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What Dog Breed is Best Suited for Cruising?

July 11, 2017 - Over the years, we've encountered everything from chihuahuas to huskies (yes, huskies) living aboard sailboats, so I'm not convinced that breed matters much, but some dogs are clearly better adapted to boats and the water. At the moment, we're looking at small dogs, good travelling dogs that like the water and are happy to curl up in tight spaces during passages.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:52PM Comments (30)

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Making Lake Water Safe for Drinking Onboard

July 5, 2017 - When you sail on a limitless supply of drinking water why bother with a water tank? In fact, many Great Lakes sailors who are serious about racing have had their tanks removed to save weight since local racing rules permit this. So what about drinking water? Bottled water is an option. However, without too much investment, you can build an onboard treatment system that will ensure that your drinking water tastes great and meets the highest drinking water standards.
Posted by Drew Frye with Darrell Nicholson at 09:17AM Comments (3)

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Caring for Encapsulated Ballast Keels

June 28, 2017 - If your boat has an encapsulated iron keel, don't get lulled into believing that you are completely free of keel worries. Although you are generally better off than sailors with exposed iron keels, you still have to carry out routine maintenance and inspection, and be aware of the warning signs of water intrusion, which could lead to bigger problems. We've written a lot about keels recently, and over the years, we've offered tips on repairs to common problems like the C&C "smile," when a lead keel pulls away from the keel stub, or how to deal with voids in lead keels. I've also written here about the effectiveness of rust converters such as Ospho when reviving an iron keel. And more recently we've looked at the spate of keel-ectomies among older cruising boats boats with high-aspect-ratio fin keel designs.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:32PM Comments (6)

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AC Shorepower Cord Inspections

June 21, 2017 - Start your inspection with the shore power cord itself, ensuring it’s constructed of proper marine grade components, uses appropriately sized wiring, and is the shortest cord that will get the job done. Always replace cords that show signs of chafe, cracks, split insulation, or those having electrical tape repairs.
Posted by at 12:00AM Comments (3)

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Summer Squall Sailing Tactics

June 13, 2017 - The danger in running before the squall (or tacking 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 through is a less taxing approach. What is a "safe" configuration? Gusts much over 40 knots are not common, but some devastating downbursts in excess of 50 knots can occur in volatile areas. (The fatal squall line that struck the fleet in the 2011 Chicago-Mac race is a good example).
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:42AM Comments (6)

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Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

June 7, 2017 - If you haven’t given hurricane season a thought yet, you might want to start with our July 2008 report, “Lines, Snubbers, and Other Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms.” Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s first-hand account of his storm preparations “Tropical Storm Dos and Don’ts” and “How to Help Your Boat Survive A Major Storm” should also be required reading.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:01PM Comments (7)

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A Simple Solution for Boat Toilet Stink

May 30, 2017 - We tested each solution by diluting the holding tank treatment about 5:1 with water, placing the mix in a trigger-style spray bottle, and misting the toilet bowl after each use, or at least a few times a day. The results were impressive, but there are some holding tank treatments that can promote holding tank odors if used in this manner.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 11:06AM Comments (12)

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Testing Sailing Knots that Really Grip

May 24, 2017 - In the current issue of Practical Sailor, we report on the performance of various commercial and homemade drag devices when used to steer a boat with a damaged rudder. This emergency tactic usually requires a towing bridle, and one of the easiest ways to create a bridle is to use 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.
Posted by at 12:00AM Comments (6)

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Preventing Mildew in Marine Fabrics

May 17, 2017 - Canvas dodgers and biminis are the hallmark of a cruising yacht, keeping the sun at bay and allowing the crew to "dodge" the worst of the weather. Canvas also protects sails, windows, and machinery. The cost of these fabric covers adds up quickly, so we wanted to find the best way to protect the investment and extend the lifespan of the fabric. Glen Raven, the manufacturer of Sunbrella, recommends that routine maintenance include frequent freshwater rinsing plus spot cleaning the fabric. After a more thorough cleaning, Sunbrella advises owners to apply a treatment (specifically Gold Eagle 303 High Tech Fabric Guard) to restore the fabric's repellency. In our February 2014 report on canvas maintenance, we took a look at 303 High Tech Fabric Guard and other treatments designed to keep on-board canvas water repellent and looking its best.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:36AM Comments (3)

The Pro's Guide to Restoring Gelcoat

May 10, 2017 - This week's blog on restoring old hulls includes tips like this one on wet-sanding: If you’re using an electric sander, mist the hull surface with a spray bottle. Mix a few drops of dish detergent in the water to keep the hull evenly wet and keep it wetter longer. Rinse the surface often to look for potential burn-through areas, and look at it from several angles. You can use a window squeegee to quick dry the surface after a rinse to get a low-glare look at the gelcoat. Do not use circular movements. Wet-sand until the hull has an even dullness, a matte finish; then rinse with fresh water.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:42AM Comments (5)

What's Hiding in Your Rig?

May 3, 2017 - When awakening your boat from its winter slumber a rig check should be high on the list of priorities. Even though the boat has been sitting still, the laws of physics still take their toll. Corrosion is the biggest enemy, and the stainless steel components in your rig can effectively hide the insidious advance of this disease Over the years we’ve published a variety of articles on the hidden risks of stainless-steel hardware—chainplates, tangs, toggles, shackles, etc.—important bits that seemingly fail without warning. In many cases, though, the potential trouble spots aren't so hidden after all. The trick is knowing where to look.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:17PM Comments (9)

Preserving Leftover Paints and Varnishes

April 26, 2017 - So you carried out an exhaustive spring maintenance this year and are now left with several cans of very expensive marine varnishes, bottom paints, and other marine maintenance products—some opened, some untouched—that you don’t want to go bad. What to do?
Posted by at 12:04PM Comments (4)

Too Many Layers of Bottom Paint?

April 19, 2017 - So, a couple of years back, you acquired a good old boat at a pretty good price—thanks to the market—but now you’re wondering how many coats of bottom paint it has. And what kind? You’ve put on a few coats of ablative antifouling since you’ve owned the boat. It has adhered well and has done its job. But each year, the bottom looks rougher and rougher—with big recesses where paint has flaked off. You sweated out some extra prep-work this season, and thought you had a nice, durable subsurface for painting, but each pass of the roller pulls up more paint. What’s going on here?
Posted by at 01:43PM Comments (6)

Steer Clear of the Marine Cleaner Con

April 12, 2017 - Lest you think multi-billion-dollar chemical companies and their geeks in white lab coats have a lock on cleaning your boat, there are numerous homebrewed solutions that have the ability to bring back that new boat shine.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:04AM Comments (4)

PFD-Harness Good Sense

April 5, 2017 - Is your PFD/harness ready for the sailing season? As the northern half of the country gets ready for boating season, we look again at the hard won guidance on inflatable PFD/harnesses. It is not enough to simpy have sufficient number of PFDs on board. Today's inflatablePFDs require regular maintenance, special care when re-arming or repacking, and regular testing to confirm that they will work as designed. Given our experience with these devices, we also recommend at least one test (manual) inflation before setting out on a long cruise.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:28AM Comments (4)