April 4, 2019 - The U.S. Coast Guard has determined that an increasing number navigation lights being used on sailboats do not meet the basic requirements for these lights, making them less visible to nearby ships. According to the Coast Guard's Inspections and Compliance Directorate, part of the problem is that some boat owners are retrofitting existing incandescent nav lights with LED lights, or LED components that were designed for powerboats.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:24AM Comments (9)
March 28, 2019 - Fiber lifelines exhibit two kinds of chafe. There is visible chafe that occurs when lifelines are used as handholds (a bad habit), or where sails and sheets bear on them. More troublesome is the chafe that occurs in the stanchion holes. Clearly, if you’re considering switching to a fiber lifeline, you’ll want to closely inspect any possible chafe points, and deburr and polish (with 600 grit sandpaper) any places where the line makes contact with stanchions.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 08:13AM Comments (1)
March 20, 2019 - The best bilge pump in the world won’t keep your boat dry if it’s not properly installed and maintained. While bilge pump installations are fairly straightforward—and definitely within the scope of DIY projects—there are several factors to consider (capacity, wire size, hose diameter, fuse size) before you begin, and there are some good rules of thumb to follow.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:25AM Comments (16)
March 13, 2019 - My previous blog post on rig inspection prompted a question about how to splice old ropes that are too stiff to splice. It wasn’t long before the ice-climber in our group of contributors, Drew Frye, decided to grab this rope by its braided cover, so to speak, and see where it leads. Here is a brief description of the method that Frye found worked best, perimeter round-stitching. Perimeter round-stitching will take place over a length of rope that is the equivalent of six to eight times the diameter of the rope. For example, stitching 3/8-inch line requires about 2.5 inches of available line, not counting the tail of the line (about 3.8 inches in length) that will not be stitched.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 05:46PM Comments (5)
March 6, 2019 - A respirator can’t protect you if it doesn’t fit your face. It’s that simple. Anything that prevents a good seal—whether facial hair or a hollow under the side of your jaw—is unacceptable. In a workplace this fit test will be performed in a very rigid manner by a trained technician. However, for the sailor/occasional boat yard worker, we offer this shortcut procedure that is far better than nothing.
Posted by Drew Frye at 05:24PM Comments (1)
February 27, 2019 - Zinc, though often found chrome-plated on low-end powerboats, is too weak a metal to be used for cleats on a sailboat. Aluminum alloys are light and relatively strong as long as the casting process has kept void (air bubble) content to the barest minimum possible.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 03:20PM Comments (3)
February 20, 2019 - To keep brightwork healthy, approach it as you do your own health. Whether its a touch-up or a complete take-down that's on your horizon, here are a few tips on wood care that can save you hours of sweat down the line.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:21PM Comments (5)
February 13, 2019 - Instead of fixing or replacing tired mechanical equipment with new gear, we can often find a less-expensive substitute on the used-gear market. In many cases, this is equipment that is just as good as new gear, if not better than new. The trick is separating the gems from the junk. A poster child for this sort of refit quandary is the old Simpson Lawrence manual windlass, a British-engineered oddity that has long been a source of cruising sailor ire. Commonly found on cruising boats made in the 1980s, these windlasses use a troublesome chain drive rather than a gear drive. This, along with the dissimilar metals used in its various components (cast-steel gypsy, aluminum case, etc.), make these windlasses a poor candidate for rebuilding.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:19AM Comments (7)
February 6, 2019 - When you get to the surface, focus on floating and stabilizing your breathing. You are not going to be able to swim or do anything productive for several minutes, and as a cold water overboard victim, there is nothing you need to do for a minute or two. Focus on not drowning. If you have a PFD, that will be a huge help. If not, try to tread water with as little effort as possible. Calm down and realize you have some time.
Posted by Drew Frye at 04:20PM Comments (3)
January 29, 2019 - Join Practical Sailor Editor-at-large Ralph Naranjo for a day-long Safety at Sea Seminar in Hampton Roads, VA on February 24th. The seminar is aimed at mariners of all levels and will cover navigation, heavy weather sailing, and man-overboard recovery. The cost is $130 ($150 after Feb. 1). The unique event is being in honor of Capt. Henry Marx, a respected safety-at-sea expert and frequent contributor to Practical Sailor.
Posted by at 11:27PM Comments (5)
January 23, 2019 - Most recreational anchors are optimized for hard sand or clay bottoms, which provide much better holding than softer bottoms (or rocky or weedy bottoms, for that matter). This logical bias toward hard-sand bottoms might actually hinder anchor performance in soft mud. For example, one of the observations from our 2006 test of anchors in soft bottoms was that anchors equipped with roll bars performed far below our expectations in soft bottoms. But there was one exception.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:40AM Comments (16)
January 15, 2019 - To determine if your cutless bearing needs replacing, look for signs of wear or deterioration at both ends of the bearing. Rapid or unusual wear patterns (i.e. top wear on one end of the bearing, bottom wear on the other) are indications of significant shaft misalignment issues and should be addressed immediately.
Posted by Frank Lanier at 09:31AM Comments (4)
January 8, 2019 - Dock lines are particularly susceptible to overheating. If the boat is exposed to short-period chop from the side, the frequency can be high and the force can exceed the 10:1 safe working limit. Core temperatures above the boiling point are possible in dry conditions, and even with spray to cool the rope there may be significant weakening. Add to this considerable frictional heating at contact points and special precautions are required.
Posted by Drew Frye at 09:20AM Comments (7)
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)
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)