February 7, 2012 - We’ve got so many tests in the air, I’m afraid to open my inbox these days, for fear that one of our testers has again spiraled off into the deep end of data collection. This, you see, is the greatest challenge we face. So consumed by their mission, our testers like to pick up every detour and follow it to its end, wherever it may lead. Three-week tests drag on for years, with the final results forever lying tantalizingly out of reach. So where are the detours leading these days? Here’s a sampling of what’s ahead.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:01AM Comments (3)
February 1, 2012 - There are very few times when the door to my office is closed. Bottom paint rating tabulation time is one of them. For the past week, I’ve been poring over bottom paint data collected earlier this month: three Excel tables representing more than 300 data points. Although mammoth data tables are not what drew me into this business, the bottom paint program is still one of my favorite projects. I’ve spent enough time scrubbing, scraping, and painting to appreciate the importance of what we do.
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January 25, 2012 - Practical Sailor reader Duncan Hood wrote us last week, asking about engine room noise insulation and prompting me to dive into our files to find our last test. It’s been over a decade, so we’re due for another round of testing, but much of the information in our last report is still helpful. Many of the players are the same, and one of the most prominent players in our last test, Soundown, is still regarded as a leader in the field.
For those like Hood who are contemplating ways to silence the engine, the following excerpt from that article offers some general guidance.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:07AM Comments (3)
January 18, 2012 - In the February 2012 issue, we tested two holding tanks—one from Trionic and one from SeaLand. Both tanks slightly leaked water while under pressure. The leaks were very small and occurred at top-mounted fittings that were supplied separately with the tanks and were installed by our tester according to the manufacturers’ instructions. After the story’s publication, SeaLand informed us that tank that we tested and recommended was not the most current model.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:45AM Comments (2)
January 10, 2012 - Take a look at this photo and imagine it is your backyard. Or your patio, or sun-deck. Yep, those are sealed 5-gallon buckets full of iguana poop and “other” waste, ripening in the Chesapeake Bay area's autumn sun. Do you ever wonder whether those bright blue bottles of chemicals that claim to eliminate your head odors actually work? So did we. Did you ever wonder how the neighbors would react if you set up a head odor testing facility in your backyard? So did PS contributor Drew Frye. So far, it seems, “Operation Potty Odor,” has not alarmed the local zoning tipsters . . . and it is yielding some interesting results.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:51PM Comments (11)
January 4, 2012 - My post last week on storing batteries for winter prompted a couple comments and letters on solar panels, so I thought I'd point out some of our past articles on the topic that can be found online at www.practical-sailor.com. It is a timely project for me, since our upcoming project testing one of the new sonic-pulse antifouling devices will require a solar panel. According to the device's maker, Smart Antifouling, the unit draws about .08 amps, which means will want to put a small 5-watt solar panel on our Cape Dory 25 test boat, Skimmer, which typically lies on a mooring.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:31PM Comments (10)
December 20, 2011 - This month’s report on satellite communication devices focuses on existing technology, so it does not dig into one of the more controversial satcomm topics of the moment: a proposal by the upstart wireless company Lightsquared to provide a combined satellite and land-based broadband service that will reach remote areas of the United States where broadband is not yet available. While the idea of giving everyone the ability to stream reruns of "The Simpsons" at lightning speed seems noble, Lightsquared’s $14 billion plan does so at the expense of GPS-based navigation systems—the kind that land you safely at O’Hare.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:49PM Comments (5)
December 14, 2011 - Will Swagel, the engaging publisher of Sitka, Alaska’s classified ad circular, The Sitka Soup (motto: Hearty Ingredients-Tasty Leftovers-A Dash of Silliness), has given the Christmas poem “The Night Before Christmas,” an Alaskan twist. Illustrated by former fisherman and local Sitka artist and musician Colin Herforth, "The Bight Before Christmas" replaces reindeer with coho, hootchies, and humpies — and a glossary that explains what all of these are. It also introduces the bellyfish, which according to Swagel is “a made-up word because we needed a rhyme for jellyfish.”
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:39AM Comments (1)
December 7, 2011 - At the top of Tewes’ preferred list is a Fein Multimaster 250Q, a plug-in variable speed right-angle oscillating tool that accepts a carbide-tipped saw blade, wide array of triangular-shaped sanding pads and host of other cutting, scraping, and filing gizmos. The lock-and-load quick attachment process and the “long throw” of the oscillation cycle makes it a very efficient cutter, sander, or scraper.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:57AM Comments (5)
November 30, 2011 - As Moore’s Law insinuates itself into the sea, and the idea of a remote-controlled world cruise seems less sensational than steering by the stars, it is hard for some of us to avoid feeling nostalgic. As the last of the sextant-only sailors move into their retirement years, a new type of cruising tale is emerging—the maritime memoire. It's debatable whether the movement is a rebellion against the new wave of digitographic sailors or simply the result of too many old salts with too much time on their hands. Whatever their origins may be, these mildly self-indulgent sea stories offer a fun look back at a simpler time when young around-the-world voyagers didn’t want or need a sponsor, and GPS navigation was years in the future.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:46AM Comments (0)
November 16, 2011 - Some among our small group of less-hurried cruisers seethed quietly—mostly to themselves—that this rally business was a bad idea. Herding people in wagon-trains made sense long ago on land—but at sea?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:26AM Comments (5)
November 9, 2011 - “The channel can be pretty tight at low tide,” the Admiral said before leaving me the keys. Or something like that. I was half-listening at the time. Ha! Like we were going to run aground with five depthsounders pinging away and Bill and I, with our thousands of miles under the keel, aboard. (We do not mention the many forgettable groundings.)
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:23AM Comments (8)
November 2, 2011 - After much persistent and gentle prodding of management, Practical Sailor converted to Macs last year. So, like millions around the world who rely on Apple magic to make it through the workday—not to mention our iPad-fueled weekends on the water—we were deeply saddened by the loss of Steve Jobs, the genius behind Apple Inc. who died Oct. 5. One of the items of interest revealed in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs was that he had been been involved in the design of his custom 245-foot megayacht to be built by Feadship in the Netherlands.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 11:24AM Comments (4)
October 18, 2011 - We’ve been getting several e-mails from readers asking us what we think they should do with their recently purchased Rocna anchors in light of our report. Because every situation is different, and not all anchors are suspected of being below the published standards, we would recommend that anyone questioning the quality or construction of their Rocna anchor contact Canada Metals Pacific or their Rocna anchor retailer to discuss their options.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:47PM Comments (5)
October 12, 2011 - Putting together next month’s issue (November), I was struck by the stark contrast between our cover story on the Marshall 22, a no-frills catboat based on an iconic 19th-century design, and the cover story from the September issue, featuring Brad Van Liew’s Eco 60, Le Penguoin, bristling with all the latest technology used in the Velux Around the World Ocean Race. …
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:44AM Comments (2)