boat builder Robert Helmick. The main perpetrators in this particular marina are starlings that feed on the berries near the marina then apparently find a comfortable roost to digest (and deposit the remains of) their meal. Sailboat masts seem to be the preferred perch, as the dockmaster reports that he rarely sees them atop powerboats.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:31PM Comments (17)

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Choosing a Bottom Paint

April 24, 2019 - Before plunking down $100 or more a gallon for bottom paint, consider where your priorities lie.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:35PM Comments (7)

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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 (8)

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 (9)

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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 (16)

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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)