June 11, 2014 - Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve highlighted the many advantages and disadvantages of the NMEA 2000 (N2K) marine electronics standard. From a consumer’s perspective, one of the most obvious advantages of installing N2K electronics is the ability to mix and match components from different manufacturers. While this sounds terrific on paper, we've often run into installation hurdles when trying to get sensors and displays from different manufacturers to play nicely—even those that advertise being N2K-compliant. Our foray into the world of wind systems has yielded a much more positive NMEA 2000 experience.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Bill Bishop at 01:16AM Comments (2)
June 2, 2014 - As satellite communication equipment becomes more reasonably priced, more reliable, and more compact, we often hear sailors raise the question, “Are single-sideband radios even relevant anymore?” As contributing writer Capt. Frank Lanier points out, the question is easy to answer. Here is an excerpt from his forthcoming report on single-sideband radios, which also will look at some of the latest products for simplifying SSB installation.
Posted by at 06:34AM Comments (12)
May 27, 2014 - If you’ve been following the tragic story of Cheeki Rafiki, the Beneteau First 40.7 that lost its keel with fatal consequences while crossing the Atlantic last week, and you’re sailing a production boat with a similar high-aspect, deep-ballast keel, you might be asking yourself, “Should I be concerned?”
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:14PM Comments (3)
May 20, 2014 - I spent last weekend tuning the rig aboard boatbuilder Robert Helmick’s Endeavour 42, Lost Boys, and got a first-hand look at the problems reader Scott Rimmer encountered with his vertical windlass back in 2009. When Helmick's son, Kameron, went to work deploying the anchor, he soon ran into trouble; the chain was jammed in the naval pipe, kinked with hockles. Helmick started plying me with questions about anchor swivels—questions we often get at the magazine.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:00PM Comments (6)
May 13, 2014 - While I’m sure that some of these “all natural” products are exploiting a vaguely defined marketing niche, I do worry about some of the chemicals found in skin-care products. One of the reasons we're seeing more “natural” sunscreens is that groups like the Environmental Working Group are taking a fairly strong stand against certain sunscreen ingredients. It recently released a list of sunscreen ingredients and formulas “not to bring on vacation,” which includes spray sunscreens and sunscreens with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:36PM Comments (5)
May 6, 2014 - Hobie asked: “Are you near Norfolk or New York?,” and I said no to both. He then paused and said: “I could sell you one, but if you buy three boats you can be our dealer in that area.” . . . My wife was not too pleased with 140 cardboard boxes (each box holding a hull) in our backyard. She had just given birth to our first child three months earlier!
Posted by Darrell Nicholson (with Rob Mairs) at 11:05AM Comments (6)
April 22, 2014 - When applying a paste cleaner, a toothbrush is useful for buffing tight spots and working into the pores of welds; follow by buffing with a cotton cloth. A green 3M scrubby pad helps for removing more aggressive stains. Continued rusting in welded areas might indicate a developing failure, requiring replacement. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water and mild soap when done buffing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:43PM Comments (4)
April 15, 2014 - 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 (3)
April 8, 2014 - The story of the rescue of a sick 1-year-old girl, her parents, and toddler sister from aboard the boat Rebel Heart last week provoked a storm of controversy over whether ocean voyaging with young children is sensible. One of the reasons that Theresa and I chose not to have and raise children aboard our boat were our own dicey experiences with illness in the tropics. (Our threadbare, vagabond lifestyle at the time raised other salient concerns, as Theresa put it—“I’m not giving birth in the forepeak!”) But if we had decided to cruise with young children, we would have likely avoided long passages and kept pediatric care within close reach.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:21PM Comments (14)
April 1, 2014 - Be aware that a less-experienced sailor’s report of a “great” anchorage with plenty of depth, or statements like “We ran aground here!” don’t do you much good if they fail to include basic info such as their boat's draft, state of the tide, etc. Other sailors' facility reviews should also be taken with a grain of salt. For example: “The dockmaster hates Algerian Snaggle-tooth Poodles (like our Fluffy), so we’re never coming back, and you shouldn’t either!”
Posted by Frank Lanier at 03:24PM Comments (6)
March 25, 2014 - 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 (1)
March 7, 2014 - As I edge toward my 200th blog post and my 10th year as the editor of Practical Sailor, I’m going to detour briefly from the usual fare to say thanks, to you our readers, and to the loyal group of testers who have brought this publication to where it is today—the top of the heap in its field. This fact was recognized last month at the annual meeting of Boating Writers International, a professional organization of writers, editors, publishers, photographers, broadcasters, public relations specialists, and others in the communications profession associated with the boating industry.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 06:16PM Comments (4)
March 4, 2014 - Paint removal using a paint stripper is a little like dental work in that there’s no one perfect tool, and getting the job done usually requires a tray full of devices. The arsenal of hand-scraping weapons used during our test of paint strippers ranged in caliber from a lightweight, extra-thin and narrow scraper sharpened to a knife’s edge to what old shipwrights referred to as a “slick.” This heavyweight king of the chisel family was kept sharpened with a whetstone and had the mass to plow into thick paint buildup and peel the substrate evenly.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:03AM Comments (6)
February 24, 2014 - As spring fast approaches (it's coming, I promise), a few of our less fortunate sailing brethren discover their house bank batteries can no longer hold a charge. One of the most common questions we get regarding deep-discharge batteries—those batteries designed to power our lights and electronics—is whether to go with a gel-cell, AGM, or flooded lead-acid “wet-cell” battery.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:02PM Comments (10)
February 18, 2014 - At about 9 p.m., the wind picked up and the temperature dropped to 56 degrees, Miami’s version of the polar vortex. Sailing conservatively under staysail and main, the 60-foot catamaran ripped southward toward the city lights. Tucked behind the 18-inch wheel on the leeward hull, helmsman Harry Horgan, a wheelchair-bound sailor who founded one of the nation’s finest community sailing programs, squinted into the wind. To the west, the nearly full moon rose above Cape Florida Lighthouse.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:54AM Comments (2)