Darwin, barnacles, and organ envy

February 10, 2016 - The oceanic equivalent of implacable in-laws, the barnacles addled me to no end. Do they ever stop eating? Do they ever sleep? Why won’t they leave my boat alone? Their unrelenting click, click, clicks on the hull kept me up at night. An obsession bordering on madness set in. My only comfort was that barnacles on the brain can have interesting side effects, like an idea that changes our view of the world.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:48AM Comments (5)

How Well Do Swivels Reduce Twist?

February 2, 2016 - We know the theory behind using an anchor swivel: The swivel releases any twists in the chain when an anchored boat swings through 360 degrees or more. Still, we question the logic of using one. Our skepticism is supported by our own experience, previous testing, and input from long-term cruisers, but we wanted to devise a test to investigate chain twisting. The results were surprising.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 05:43PM Comments (8)

Rethinking Anchor Snubbers

January 27, 2016 - Anyone who has spent a night pitching in an exposed anchorage would not be shocked to learn that in many dragging incidents the snubber parted, or was stretched to its limit, allowing the chain and boat to absorb some teeth-rattling shock loads before something finally gave. Recently, PS testers have devised a series of tests to determine what the ideal snubber looks like. Some of our findings run contrary to popular assumptions. Some will surely surprise you, and may even—one day—save your boat. What does your snubber look like?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 07:36AM Comments (11)

Maximizing Bottom Paint Coverage

January 19, 2016 - In my own experience, I’ve found that I rarely can match the manufacturer’s coverage estimates using a 3/8-inch nap roller cover, so for this project we decided to do a comparison. One section of the boat would be painted with a foam, solvent-resistant hot-dog or sausage roller cover, a technique that has worked for me in the past. The roller, more commonly used for topside finishes, soaks up far less paint than a conventional, 3/8-inch cover. An adjacent section would be painted using a conventional roller.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:09PM Comments (12)

Keel Failure Redux

January 13, 2016 - This summer, the once lovely Oyster 825 was hauled from the water with its keel missing and a large chunk of skin laminate peeled back. Another casualty in a disturbing trend. I wrote a lengthy post on the subject of keels last year, and technical editor Ralph Naranjo discussed the topic in his report “Rethinking Hull Structure” in the February 2015 issue of Practical Sailor.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 06:38AM Comments (1)

Rethinking Faux Teak Temperatures

January 5, 2016 - Our recent report on synthetic-teak decking options (see PS December 2015) raised a bit of a ruckus among the contenders in what is an extremely competitive market. The main bone of contention was our reported temperatures of the various materials after they were left in the sun. Several manufacturers contended that the temperatures we listed in the table accompanying the article were not consistent with their own findings.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:31PM Comments (3)

Preventing Winter Damage to Your Deck

December 21, 2015 - The freeze-thaw cycle can also break the bond between the fiberglass and the core, further weakening the deck structure and introducing new problems. In a worst-case scenario, you return to your boat in the spring and find bubbles, bulges, and cracked gelcoat or fiberglass where water has pooled and frozen, pushing your deck's outer skin upward.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:13PM Comments (0)

Portable Electrical Propulsion for Small Sailboats

December 1, 2015 - In part one of our two-part test of five and six-horsepower engines in the upcoming January issue of Practical Sailor, we take a second look at portable electric motors. Our interest in modern portable electric propulsion dates back to 2004, when then editor Doug Logan began to lose faith in the two-stroke outboard on his Boston Whaler. While awaiting the prognosis on his unresponsive 15-horsepower Evinrude, he bought a Minn Kota Riptide 55 trolling motor.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:35PM Comments (4)

Fortune Favors the Cold and Wet

November 10, 2015 - Two stories in the upcoming December issue—installing a fireplace and sealing portlights and hatches—had me pondering the challenges of a winter afloat. But what literally raised goose bumps were images sent to us by Jimmy Cornell, whose popular cruising rallies and books have inspired countless dreams of sailing around the world.
Posted by at 07:26PM Comments (0)

Rotten to the Core

November 3, 2015 - Cored decks are a soggy subject that many owners of older boats can relate to. I turn to one of our regular contributors, Capt. Frank Lanier, for this week's blog on this topic. Captain Frank Lanier is a 27-year Coast Guard veteran and Accredited Marine Surveyor with over 30 years of experience in the marine and diving industry.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:58AM Comments (7)

Open-source Software and the Sailor

October 28, 2015 - The more controversial—in my mind—element of open-source software is how our navigation data is used. The success of open-source software depends on the willingness of sailors to share data via the cloud. We’re told, of course, that this is anonymous meta-data (the sort of non-identifying data with that the National Security Administration scrapes from phone records), and that the user can control which data he shares. Most of us are already sharing all kinds of information with various smart-phone apps, so this is nothing new. Still, I worry.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:26AM Comments (3)

The DIY Solent Stay or Inner Forestay

October 14, 2015 - The most common question we were asked in the wake of our recent two-part series on headsails was, “How do I install an inner forestay or Solent stay?” Because either of these stays might one day be depended upon in the direst of circumstances, 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 (2)

O Tayana 37, How do I Loathe Thee?

October 6, 2015 - I loathe thee for your lovely teak decks, prone to leaking, hot to touch in the tropics, and forever accumulating dirt. I loathe thee for thy alluring bowsprit, a precarious perch where no man with two hip replacements should ever be. I loathe thee for thy water tank sloshing in the bow, turning thee into a teeter-totter when the mildest swell rolls into the bay.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:19PM Comments (4)

Tiller Versus Wheel

September 1, 2015 - In plainest technical terms the tiller gives us immediate corrective feedback, an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, far quicker than any wheel assembly can do. Both devices help us become better sailors, but the tiller just does it faster. It is, at its core, more honest about the conditions we’re facing—sometimes brutally so.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 05:09PM Comments (7)

Antifouling Paints for Freshwater Sailors

August 18, 2015 - Freshwater fouling organisms are no weaklings. One of the most notorious, the zebra mussel, introduced by the ballast water of voyaging ships, can wreak havoc with power-plant cooling systems. For sweetwater sailors who have but the summer to sail, the most common threat to the hull is algae. In fact, algae (aka slime) actually tends to grow much faster in fresh water than it does in salt water.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:26AM Comments (2)