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Staying Out of Boat Trailer Trouble

April 12, 2018 - A trailer expands the sailor’s horizons, but like any endeavor that involves automobiles, it adds another layer of risk and responsibility. Compared to our boats, a trailer is deceptively simple, and this often leads us to overlook the obvious warning signs of impending problems.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:36PM Comments (5)

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Pain-free Marine Electronics Updates

April 4, 2018 - We all know the guy who updated his trusty chartplotter and lost all the waypoints he'd saved over years. We don't want to be him. We don't want YOU to be him. But we also don't want you wandering the ocean with an antiquated and possibly bug-ridden device. Updating our software doesn’t just fix bugs and ensure our electronics are operating correctly; it expands the equipment’s functionality. Updates to the multifunction displays we are testing at Practical Sailor have enabled a range of new functions, including an ability to integrate with some handy i0S and Android applications. Keeping up with updates also helps avoid the rare glitches that can occur when you leap-frog several updates by replacing a very early software versions with the latest and greatest.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Bill Bishop at 11:34AM Comments (6)

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Estimating Solar Panel Size for Boats

March 21, 2018 - The starting point for a successful solar panel installation is quantifying your power requirements. Here we present a simple analysis based on the test boat used for our recent report on choosing and installing a solar panel. Some values are based on our experience, and others are accepted rules of thumb.
Posted by Drew Frye at 09:22AM Comments (16)

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Fast and Easy Rope Cleaning

March 13, 2018 - If you didn’t remove your running rigging last winter, then there is a good chance that you'll be coming back to sheets and halyards coated in dirt, mold, and mildew. What now? Here are some useful tips or cleaning cordage that we gathered from leading rope manufacturers and riggers.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson and Drew Frye at 11:53PM Comments (6)

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What's Hiding in Your Rig?

March 8, 2018 - 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)

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Safety Tether Clip-in Caution

February 28, 2018 - If you use a fixed clip-in point in your cockpit, you may want to check its design and review how you use it. With the exception of two types of tether snap hooks, our testers were able to dislodge sailing tether hooks from fixed clip-in points with very little force (less than 30 pounds). In one video we've posted, a popular Gibb-style snap hook releases under circumstances that closely replicate the the test used to certify its ability to resist an accidental release.
Posted by Drew Frye with Darrell Nicholson at 09:52AM Comments (1)

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Extending the Life of Your New Paint Job

February 21, 2018 - When it comes cleaning, buffing, and waxing, painted hulls present a special challenge. The durability of the shiny protection afforded by a polyurethane paint (LPU) depends upon how kindly we treat the painted surface. Two-part polyester urethane coatings such as Awlgrip II are tough, gloss-retaining coatings that will put up with some abrasion, but an aggressive buffing routine can shorten the life of the coating.
Posted by Practical Sailor at 08:43AM Comments (4)

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Adding a Solent Stay

February 13, 2018 - Whether you view it from the top down or the bottom up, a Solent rig needs to be carefully thought out, well-engineered, and strategically located. Some sailors add a short bowsprit or U-shaped, tubular extension that includes a bobstay and supports the attachment of a new headstay. The old headstay chainplate becomes the new tack point for the Solent stay.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 11:36AM Comments (10)

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The Do-it-Yourself Sail Track Cleaner

February 7, 2018 - Racing sailors demand lightning-fast hoists. Cruising sailor hate grinding a heavy mainsail up a sticky track. Roller-furler foils that have been left over the winter can always benefit from a quick clean and lube before hoisting the genoa. But how? Here is a cheap and effective way to do this without climbing the mast—or even removing your sail from the track.
Posted by Drew Frye at 03:02PM Comments (1)

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Getting a Grip on Sailboat Ergonomics

January 31, 2018 - One look at the average navigation station or helm seat on a cruising boat and you can see how the most basic ergonomic principles on lines of sight, sitting posture, and standing posture are, so it seems, utterly ignored. Stairs, handholds, settee seats, and bunks are built to conform to the builder’s budget, not the sailor’s lumbar. And once you start moving around some of these boats, the obstacle course is like something dreamed up by a chiropractor drumming for new business.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:20PM Comments (8)

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What's the Probability? Weather Rock Stars Convene.

January 24, 2018 - A changing climate brings changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather in the Atlantic and Pacific basins, and that's another good reason to raise your awareness of all the meteorological tools available to mariners. A recent addition to the marine forecaster's toolbox is probablistic wind speed forecasts disseminated by the Ocean Prediction Center (OPC). The forecasts take the available weather data and graphically present them in an easy-to-understand weather map.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 12:25PM Comments (9)

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Helping Your Boat Battery Survive Winter Storage

January 16, 2018 - If you haven’t put much thought into storing your battery for the winter yet, don't delay. If the batteries are removed from the boat, they should be stored in a cool place that does not drop too far below freezing. A basement or garage is fine. You can keep house batteries on the boat, but if you do, you should take the usual winterizing steps—cleaning the battery top and battery posts, filling the electrolyte, eliminating any loads that may discharge the battery—and checking voltage and recharging on a monthly basis.
Posted by at 11:10AM Comments (20)

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End boom vs. mid-boom sheeting

January 10, 2018 - The right mainsheet solution depends upon your own sailing preference, but a few general principles reign true. The farther forward on the boom the mainsheet is attached, the more of a downward effect (vang-like) sheeting elicits. The resulting elimination of twist may or may not be desirable, but it's part and parcel of the trimming process. It's no surprise that almost every performance-oriented sailboat is designed with end-boom sheeting.
Posted by Ralph Naranjo at 06:39PM Comments (13)

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Gearing Up for Winter Sailing

January 3, 2018 - While many North American sailors have already hauled out their boats for winter, there are plenty of cold-weather diehards who refuse to bow to the season. In a recent issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Drew Frye shares his tips for sailing year round above the frost-line. “It has always seemed a shame to me that the great majority of boats in the country are only used in the summer," says Frye, who sails through the winter on Chesapeake Bay. "[In winter] I have the waters virtually to myself.”
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:43PM Comments (6)

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Tether Clip Update

December 27, 2017 - In response to the recent failure of a safety tether that resulted in a fatality during the Clipper Round the World Race, we’ve completed a fairly comprehensive round of testing on various tether (boat-end) snap-hooks. Some of our findings are disturbing and do not fully agree with public statements being made by race officials, but this is not unexpected since the official investigation is still ongoing. Here we will focus on the most important findings, and offer specific tips on safely using your safety tether.
Posted by Drew Frye with Darrell Nicholson at 11:14AM Comments (10)