Solar Panels vs. Wind Generators

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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Making Your Own Dimmable LED Light

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.
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A Second Look at Anchor Shanks

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)

PS Readers Divided Over America's Cup Coverage

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)

In Search of the Perfect Sailing Hat

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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A Boat Maintenance Schedule that Can't Fail

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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Fortifying Marine Fabrics Against the Elements

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?
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Should Crew Take Some Blame for Bounty Tragedy?

February 12, 2013 - Author Kathryn Miles has written a gripping article on the tragic end of the Bounty, the replica of the original Bounty used in Hollywood movies that went down in Hurricane Sandy, claiming two lives, including the captain's. The article, which appeared in the March issue of Outside Magazine, offers a detailed, and even-handed account of the ship’s sinking. Miles suggests many causes for the ship’s foundering, but it seems obvious that the ship never should have sailed. So the question remains: why did it?
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Should We Care About the America's Cup?

January 29, 2013 - Today, I received an email with the subject line, “America’s Cup: Media Services Update - 1.” According to the email, this was the first official notice to the media regarding the upcoming America’s Cup competition in San Francisco this summer. I’m conflicted. The river—correction—ocean between Practical Sailor and the Cup is deep and wide. Apart from the gee-whiz technology behind 72-foot wing-sail cats ripping past the Golden Gate Bridge at 40 knots, is there anything in this for our readers? Is there?
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Choosing a Life Raft

January 22, 2013 - The rescue early this week of Alain Delord, the French single-hander whose boat was dismasted and holed on Jan. 18 in the Southern Ocean, after he spent three days in a life raft offers a graphic reminder of the importance of choosing a raft that matches your voyage. In the age of EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Beacons), it's easy to be lulled into thinking that prolonged life raft ordeals like the one described by Steve Callahan in his classic tale "Adrift" are a thing of the past. Had it not been for the assistance of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who dropped Delord a better raft with food, water, and a survival suit, the 63-year-old singlehander might not be alive today. Delord was eventually picked up by a cruise ship that detoured more than 700 miles to rescue him.
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Lug-a-jug, Lug-a-jug

January 8, 2013 - While the rest of North America was soaking up the holiday season, our intrepid systems tester Frank Lanier and Managing Editor Ann Key were hip deep in the briney world of watermakers. Although most of the testing was carried out after Thanksgiving, I still had a lot of questions to answer as the New Year came and went—like do I really need one of these things? …
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Highlights from 2012, Preview of 2013

January 1, 2013 - I want to thank our subscribers new and old who have joined us on this voyage. I say “voyage” because, if anything, that is the word that best describes the day-to-day operations at Practical Sailor. I sincerely wish the best for you and your loved ones in the coming year, and look forward to another productive 12 months of testing and reporting. For new subscribers who are just joining us, or for old-timers who, like me, have trouble remembering what happened last week, much less last January, here are some of Practical Sailor’s highlights from 2012 and a peek ahead to 2013.
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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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