July 25, 2019 - No matter what brand of anchor shackle you decide to use, understanding sizing and grades of shackles is essential, since this connector between your rode and anchor is often the weakest link in your ground tackle. And the weakest point in the shackle is often where the shackle pin meets the body. When the shackle pin or body is loaded from an angle, the shackle body can be forced open, causing the pin to break or fall out. This is the most common failure we have seen in our tests—even when under straight-pull loads.
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July 17, 2019 - Hook and loop fasteners are familiar from jacket cuffs and companionway bug screens, but during our many years of fiddling around boats, we’ve come up with a few applications that even a Velcro-lover haven’t yet tried. Let’s look at some new tricks.
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July 10, 2019 - The danger in running before a squall (or jibing downwind, a tactic sometimes employed by Transpac racers) is the inevitable wind shift that can cause an accidental jibe. Since squalls are usually short lived, with the strongest winds lasting less than 20 minutes, simply reducing sail to a safe configuration and motoring or motorsailing through or past the squall can be a less taxing approach than trying sail through it. What is a "safe" configuration?
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July 3, 2019 - 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 (19)
June 24, 2019 - The widespread use of Dyneema and similar high-strength, high-tech lines presents a slippery problem for the knot-tying sailor, especially if they are tying a gripping hitch. A gripping hitch is the knot you would use to tie one line to another (or itself) when you don’t want the line to slip. Here's a look at some of the gripping hitches that we've tested for holding ability and ease of tying.
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June 19, 2019 - Summer is here, and our routine maintenance chores now require some serious elbow grease. Our first impulse is to go for the super-strength acids that will take care of the hard growth as well as the stains. But there are kinder, gentler options, if you have the willpower and the patience.
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June 12, 2019 - In the July 2019 issue of Practical Sailor we dive again into the world of inflatable PFD/harnesses. The report, written by marine safety expert Ralph Naranjo, highlights common mistakes mariners make with regards to proper care and use of various inflatable PFDs on the market. The crux of his report, however, is the potentially dangerous shift in perceptions among offshore sailors with regards to this equipment.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:19PM Comments (11)
June 6, 2019 - With the official start of the North Atlantic hurricane season starting earlier this week, boat owners in vulnerable coastal areas should already have a hurricane response plan ready. Practical Sailor has covered storm preparation on several occasions. Here is some of the guidance we can offer.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:55AM Comments (4)
May 29, 2019 - Should sailors wear helmets? As we gain greater awareness of the risks of long-term brain injury linked to concussions in various sports, it is only natural that sailors would reexamine the risks associated with sailing. After all, one of the first things we learn upon boarding a sailboat is to avoid a boom-strike to the head.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:56PM Comments (9)
May 22, 2019 - Installing a watermaker can be a serious project, and it’s not to be taken lightly. First, you need to find a suitable location for the system. For those with limited mounting space, consider a modular watermaker.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:14PM Comments (5)
May 16, 2019 - While spring usually heralds the start of boating season for most of us, for others it means facing up to long-postponed projects. If you own an older boat, that project probably might be removing the years of antifouling paint that have built up on the bottom. In this blog post you'll find links to a number of useful articles to help guide you through this process.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (2)
May 1, 2019 - As we found in our last major test of bird deterrents, there is no perfect solution for every bird problem, but we’ve come across one that seems to work well in the marina in Florida where we keep one of our test boats, an Endeavour 42 Lost Boyz owned by boat builder Robert Helmick. The main perpetrators in this particular marina are starlings that feed on the berries near the marina then apparently find a comfortable roost to digest (and deposit the remains of) their meal. Sailboat masts seem to be the preferred perch, as the dockmaster reports that he rarely sees them atop powerboats.
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April 24, 2019 - Before plunking down $100 or more a gallon for bottom paint, consider where your priorities lie.
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April 18, 2019 - As part of a report on the Dickinson P9000 in the December issue, Practical Sailor tester Drew Frye provides an in-depth guide to a do-it-yourself installation, with special emphasis on safety. The following are important safety tips that generally apply to any propane heating system, whether it is the Dickinson fireplace, a Sig Marine cabin heater, or a similar heater.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 03:32PM Comments (8)
April 11, 2019 - Some of my favorite PS tests are those that pit ordinary dime-store products against gold-plated “marine-grade” stuff. This month’s propellor antifouling test called to mind an investigation into the antifouling properties of diaper cream that took place many moons ago. Diaper cream contains zinc oxide, a known biocide, but it does not regulate the release of biocides the way bottom paint does. Nevertheless, you’ll find many bulletin-board posts that recommend diaper cream for depth-sounder transducers, props, and dinghies. My take-away from our 1995 report is that the product worked (sort of) for a limited period, but it is an impractical solution for hulls . . . better to let you read and decide for yourself.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:20AM Comments (8)