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Rope Washing Advice from the Pros

January 3, 2019 - The rope should be tightly coiled or tied in a daisy-chain, and then placed inside a pillowcase. Front-loading washing machines are recommended; an up-and-down motion is preferable to the rotary motion of most common household machines. Without coiling or daisy-chaining, a rope can turn into an impressive tangle. The pillowcase further restricts the motion of the rope and prevents the rope from wrapping around the central agitator, which can destroy ropes and break washing machines.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:02PM Comments (5)

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Fuel Storage Tips for Sailors

December 20, 2018 - Sometimes it is not what has been added to your fuel that matters, but what is missing. Anywhere between 5 to 20 percent of the contents of a portable or installed polyethylene tank can vanish during the course of a year, the result of breathing losses and permeation. The remaining fuel is lower in octane, contains fewer of the volatiles that are so essential for easy starting, and has reduced solvency for gum and varnish. It often looks perfectly good, but is perfectly rotten and potentially harmful as fuel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:17PM Comments (2)

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Propellor Paints Versus Barnacles

December 12, 2018 - Practical Sailor’s search for longer lasting prop paints has led us down many rabbit holes, we've experimented with several different prop paints with varying degrees of success, although none of the results so far have been dazzling. Some of our testers have had better success with dedicated “slick” prop paints such as PropSpeed. In our testing, however, mostly in Chesapeake Bay, no prop paint had lived up to our increasingly faint hope that the paint repel growth as effectively as our hull paint.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:01PM Comments (14)

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Complacency and the Modern Sailor

December 5, 2018 - In recent years it seems as if not a fall sailing season goes by without at least one presumably sound vessel and experienced crew running into trouble off Cape Hatteras. It is almost as if today’s sailors are suffering a severe case of amnesia, causing them to forget that this stretch of water has rightly earned the moniker “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Or perhaps this is just another example of how improved weather forecasting and state-of-the-art navigation and communication systems (not to mention distress signaling) has led us to become complacent?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:01PM Comments (8)

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Drysuit vs. Survival Suit for Offshore Sailing

November 28, 2018 - The problem with survival suits is that there’s no telling when the big wave or brutal wind gust will hit, and it may not leave time to don a survival suit. Some survival suits have sewn-in gloves that make it almost impossible to turn on the radio or deploy a personal locator beacon. That’s why wearing a comfortable, breathable drysuit makes sense. It leaves you much more ready to manage the boat in heavy weather. And should the unexpected happen, your odds of survival in the water are better than they would be in foul weather gear.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:25AM Comments (12)

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Repairing Plastic Water Tanks

November 21, 2018 - In our recent report on plastic tank repairs, we explore several different methods of repair, including heat-welding using commonly available welding kits. As that article points out, the manufacturers of these tanks do not recommend such repairs. However, our long-term tests of steel-mesh reinforced repairs of water and holding tanks (not fuel!) have so far been very promising.
Posted by Drew Frye at 09:20AM Comments (4)

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Sailboat Steering System Check-up

November 14, 2018 - The sensible approach to steering maintenance, of course, is to prevent steering failure in the first place. Like rigging, sails, and hull integrity, steering is one of those essential items that needs close monitoring. Here are a few things to consider when inspecting your steering system each season, or before any long passage.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:54AM Comments (5)

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Preserving Leftover Paints and Varnishes

November 8, 2018 - Perhaps the best reason to touch-up or add a coat of varnish in the fall is to avoid having to do it in the spring, when you are anxious to get back in the water and have so many other critical tasks to carry out. But once your varnish work is done, what do you do with partially full cans that you don’t want to go bad?
Posted by at 12:04PM Comments (13)

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Pro Tips to Hauling Out

October 31, 2018 - Once a boat has been shored and blocked, it’s a good idea to layer tarps or plastic sheeting beneath it. That keeps cleaners, paint, paint removers, and other chemicals from contaminating the ground. Layering the tarps means you can remove a soiled one and have a clean surface to kneel or stand on.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:33PM Comments (4)

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Sailboat Winter Covers: What to Look For

October 24, 2018 - The approach of winter in the northern hemisphere brings with it that age-old question: How best to protect the boat from snow and ice? Already boats on Lake Superior are being pulled from the water, and sailors as far south as the Chesapeake are beginning to think about buttoning up for winter. While many power boats choose shrink-wrapping over a more permanent solution, sailboats—with their masts stepped or unstepped—are perfectly suited for reusable, custom, or semi-custom covers.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:28PM Comments (22)

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Upgrading the Cruising Mainsail

October 17, 2018 - The old main was constructed of Dacron, and polyester continued to offer the best balance of cost, longevity, and performance for our particular situation. We decided to go with a premium-grade polyester (Dimension 360AP-MTO 8.4 ounce). Premium polyester is tightly woven and has a high yarn count that provides good shape retention and good performance over a wide range of wind speeds.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:17PM Comments (3)

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Keep it Simple Sail Repair Kit

October 10, 2018 - If you’re going to sail you’ll be doing some stitching—no two ways about it. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard with sail repair tools. Don’t jump into the $100 do-everything kit. Start with a modest kit, adding tools and materials only as your skills grow and projects require them. Chances are, you already have most of what you need in your other supply lockers or tool boxes.
Posted by Drew Frye at 11:25AM Comments (1)

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Tool Buying Guide for the Cruising Sailor

October 3, 2018 - When it takes longer to find the right tool for the job than to actually complete the job, consider creating your own “doctor’s bag” of boat tools. In this week’s Inside Practical Sailor blog, you’ll find great advice on taming your toolbox from veteran circumnavigator Evans Starzinger, as well as links to some of our most popular tests of hand tools and power tools—just in time for Father's Day.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:36AM Comments (10)

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Bracing for Cold and Wet Sailing

September 26, 2018 - As any cold-weather sailor will tell you, the battle against the elements involves more than just bibs and a jacket. Keeping out the wind and wet begins with underlayers, boots, and gloves. Whether you’re dreaming of high latitude adventures, or just want to keep sailing through October, we’ve got you covered. Here is a summary of past reports on cold-weather sailing apparel.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:10PM Comments (11)

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Quick and Dirty Anchor Shank Strength Test

September 19, 2018 - So you've read our many reports on anchor shanks, and you're thinking, "I wonder what kind of steel my anchor shank is made of?" You could go to the maker, but you might find, as we did, that some manufacturers consider this proprietary information - as if the strength of the steel is not worth sharing with the consumer. So you decide to find out for yourself.
Posted by at 11:36AM Comments (10)