Manual vs. Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket / Safety Harnesses

July 26, 2011 - Commonsense would suggest that an auto-inflating harness/life jacket is the best choice for the cruising sailor. However, there are cases in which an inflated harness can be a hindrance—for example when you are trying to climb back aboard under a lifeline, or dive free of debris or rigging. And as our tests have shown, rain and waves can inflate some models, a nuisance that could interfere with handling the boat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:55PM Comments (12)

PS Repeats Tether Release Warning in Wake of Chicago-Mackinac Race Fatalities

July 19, 2011 - While there is no evidence yet that the fatal sailing accident in the Chicago-Mackinac Race this week is linked to a safety tether problem, given our experience with tethers, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the difficulty involved in releasing safety tethers may have been a factor.
Posted by at 02:56PM Comments (5)

How Do You Cleat a Line on a Boat?

July 18, 2011 - "How to cleat a line on a boat" turns out to be a more controversial topic than you might imagine. Practical Sailor looks at various views on how to handle the first wrap around the base of a deck cleat.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:18PM Comments (3)

The Fundamentals of Mainsail Trim

July 13, 2011 - While you don’t have to be an incurable sail-tweaker to cover ground on a tradewind passage, assuring your mainsail is well-trimmed will put you safely on the hook sooner and ensure a smoother, more comfortable ride. Good mainsail trim, of course, is paramount when going to windward.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:24AM Comments (9)

Navigating by iPad Using eSeaChart and ActiveCaptain

July 6, 2011 - In advance of a recent summer coastal cruise, we downloaded eSeaChart navigation app, the first iPad charting program to work with Active Captain, a free service that requires registration. It cost $8 and took only a few minutes to download the charts needed for the cruising area—from Tampa to Ft. Myers, Fla.—including detailed harbor charts. One thing I liked about the charts was that they were raster charts, nearly identical to the government versions that appeal to my analog brain. Redraw rates were a little slow, as a result, but at sailboat speeds, this isn’t a major issue.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:37AM Comments (2)

Custom Catamaran Loaded with PS Picks

June 28, 2011 - Practical Sailor was recently invited to check out a custom Fastwater 52 sailing cat. The invite was prefaced with the explanation that the boat is a Practical Sailor posterchild of sorts, outfitted with electronics, hardware, and other gear that has survived PS testing and garnered our recommendation. How could we turn down an invitation like that? Our dockside tour did not disappoint.
Posted by Ann Key at 10:40AM Comments (0)

What’s Happening in the World of Owner’s Manuals?

June 17, 2011 - We’re seeing several errors creep into owner’s manuals. Many of the mistakes seem to be the lost-in-translation variety, but others seem to be just poor writing, or sloppy editing. As General Motors' recent recall demonstrates, mistakes in an owner’s manuals can have costly—possibly dangerous—ramifications.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:00AM Comments (4)

Two Good Sailing Books About Shallow-draft Sailboats

June 14, 2011 - Whenever I feel like contemporary yacht designs are losing touch with their raison d’ etre, these are two of the books I turn to.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:15PM Comments (2)

Toilet paper, Vacuflush, and a search for PS testers

June 1, 2011 - Last month’s report on fast-dissolve toilet paper took on a new significance this past week as we began testing Sealand’s Vacuflush toilets, toilets that literally suck waste into the holding tank. The chief advantage of the Vacuflush system is the reduced requirement for water for flushing. These units required very little water to flush, but this also makes it harder for toilet paper to dissolve.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:23AM Comments (11)

Summer Dreams, Brad Van Liew, and Moitessier

May 27, 2011 - I can feel it. This will be a very big summer. The solstice still lies ahead, and look what the year has brought us already. The America’s Cup slips into San Francisco. Brad Van Liew sashays into La Rochelle with a clean sweep in the Velux 5 Oceans around the world race.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:37PM Comments (0)

Deadly Accident, Swing Keels, and Mandatory PFDs

May 20, 2011 - This is a sad story about a sailboat accident that didn't have to happen. Apart from the obvious problems with a night-time adventure (likely involving alcohol) with 10 people on a 22-foot sailboat, a couple of details caught my attention.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:37PM Comments (22)

Big Adventures in Small Boats

April 26, 2011 - I've always admired adventurers in small boats. If I were to trace my sea addiction it would likely be to Kon-Tiki, a book that fell into my hands as a boy. So I was happy this month to get the chance to spend some time aboard Kevin Jeffrey's Norseboat 21.5, the sort of craft that inspires small boat adventures. In fact, two Royal Marines were so taken by Jeffrey's Norseboat 17.5, that they sailed one through the Northwest Passage.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:24AM Comments (4)

Welcome (Part II) and Meet the Skipper

April 8, 2011 - In keeping with this blog's theme of offering a glimpse of what's going on "inside" Practical Sailor, this post—our second since we've revamped the new website—will offer a brief introduction to who is behind these missives. Most of the posts from the old Inside Practical Sailor blog have been transferred over here, but a few entries, including biographies of other crew at Practical Sailor have not. We'll find a home for these at the Practical-sailor.com soon.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:53PM Comments (1)

Welcome to the new Practical Sailor Website

March 18, 2011 - Practical Sailor is pleased to announce its completely redesigned website. Practical Sailor is the independent resource for sailboat and gear tests for the serious sailor.
Posted by at 04:33PM Comments (28)

Port of San Diego Publishes Antifouling Paint Study

February 7, 2011 - San Diego port officials forwarded the “Final Report on Safer Alternatives to Copper Alternatives to Antifouling Paints for Marine Vessels” to the EPA on Feb. 4. Presenting data on a wide range of alternative antifouling paints that contain limited or no harmful biocides, the 152-page report is based on both controlled panel tests and field tests on several different powerboats and sailboats that berth in the port district.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:04AM Comments (1)