A South Pacific Night Before Christmas

December 20, 2012 - ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the crew couldn’t sleep. The waves were relentless; with troughs dark and deep. The windvane was holding a course straight and true, toward a spot on the chart: “Les îsle inconnues.” As Cap tried to revive his brand new GPS, Ma delivered the news: “This ship is a mess. The diesel won’t start; the stove’s out of gas, and your fancy new flashlight is a pain in the ..."
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Testing the Kannad SafeLink and Mobilarm V100

December 18, 2012 - I spent the latter part of last week testing two different types of man-overboard alarms. The first product, the Mobilarm V100, couples with the boat’s DSC-capable VHF radio. It broadcasts a loud distress signal on the VHF when activated, and then, as soon as a GPS fix is available (about one minute in our tests), it transmits the device’s position via the DSC VHF. The second product was the Kannad SafeLink R10 SRS, which transmits an alert via the ship’s AIS receiver and, after a GPS fix is available, the MOB position.
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Fuel Vent Rules Are Out of Whack with Reality

December 12, 2012 - I’m pretty certain that when historians and economists look back on the 30-year-old, $20-billion tax break for turning corn into fuel, it will be seen for what it is: political pandering masquerading as “clean” energy policy. Practical Sailor has covered the effects of ethanol on marine fuel systems in depth over the last several years. Most of our focus has been on helping prevent the problems that ethanol causes in engines and fuel system. I bring up politics in this post only because it relates to an upcoming PS article on recently enacted federal regulations that require fuel-vent filters on new boats with gasoline inboards.
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Talking Olympic Dreams with Nichole Rider

November 27, 2012 - If you have not yet heard the name Nichole Rider, you will. A star athlete in high school and college, Rider was paralyzed in a car accident in 1995. Technically quadriplegic, the 39-year-old sailor has limited motion in her arms and hands and almost no ability to use her legs, but like her friend and sailing mentor, Kerry Gruson, she refuses to let her disability define her. Gruson, a former New York Times reporter, and another disabled sailor, Juan Carlos Gil, first introduced Rider to sailing in 2010. Two years later, Rider has a laser-beam focus on the 2016 Para-Olympics in Brazil.
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A Short List of Centerboard Cruising Boats

November 20, 2012 - Being stuck on the west coast of Florida, with two shoaling channels offering the easiest access out to the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve suddenly become more interested in centerboard cruisers. Generally, I’m not a huge proponent of adding moving parts to a cruising sailboat, but the attraction of being able to make reasonable progress to windward, feel secure in a blow, and explore skinny-water paradises that are off limits to conventional offshore designs is hard to resist. So this week, I started a short list of 35- to 45-foot boats that look promising. It's just a start, really, and I’d be interested in hearing thoughts from other sailors regarding their favorite centerboard cruisers. (No, Finisterre does not count.)
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Report Sheds Light on Deaths Aboard Aegean

November 13, 2012 - In an extensive and carefully worded report, a US Sailing investigative panel cited inadequate lookout as a key factor that likely contributed to the fatal April 28, 2012 accident involving the Aegean, a Hunter 376 participating in the 125-mile race from Newport Beach, Calif., to Ensenada, Mexico. The panel also found it likely that the Aegean inadvertently motored beyond a waypoint set near North Coronado Island. As the report states: “Based on all factors, the panel concludes that the skipper set a waypoint that took Aegean on a path that intersected North Coronado Island, that Aegean was motoring under autopilot as she approached the island, and there is no evidence of any intervention to prevent Aegean’s running into the island.” The report also indicates a need for better safety practices, improved race management, and points out weaknesses in the SPOT tracking system, calling the portable GPS tracking device "unreliable in transmission of position fixes on a timely basis.”
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Rescuing The Bounty and the U.S. Coast Guard

October 30, 2012 - By now, most every Practical Sailor reader is probably aware of the fate of The Bounty, the tall ship of Hollywood movie fame. It sunk in stormy seas off Cape Hatteras on Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Northeast. At the time of this writing, the ship’s captain, 63-year-old Robin Walbridge of St. Petersburg, Fla., was still missing at sea. Crewmember Claudene Christian, 42, was pulled from the water, taken ashore, but pronounced dead in the hospital. In all, Coast Guard helicopters airlifted 14 crewmembers from two life rafts. The rescuers arrived on the scene quickly, not long after the famous ship sank below the waves. Some dramatic video footage of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers and helicopter crew at work is posted here.
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Steer Clear of Stainless-steel Mooring Chain

