June 5, 2012 - There is something mildly annoying about receiving a semi-automated e-mail from a Practical Sailor tester “hard at work” in the Bahamas while I'm stuck in the office. I’m not sure why I found these recent communiques so irksome. They were seemingly harmless notes from a friend, with the subject line “Check-in/Ok message for Frank’s Spot."
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:36PM Comments (1)
May 29, 2012 - Being raised on the shores of Biscayne Bay, I should have known better than to expect crowds of sailing fanatics to converge on Miami when the Volvo Ocean Race sailed into town last month. Still, I held faint hope. Now, as the race fleet closes in on the coast of Lisbon and the flurry of press releases begins anew, I'm reminded of my many disappointments in the Miami stopover.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:55AM Comments (10)
May 15, 2012 - The Coast Guard’s request late last month that sailors “stand-down” and suspend any offshore racing outside San Francisco Bay in the wake of last month’s tragedy in the San Francisco Yacht Club’s Farallones Race rankled more than a few Bay area sailors. The response was not surprising. Critics decried the move as draconian, driven by overzealous safety mavens, an example virulent government intrusion, trampling of personal freedoms, etc. etc. etc. It is a…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:51PM Comments (13)
May 8, 2012 - I recently read an essay that compared sailing to tennis, two sports that I enjoy, but are as different as they come. The writer implied that both sports are infected with a clubby sense of elitism, and while I’m not so blind as to dismiss this as absolute nonsense, the comment irked me to no end. Some sailors might argue that there’s a difference between racers and cruisers, but that would only perpetuate unfair stereotypes and misses the point. The distinction is much simpler: The sea is not a tennis court.
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May 1, 2012 - I had a near picture-perfect test sail last Thursday aboard the new Hunter 33 on the Manatee River, just north of our offices in Sarasota, Fla. All in all, the boat was very well behaved in the 12 to 14 knots of breeze, almost ideal conditions for this family coastal cruiser. Little did I know that days later, the parent company of Hunter, one of the cornerstones of production sailboat building in America, would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:41PM Comments (9)
April 24, 2012 - According to a press release issued yesterday from Kannad Marine, the FCC has approved for sale in the U.S. Kannad’s SafeLink R10 SRS, the world’s first personal Automatic Identification System (AIS) device designed to be worn by individuals and activated to assist in man overboard recovery. Worn on a life jacket and activated by simply sliding off the safety tab and lifting an arming cap to deploy the antenna, this unique product sends structured alert messages, GPS position, and a special identity code directly to AIS receivers within (approximately) a four-mile radius.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:06PM Comments (3)
April 17, 2012 - It's just a few weeks until summer begins, and our hopes and prayers for a safe 2012 sailing season in North America have already been shattered. Five sailors were washed overboard and died in Saturday’s Farallones Race, sponsored by the San Francisco Yacht Club. This was an experienced crew, which included several sailors with close ties to the San Francisco Yacht Club—the home club to many longtime Practical Sailor readers.
According to news accounts, the Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase was struck by a breaking wave while rounding South Farallon Island, one of a group of islands outside San Francisco Bay that serves as a rounding mark in the 48-mile race.
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April 10, 2012 - Who can you trust? You’d think that the Internet explosion and the current boom in blogging and social media would make life easier for the wannabe cruising sailor looking for information on boats, equipment, and cruising in general. But when you start peeling back the layers of information—everything from bulletin boards to blogs to e-zines—you find that the Web is rife with contradictions, bad advice, and now, some contemptible stealth marketing.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:30AM Comments (6)
April 3, 2012 - We’re just wrapping up our testing of the new e7 MFD from Raymarine, which we ran side-by-side with the Garmin 740s, one of our favorites in our recent comparison of small chartplotter-sounders. The e7 was the most interesting electronic gizmo we saw at this year’s Miami Boat Show, the annual debutante ball for manufacturers to unveil their newest creations to the public. The company calls it a “hybrid” display, using both a…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:20AM Comments (0)
March 27, 2012 - The government already has a variety of ways to track our comings and goings, and I suppose I can learn to live with these. But my boat always has been a more sacred and personal space. As I reflected on a future when a person can no longer step aboard his sailboat and fall off the map, I began to wonder whether this new floating creation, forever held in the gaze of the state, will even qualify as a boat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:25PM Comments (13)
March 20, 2012 - Has one of the world's most important suppliers of safety tethers for commercial, rescue, and military markets solved many of the problems faced by sailors today? PS Editor Darrell Nicholson talks about safety-tether release lanyards and how marine manufacturers and non-marine manufacturers approach the design challenges associated with this component.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:08PM Comments (6)
March 13, 2012 - We’ve received some good suggestions from readers in response to my editorial in the March issue of Practical Sailor that described our tether and harness design project. Similar to what we did with toddler life jackets back in 2007, the plan is to solicit input from experts in the field, other sailors, and PS readers to try to come up with an improved design for inflatable PFD/harnesses. Because the tether is such an integral part of the PFD/harness when sailing offshore, we plan to work on improved tether designs as well.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:29PM Comments (9)
March 6, 2012 - I usually don’t get too excited about the tricked-out space ships circling the globe in the Volvo Ocean Race, but when I heard the race fleet was split in half, with three of the Volvo 70s planning to weave through the Solomon Islands, my interest was piqued. While the images of these thoroughbred machines racing down the long swells of the bottom of the planet are impressive, the idea of threading through an area of poorly charted reefs, jungle islands, and notoriously squally weather in the darkness presented a tantalizing new twist.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:17AM Comments (3)
February 21, 2012 - They say a photo is worth 1,000 words, and this one certainly says a lot. On our way to a very serious study of hose clamps at the Miami International Boat Show, the nice sales ladies at the booth of some nameless speedboat showed their appreciation for Capt. Frank Lanier, a retired Coast Guard officer and one of our contributors. It is a standard boat show ploy: Beautiful girls attract men (even those as high-minded as Capt. Lanier) and men buy boats. For many complex reasons (including the fact that Frank's incredibly supportive wife might one day stumble on this blog post), I hesitated to publish this photo. But it serves to illustrate a point that struck me at this year’s Miami show . . .
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 11:59AM Comments (10)
February 14, 2012 - More affordable electronic man-overboard tracking technology is on the way. The US-based Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services has just completed a new standard for man-overboard beacons using Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and/or Automatic Identification System (AIS). According to a news release from the RTCM, the standard requires MOB beacons using DSC and sending "open loop" messages (i.e. standard all-ships distress calls) to be fitted with a GPS and a DSC channel transceiver. The GPS automatically inserts a position in the DSC (and AIS) call, making it easier for boats to locate and recover a crew member who has fallen overboard.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:40AM Comments (2)