Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

May 12, 2015 - With Memorial Day looming, I am plunging once again into polishing and waxing fiberglass boat hulls. This post (which is an update of an extremely popular post from a few years ago) covers almost everything you need to know about cleaning, polishing, and waxing your boat. It includes links to our online "how-to" resources and links to our tests of various classes of products mentioned. The main purpose of the article is to provide an overview of the many archive articles we have in our library on this topic, so that you can choose which reports best apply to your situation and then dig in as deep as you like.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:06PM Comments (5)

PS Tests and the Death Spiral of Curiosity

April 28, 2015 - Being blessed with product testers who are passionate about their areas of expertise can be a double-edged sword. Their intense interest means they'll be particularly thorough in their research and testing; but their testing can spiral out of control as fascinating minutiae piques their curiosity. As it turns out, the best cure for a PS tester trapped in this downward "more-research-is-needed" spiral is the imminent approach of sailing season. Spring, therefore, is harvest time for the editors at Practical Sailor—and this spring has been particularly fruitful. Here's a glimpse of what's ahead:
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:51PM Comments (4)

Can Carbon Foam Batteries Meet Hype?

April 21, 2015 - The real test of any good marine product involves many units on many boats, so the true winners in the new technology game don’t rise until long after they are introduced. This requires staying power. I often wonder how many good ideas for sailors never made it to fruition for lack of capital. In recent years, many of the most promising products we look at trickle down from other, more lucrative arenas—energy and defense being two of the most common sources. Such is the case with the Firefly Oasis battery we tested.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:32PM Comments (8)

The Right Caulk for Your Boat

April 14, 2015 - Choosing the right sealant or flexible adhesive used to be fairly straightforward. There were fewer products and usually there was somebody to tell you which compound was best for bedding cleats or sealing joints. That's no longer the case. These days trying to find the right sealant for the right job is as complicated as choosing breakfast cereal, except that if you make the wrong choice you are—literally—stuck with it. Fortunately, we've carried out a number of tests on caulks and adhesives to help you make the right choice.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:29PM Comments (4)

Do-It-Yourself Bird Deterrents

March 23, 2015 - 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 (14)

Bottom Paint Makers face Irgarol Shortage

March 10, 2015 - Antifouling paint manufacturers are reporting that Irgarol, a pesticide commonly used as a boosting agent in antifouling paints, is in short supply in the United States. Based on what we have learned, it seems likely that the supply of paints containing this pesticide will be exhausted sometime this year. For some makers, their supply will run out as early as this spring.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:58PM Comments (1)

Plug that Chain-pipe

March 3, 2015 - I was always amazed at how much water could seep through the chain-pipe and into Tosca’s anchor locker when a sea was up, or we were punching into a headsea—although punching would hardly describe the ungainly motion of a gaff-rigged ketch to weather. Wallowing? Submarining? Regardless, the chain-pipe was like a water main in those conditions …
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Barnacles Consume Test Panels at 18 Months

February 24, 2015 - Our semi-annual inspection of bottom paint panels always yields surprises, but during the nearly ten years I’ve been barnacle-counter-in-chief, I haven’t been more surprised than I was last month. My inspection in January marked the eighteenth months of continuous immersion for approximately 60 paints that were undergoing testing. During a normal year, I would expect roughly 12-15 of those panels to still be fighting barnacles, but that’s not what I found.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:16AM Comments (8)

Caution: Boat Show in Progress

February 17, 2015 - I’ve always argued that boat shows should be cordoned off with caution tape, warning all of the temptations that lie within, but I never expected anyone to take me seriously. The construction at this year's Miami Strictly Sail show had at least one excellent side effect: pocket cruisers were spread out along the front of the showgrounds for anyone to explore. Too frequently sailing is an activity that takes behind the walls and fences of yacht clubs; it was fun to watch as many Miamians got what appeared to be their first closeup look at a production sailboat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:15PM Comments (3)

Making Sense of Our Ratings

February 10, 2015 - Most long-time readers are familiar with our ratings categories—Best Choice, Recommended, and Budget Buy—but their significance might not be so obvious to new readers. Recently, I’ve received a number of letters from people asking us to clarify what these ratings mean.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:21PM Comments (1)

Installing a Deck Washdown Pump

February 3, 2015 - Installing Washdown Pumps You need only look at a couple photos in our February 2015 report on anchoring in mud to recognize the advantages of a washdown pump. Installing a washdown pump is a project that any capable do-it-yourselfer can accomplish. The trickiest part, as is often the case, is in the planning—choosing a location for the pump and outlet and making sure you have all the right supplies. …
Posted by By Frank Lanier at 01:09PM Comments (3)

Never Enough Rope

January 20, 2015 - Left to their own devices, some sailors buy rope the way Imelda Marcos used to buy shoes—impulsively, profligately, with a kind of obsessive urge. Even today when some of us go to a boat show we have to stand for a long time next to the booth with the stacked coils of multicolored climbing rope and odds-and-ends in all lengths and diameters, wishing we could come up with a reason to get just a little bit more. There's no such thing as too much. We're melded with Imelda.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:18AM Comments (3)

Roll-bar Anchors in Mud

January 13, 2015 - The Fortress anchor tests bore out a commonly known fact: Danforth-style anchors, which feature flukes that are proportionally larger than other types of anchors of the same mass, tend to hold better than older, plough-style anchors in soft mud. One of the most interesting results—although not entirely surprising given the nature of the bottom—was the poor performance of some reputable anchors that have done well in past tests. Some anchors refused to set at all.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 01:30PM Comments (12)

Pocket Cruisers Unite!

December 16, 2014 - Anytime you talk about pocket cruisers you have to clarify what you mean, for the term is loosely applied to a wide range of small boats, some with very little in common besides displacement. Size is certainly a factor, but size is relative. I’ve seen 26-feet length overall (LOA) being a commonly cited as the upper limit for the “pocket” appellation, and that seems about right, although a few decades ago a 26-foot sailboat was called something else—a yacht.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:53PM Comments (9)

What's This? Twenty Somethings at a Boat Show?

December 9, 2014 - I got the impression that most of the young sailors were looking for boat show deals on gear and ideas on how to improve their own Pearson 26s, but seeing so many young faces was encouraging nevertheless. I sense that the growing number of blogs and YouTube videos created by young people engaged in the adventure of a lifetime are gradually filtering down to other sailors. Is cruising going viral among younger sailors? Given the state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for newly minted grads, I wouldn't blame them for shoving off. The economic doldrums of the eighties was one of the reasons Theresa and I took off at 22 and 23 respectively.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:52PM Comments (6)