October 24, 2012 - We made an unpleasant, although not surprising, discovery this week as we revisited the topic of ground tackle. Many readers will recall that we began a series of mooring chain tests back in 2006, with corrosion reports in 2007 and in 2008. As one Practical Sailor tester put it, the test could be described as an attempt to determine how long it took our hard-earned money to turn into a pile of rust. (As it turned out, this happened a lot faster than we expected.) At the end of 2.5 years in the water, when we decided that no one in their right mind would trust their boat to any of the seven badly corroded 5/16-inch chains, we pulled them out for the final inspection.
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Safety at Sea Seminar for Sailors Set for Oct. 20

October 9, 2012 - Ralph Naranjo, Technical Editor of Practical Sailor, will be the moderating a US SAILING Sanctioned Safety-at-Sea Seminar at Strictly Sail Long Beach, Southern California’s only all-sail boat show on October 20, during the show. Topics for the full-day seminar include rendering first aid, damage control and predicting weather at sea—essential skills for any offshore sailor or racer. The course also qualifies graduates to sail in long-distance sailing races – US SAILING certification is becoming a mandatory practice for many races across the country.
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Can Copper Antifouling Paint Be Kind?

September 25, 2012 - As we point out in the October 2012 issue of Practical Sailor, cuprous oxide still rules the roost when it comes to long-term antifouling protection, with hard paints and ablative paints fairly evenly matched for durability. For those who care about reducing their impact on the ocean, this raises a question. If we want to stick with copper (as opposed to an eco-friendly, copper-free antifouling), which type of paint—hard or ablative—is easier on the environment?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:37PM Comments (0)

Mike's Daring Experiments with Antifouling Paint

September 18, 2012 - Practical Sailor owes a debt of gratitude to Sarasota, Fla., sailor Mike Collins, who offered his Cape Dory 25 Skimmer as a test platform for a new environmentally friendly bottom paint earlier this year. The paint had done well early in our panel testing, and Collins, who oversees the health of the aquariums at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, was as curious as we were to see how it might perform on a hull. So how did it do? This photo of Skimmer’s bottom, taken just six months after the bottom was painted, says it all.
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Are Retailers Misrepresenting Next-gen PLBs?

September 12, 2012 - Practical Sailor recently examined how the introduction of devices like the SPOT was blurring the line between multifunction satellite communication devices and those designed exclusively for distress signaling. In the October issue of Practical Sailor we will take a look at the design implications when a 406-MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) enables expanded services for paid subscribers, including a very SPOT-like ability to send canned text messages and location maps to multiple cell phone or email addresses.
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Is an EPIRB Requirement on the Horizon?

August 21, 2012 - Should boaters who travel more than three miles offshore in the U.S. or Great Lakes be required to carry a to carry an EPIRB, a personal locator beacon, some other form of emergency locator beacon? That is the question a National Boating Safety Advisory Council task force is asking as it formulates new safety recommendations for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:06PM Comments (10)

U.S. Sailing Releases Report on Farallones Accident

August 7, 2012 - It seems somehow appropriate that today, as I hopscotch among the islands of Ireland’s western coast, U.S. Sailing has released its final report on the fate of the crew of Low Speed Chase. The comprehensive report, available for download at the U.S. Sailing website, covers in great detail the factors that led to the deaths of five sailors on April 14 during the Full Crew Farallones Race out of San Francisco, Calif.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 07:19AM Comments (3)

You Can Take It All With You! (Sort of)

July 31, 2012 - Still trying to find a place to stow everything for that big summer cruise or that voyage south this autumn? You don’t have to wind up like this sloop we came across in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, with everything but the kitchen sink hanging from the stern arch. With so much sail area aft, the boat has effectively become a yawl a la Sanford and Son, a precarious rig for a passage to the Aran…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:23AM Comments (3)