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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
December 2, 2014 - I’ve put enough boats on rocks and shoals and had enough near misses to sympathize with the skipper and crew of Vestas Wind, who piled up the multi-million-dollar Volvo Ocean 65 on Cargados Carajos Shoal in the Indian Ocean on Nov. 29. The accident occurred during Leg Two (Cape Town to Abu Dhabi) of the Volvo Ocean Race, the most widely followed around-the-world racing event on the planet. Thankfully, all the sailors on board were rescued safely. At the time of this writing, the fate of the boat is still undetermined, but the longer it pounds on the reef, the less likely it seems that the boat will be able to continue racing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:31AM Comments (3)
November 25, 2014 - I don’t want to come down too hard on the good people at Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission; many of the underpaid, overworked officers seem genuinely interested in doing the right thing. But the most recent survey, and the accompanying “informational” video preceding it, lead me to believe that the FWC has been puffing swamp gas again. …
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:32PM Comments (17)
November 17, 2014 - Surprisingly, one of the best chains in our most recent test was one of the generic Chinese chains. This chain showed good strength, and had a thick galvanized coating that showed a high resistance flaking and abrasion. However, the other generic Chinese chain in our test showed appalling performance, so bad, that we believe it is unconscionable for any marine chandler to sell it. And here is the quandary. We’ve identified a promising, economically-priced chain, but it is virtually impossible for the average boater to distinguish it from junk.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 04:53PM Comments (3)