September 10, 2013 - Within a day of US Sailing’s release of a report that concluded that four out of five Spinlock Deckvests failed to work properly in a fatal sailing accident earlier this year, PS testers were in the water with a Spinlock Deckvest (5D, 170N, Pro-Sensor inflator), trying to figure out what might have gone wrong. Our findings re-emphasize what we’ve said several times before—inflate and try a PFD out in the water as soon as you buy it. Learn how to service it and adjust it for ideal fit. If it doesn’t fit, send it back and try another.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:42PM Comments (7)
September 3, 2013 - By now, some who read this blog regularly may be wondering if Practical Sailor will be covering the America’s Cup. The answer is . . . sort of. I’m not going. The votes are in; the jury has spoken. Practical Sailor readers have made a persuasive argument that they don’t see much value—apart from the gee-whiz factor—in expending our limited resources on an event that is already over-hyped. Let Larry Ellison play with his toys. (Yes, I’m a closet fan of the Kiwis.)
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:07PM Comments (11)
August 26, 2013 - A couple of our ongoing tests are (literally) spilling over into the world of products still dominated by home appliances, bringing up the subject of inverters that convert your boat’s 12-volt, direct-current (DC) system to an alternating-current (AC) system like those found in our homes. As the trend toward off-the-grid living grows (solar panels, wind generators, and fuel cells produce DC current), so does the list of appliances that run off of DC power. …
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:19PM Comments (4)
August 19, 2013 - About this time of year, when lightning strikes become common, we receive a good deal of mail asking about static dissipators such as the Lightning Master. These are the downside-up, wire-brush-like devices you see sprouting from antennas and rooftops in cities and towns, and, more frequently, on sailboat masts. When these devices first appeared on the market, we did a fair amount of research to find out whether they realistically could be expected to spare a sailboat's mast from a lightning strike.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:16PM Comments (16)
August 12, 2013 - On older boats, the complication factor is almost sure to multiply when you talk about installing deck hardware. Access to belowdecks bolts and backing plates is often tricky, and the condition of the deck itself can pose problems. Along with our genoa car and track test report in the September 2013 issue of Practical Sailor, we included a rundown of installation tips. The tips offer a general view of the scope of a genoa track upgrade, remedies for common problems, and techniques for preventing future damage to the deck core. Although the tips apply specifically to genoa tracks, much of the advice is relevant to any deck hardware installation.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:03PM Comments (3)
July 8, 2013 - Although Thor Heyerdahl’s theory regarding human migration across the Pacific has been discounted, his 1948 book and 1951 Oscar-award winning documentary, “Kon-Tiki,” is responsible for inspiring more than a few dreams of cruising the Pacific. I find it interesting that when American sailors followed Heyerdahl’s path across the Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s, they often did so in Colin Archer-type boats, like John G. Hanna’s Tahiti ketch—and later, the Westsail 32, a variation on William Atkin’s Archer-esque Thistle. It is as if all roads to Tahiti first passed through Oslo, Norway, where I happen to find myself this week.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:40AM Comments (10)
June 10, 2013 - In the upcoming July issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Drew Frye plunges into the the not-so-funny topic of joker valves (if you don’t know what this is yet, consider yourself lucky) and emerges with some valuable tips on keeping our marine heads healthy. One of his potentially controversial discoveries is that the “eco-friendly” anti-freeze propylene glycol isn’t really any kinder to the marine environment than the anti-freeze it was designed to replace, ethylene glycol—and it is definitely harder on plumbing components.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:27PM Comments (8)
June 4, 2013 - One of the first things that you realize after a few seasons of cruising is that approaches to life aboard vary between two wide extremes: cruisers who by choice or because of a limited budget live with minimal creature comforts, and those cruisers who sacrifice little more than living space when they move aboard.
You’d think that when it came to basic essentials like food and water, there would be some overlap between these two groups, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Take water, for example.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 12:33PM Comments (3)
May 28, 2013 - As the world’s largest solar-powered boat heads toward Miami for its U.S. debut and the start of a 16-city world tour, I was reminded of one of the most frequent questions I hear from Practical Sailor readers: "Which is best, solar panels or a wind generator?" The answer, like many things regarding cruising equipment, depends on where you cruise and the type of boat you own.
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April 22, 2013 - One of my projects this summer will be to help a friend install new interior lights on an Endeavour 42 that he is restoring, so recently, I've been digging through Practical Sailor's many articles on interior marine lighting. While fluorescent lights are an efficient way to illuminate wide areas, such as the galley, he is also interested in using dimmable LEDs for cabin lighting. Our January 2009 article on LED lights featured a good cross-section of what is available, although only one of the lights we tested for that report was dimmable. Dimming LEDs isn’t as simple as dimming an incandescent bulb.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 12:15PM Comments (1)
April 8, 2013 - In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re bending anchors here at Practical Sailor. Look for Part 2 of our anchor shank-bending adventures in the upcoming May issue. Coincidentally, right when we were in the middle of bending anchor shanks, we received a 33-pound Mantus anchor for testing. The design is interesting in that it combines some attributes of a Rocna, Manson Supreme, and Wasi Bugel. The anchor has a folded fluke with a small, sharpened toe welded to the fluke. The anchor is shallowly concave but has a roll bar, sufficiently wider than the fluke.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 02:34PM Comments (6)
March 26, 2013 - Early this year, my provocative blog article asking readers to help decide whether PS should dedicate some ink to the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer generated an overwhelming response, and at this point, the “yeas” have only a slight edge over the “nays.” Almost all of those who’d rather not see Cup coverage were emphatic: “Please don’t fill your great magazine with America’s Cup dribble. As a cruiser, I have absolutely no interest in it,” wrote one reader. And most readers who encouraged PS to cover the event did so with reservation: “If you pick your topic, the AC certainly has practical value. For example, when these boats break, how are they repaired? As more boats are made from exotic materials, which structures are found to be more durable, more flexible, more brittle, or less repairable after damage?” In other words, "keep it real."
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:51PM Comments (25)
March 19, 2013 - Ever since October 2011, when the dermatologist announced that I had skin cancer at the age of 46, I’ve been looking for good hats and other accessories to keep my face, in particular, out of the sun. I’m a sailor, and I’m not ready to change my life completely, but I do need to make a diligent effort to prevent this dangerous, but generally preventable and treatable form of skin cancer—squamous cell carcinoma—from becoming more serious. I’ve been cancer-free for the past 18 months, but I’ve now got a nice battle scar running down my right cheek, and I would prefer not to have any more.
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March 12, 2013 - Rule number one of any maintenance program is simple: Never trust your memory. A written maintenance log is essential. It can be as basic as a hand-written notebook or as sophisticated as a computer spreadsheet. There's even proprietary computer software for creating maintenance logs. Whether sophisticated or simple, the basic requirements of any maintenance log are the same: 1. Divide jobs into categories. 2. Define the task. 3. Determine the service interval. 4. Note specialized tools or materials required. 5. Inventory consumable materials. 6. Record the date the job is actually done.
When carried out with regularity, these six steps can save you days that might have otherwise been wasted over the course of a single cruising season.
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February 26, 2013 - We had an unusually soggy Miami Boat Show a few weeks ago, which gave us an opportunity to look at something we haven’t paid much attention to in a few years: waterproofing coatings for fabrics. Textile technology has seen some significant new developments since our last complete test of waterproof coatings. Chemical engineers have found new ways to impregnate fibers with coatings that can last through dozens of wash cycles. Some new after-market spray protectants have emerged as well. But are those sprays even necessary in today's nano-particle world—when chemical engineers are building weather protection right into their products?
Posted by at 02:32PM Comments (2)