Ham Versus SSB for the Sailor

March 29, 2017 - Most long-range sailors first start out on marine SSB, and monitor the ham traffic nets for valuable local and distant marine weather forecasts. If the ham service sounds intriguing, they move forward and study for the general class ham radio license.
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Repairing Leaky Portlights

March 22, 2017 - In all too many cases, a portlight leak on an old boat is a symptom of a larger problem. The underlying cause likely is that the holes in the monocoque structure create a loss of stiffness, resulting in excess cabin house flex. Rig loads carried to chainplates, mid-boom sheeting arrangements, and genoa track-induced flex can cause significant deflection.
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Making a Case for Sodablasting Your Hull

March 14, 2017 - One of the biggest mistakes an owner makes when estimating how much time it takes to strip bottom paint from a hull is to peck away at one of the easy spots where the paint is peeling and then assume the rest of the coating will come off just as easily. We offer a more realistic formula for estimating the amount of time a stripping project will take.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:50AM Comments (20)

Know Your Life Raft Inspection Requirements

March 8, 2017 - The experience of the owners of the 14-year-old, six-man, valise-stored Avon liferaft pictured here reminds us of the importance of following the manufacturer’s inspection schedule. With air leaking from the seams and through the fabric itself, the raft is a graphic example of how even a professionally serviced liferaft that remains dry in its hard canister can deteriorate to the point of becoming worthless.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Patrick Childress at 09:46AM Comments (3)

Galley Gadgets for the Cruising Sailor

March 1, 2017 - Historically, the cook has always enjoyed a privileged position on board a boat. And no wonder, since the cook almost always works the hardest, whether the boat is underway or at anchor. While the navigator and helmsman’s job is no less critical, the nerve-wracking labor of maintaining a steady course and plotting an accurate DR position has nearly evaporated in recent years, thanks to GPS, chartplotters, and autopilots. The cook’s job, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier. So, in honor of the hardest working crew, I’ve put together a list of five items that can help make a cook’s life easier underway. I’d be interested in hearing what other suggestions our readers have.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:10PM Comments (23)

The Best Sailboats for the High Seas?

February 22, 2017 - At the St. Petersburg Boat Show month a while back, I had the pleasure of seeing delivery skipper and author John Kretschmer’s presentation on what he called “sailboats for a serious ocean.” I have reservations about any “ideal boat” list, but Kretschmer, who reviews boats for Sail Magazine and whose most recent book “Sailing a Serious Ocean” was one of our favorite books last winter, has the ideal background for this sort of work, and a list like this is undeniably helpful for wannabe cruisers who need a place to start their search.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (17)

A Diaper Cream Cure for Barnacles?

February 14, 2017 - Some of my favorite PS tests are those that pit ordinary dime-store products against gold-plated “marine-grade” stuff. This month’s propellor antifouling test called to mind an investigation into the antifouling properties of diaper cream that took place many moons ago. Diaper cream contains zinc oxide, a known biocide, but it does not regulate the release of biocides the way bottom paint does. Nevertheless, you’ll find many bulletin-board posts that recommend diaper cream for depth-sounder transducers, props, and dinghies. My take-away from our 1995 report is that the product worked (sort of) for a limited period, but it is an impractical solution for hulls . . . better to let you read and decide for yourself.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:20AM Comments (7)

The Great Dinghy Debate

February 8, 2017 - Dinghies are the Rodney Dangerfields of cruising. They get no respect, or at least not as much as they deserve. The little boat that will see nearly as many sea miles as the mother ship is often an afterthought.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:44AM Comments (14)

Hard Antifouling Paints and Haulouts

January 31, 2017 - Some of our best performing antifouling paints in our past tests have been hard, modified epoxy paints. One of the drawbacks of these paints is that they can lose their effectiveness after being hauled out and stored ashore for more than 30 days. Even newly painted hulls can lose their effectiveness if the launch is delayed too long. Fortunately, there are ways to reactivate a hard paint on a newly painted boat that has been stored ashore for less than a year.
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Rethinking Anchor Shaft Strength

January 25, 2017 - One topic often overlooked in any anchor discussion is shaft strength. Yet, as anyone who has spent any time around boats knows, bent anchor shafts are hardly rare. Sure, sometimes the anchor gets wedged into a crevice where bending might be excused, but we’re hearing about more and more anchors bending under what would be considered normal use. In the upcoming April issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Jonathan Neeves explores this topic in great detail. In his view, the reasons behind bent shafts are many.
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More Boat Tips: Unsticking Stuck Nuts and Bolts

January 15, 2017 - My friend Nick and I had a discussion the other day about which bolts were tougher to break free: shaft-coupling bolts or the lug nuts on an old trailer. Nick pointed out that lug nuts are usually torqued down a whole lot tighter than a shaft coupling screw. On the opposite side, I argued that shaft coupling bolts require you to assume the yoga pose “Downward Pretzel” just to see the bolts. The argument…
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:36AM Comments (17)

Buyers Beware of Post-Storm Bargains

January 10, 2017 - If you are in the market for a used boat and live where winter storage is the norm, now is probably one of the best times to bargain. The owner is looking at another year of storage bills for a boat he no longer wants, and he knows that trying to sell a boat that’s buttoned down for the winter is like trying to sell a house that’s under a circus tent. However, if you are anywhere near the pathway of last year’s Hurricane Matthew, that bargain boat might well turn out to be your worst nightmare.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:54PM Comments (2)

The Ultimate Test Boat Test

January 3, 2017 - I’ve been the fortunate witness to the rebirth of a boat and the marvelous effects that sailing can have in the life of a boy. And Practical Sailor readers have unknowingly been along for the ride. For the past five years, boatbuilder Robert Helmick has allowed his Endeavour 42 Lost Boys to serve as a test platform for a wide array of sailing gear featured in these pages.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:24PM Comments (1)

Can a Snubber Hook Weaken Your Rode?

December 25, 2016 - In the March 2016 article “Changing views on chain hooks,” we pointed out that the major manufacturers of marine anchor chains caution that some chain hooks can weaken chains under extreme loads. These chain hooks are often used to attach an anchor snubber to the anchor chain. We confirmed this effect with testing and advised that if you want to use a hook on your anchor snubber, you should choose a hook that doesn’t weaken the chain through point-loading (concentrating shock loads on a small area of the chain link). Greg Kutsen, president of Mantus, the maker of one of the chain hooks that we tested, contends that the real-life loads encountered when anchoring with a snubber are not significant enough to worry about any point-loading caused by the hook on the chain. Kutsen explains the reasons for his view here.
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The Chilling Facts About Cold Water Survival

December 21, 2016 - After living in Florida for so many years, it is easy to forget the risks associated with colder waters, as the video on cold-water survival that I have included in this week’s blog post demonstrates. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the risk of drowning increases nearly five times if the water temperature is below 59 degrees. That puts many sailors in the Northeast, West Coast, and Great Lakes areas at risk for most, if not all of the year.
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