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Testing Sailing Knots that Really Grip

May 24, 2017 - In the current issue of Practical Sailor, we report on the performance of various commercial and homemade drag devices when used to steer a boat with a damaged rudder. This emergency tactic usually requires a towing bridle, and one of the easiest ways to create a bridle is to use 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.
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Preventing Mildew in Marine Fabrics

May 17, 2017 - Canvas dodgers and biminis are the hallmark of a cruising yacht, keeping the sun at bay and allowing the crew to "dodge" the worst of the weather. Canvas also protects sails, windows, and machinery. The cost of these fabric covers adds up quickly, so we wanted to find the best way to protect the investment and extend the lifespan of the fabric. Glen Raven, the manufacturer of Sunbrella, recommends that routine maintenance include frequent freshwater rinsing plus spot cleaning the fabric. After a more thorough cleaning, Sunbrella advises owners to apply a treatment (specifically Gold Eagle 303 High Tech Fabric Guard) to restore the fabric's repellency. In our February 2014 report on canvas maintenance, we took a look at 303 High Tech Fabric Guard and other treatments designed to keep on-board canvas water repellent and looking its best.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:36AM Comments (2)

The Pro's Guide to Restoring Gelcoat

May 10, 2017 - This week's blog on restoring old hulls includes tips like this one on wet-sanding: If you’re using an electric sander, mist the hull surface with a spray bottle. Mix a few drops of dish detergent in the water to keep the hull evenly wet and keep it wetter longer. Rinse the surface often to look for potential burn-through areas, and look at it from several angles. You can use a window squeegee to quick dry the surface after a rinse to get a low-glare look at the gelcoat. Do not use circular movements. Wet-sand until the hull has an even dullness, a matte finish; then rinse with fresh water.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:42AM Comments (5)

What's Hiding in Your Rig?

May 3, 2017 - When awakening your boat from its winter slumber a rig check should be high on the list of priorities. Even though the boat has been sitting still, the laws of physics still take their toll. Corrosion is the biggest enemy, and the stainless steel components in your rig can effectively hide the insidious advance of this disease Over the years we’ve published a variety of articles on the hidden risks of stainless-steel hardware—chainplates, tangs, toggles, shackles, etc.—important bits that seemingly fail without warning. In many cases, though, the potential trouble spots aren't so hidden after all. The trick is knowing where to look.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:17PM Comments (9)

Preserving Leftover Paints and Varnishes

April 26, 2017 - So you carried out an exhaustive spring maintenance this year and are now left with several cans of very expensive marine varnishes, bottom paints, and other marine maintenance products—some opened, some untouched—that you don’t want to go bad. What to do?
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Too Many Layers of Bottom Paint?

April 19, 2017 - So, a couple of years back, you acquired a good old boat at a pretty good price—thanks to the market—but now you’re wondering how many coats of bottom paint it has. And what kind? You’ve put on a few coats of ablative antifouling since you’ve owned the boat. It has adhered well and has done its job. But each year, the bottom looks rougher and rougher—with big recesses where paint has flaked off. You sweated out some extra prep-work this season, and thought you had a nice, durable subsurface for painting, but each pass of the roller pulls up more paint. What’s going on here?
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Steer Clear of the Marine Cleaner Con

April 12, 2017 - Lest you think multi-billion-dollar chemical companies and their geeks in white lab coats have a lock on cleaning your boat, there are numerous homebrewed solutions that have the ability to bring back that new boat shine.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:04AM Comments (4)

PFD-Harness Good Sense

April 5, 2017 - Is your PFD/harness ready for the sailing season? As the northern half of the country gets ready for boating season, we look again at the hard won guidance on inflatable PFD/harnesses. It is not enough to simpy have sufficient number of PFDs on board. Today's inflatablePFDs require regular maintenance, special care when re-arming or repacking, and regular testing to confirm that they will work as designed. Given our experience with these devices, we also recommend at least one test (manual) inflation before setting out on a long cruise.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:28AM Comments (4)

Ham Versus SSB for the Sailor

March 29, 2017 - Most long-range sailors first start out on marine SSB, and monitor the ham traffic nets for valuable local and distant marine weather forecasts. If the ham service sounds intriguing, they move forward and study for the general class ham radio license.
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Repairing Leaky Portlights

March 22, 2017 - In all too many cases, a portlight leak on an old boat is a symptom of a larger problem. The underlying cause likely is that the holes in the monocoque structure create a loss of stiffness, resulting in excess cabin house flex. Rig loads carried to chainplates, mid-boom sheeting arrangements, and genoa track-induced flex can cause significant deflection.
Posted by Practical Sailor at 12:24AM Comments (10)

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Making a Case for Sodablasting Your Hull

March 14, 2017 - One of the biggest mistakes an owner makes when estimating how much time it takes to strip bottom paint from a hull is to peck away at one of the easy spots where the paint is peeling and then assume the rest of the coating will come off just as easily. We offer a more realistic formula for estimating the amount of time a stripping project will take.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:50AM Comments (20)

Know Your Life Raft Inspection Requirements

March 8, 2017 - The experience of the owners of the 14-year-old, six-man, valise-stored Avon liferaft pictured here reminds us of the importance of following the manufacturer’s inspection schedule. With air leaking from the seams and through the fabric itself, the raft is a graphic example of how even a professionally serviced liferaft that remains dry in its hard canister can deteriorate to the point of becoming worthless.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Patrick Childress at 09:46AM Comments (3)

Galley Gadgets for the Cruising Sailor

March 1, 2017 - Historically, the cook has always enjoyed a privileged position on board a boat. And no wonder, since the cook almost always works the hardest, whether the boat is underway or at anchor. While the navigator and helmsman’s job is no less critical, the nerve-wracking labor of maintaining a steady course and plotting an accurate DR position has nearly evaporated in recent years, thanks to GPS, chartplotters, and autopilots. The cook’s job, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier. So, in honor of the hardest working crew, I’ve put together a list of five items that can help make a cook’s life easier underway. I’d be interested in hearing what other suggestions our readers have.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:10PM Comments (23)

The Best Sailboats for the High Seas?

February 22, 2017 - At the St. Petersburg Boat Show month a while back, I had the pleasure of seeing delivery skipper and author John Kretschmer’s presentation on what he called “sailboats for a serious ocean.” I have reservations about any “ideal boat” list, but Kretschmer, who reviews boats for Sail Magazine and whose most recent book “Sailing a Serious Ocean” was one of our favorite books last winter, has the ideal background for this sort of work, and a list like this is undeniably helpful for wannabe cruisers who need a place to start their search.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (17)

A Diaper Cream Cure for Barnacles?

February 14, 2017 - 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 (7)