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Gelcoat Repairs Revisited

September 13, 2017 - If you have made it this far through the cruising season with nothing more than a few dings and chips on the family cruiser you can count yourself very lucky. Achieving the same level of gelcoat gloss, adhesion, and color of the original hull or deck is a kind of black art, and it is a field full of pretenders. You could run a weekend movie marathon with all of the YouTube DIY channels offering bad advice on gelcoat repairs.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 03:09PM Comments (6)

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Stay Safe While Saving a Storm-damaged Boat

August 30, 2017 - When people are hurt and homes and precious possessions are destroyed or lost forever, a wrecked recreational sailboat seems wholly unimportant. But for many people, the boat is their home or is connected to their livelihood. In the coming days and weeks, more people will be returning to their vessels and doing what they can to keep them safe. Boat owners should be aware of steps they can take to prevent further loss to their boats. And more importantly, they should be aware of the precautions they can take to keep themselves safe during the period when most storm-related injuries and deaths occur.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:00AM Comments (2)

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Towed Water Generators: Are They Worth It?

August 23, 2017 - A few years ago, I noticed that 2 of the 10 cruising boats I saw docked in Bergen, Norway, had towed water generators, making me wonder whether the Scandinavians have had better luck with these devices than we have. In the October 2017 issue of Practical Sailor, offshore gurus John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal of Mahina Tiare Expeditions share their experience with these systems.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:56PM Comments (13)

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Make Your Own Dinghy Wheels

August 15, 2017 - As refit projects keep us busy in the boatyard, we find ourselves rifling through back issues looking for buried do-it-yourself gems. This week's blast from the past is a real back saver. Practical Sailor contributor David Liscio describes how to turn some scrap plywood, a few screws, and a lawnmower axle and wheel set into durable and inexpensive portable dinghy wheels.
Posted by David Liscio at 05:32PM Comments (4)

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Navigating Among Coral Islands

August 9, 2017 - For the average cruiser, the half-day passages pose a special challenge. The temptation is to leave early and knock out all the miles in daylight, but as the crew races against time, exhaustion can set in and the bad decisions multiply. Very often a better option is a night sail, leaving plenty of daylight hours to navigate into the new port.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:45AM Comments (5)

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Quick and Dirty Repairs to Canvas Fasteners

August 2, 2017 - Snaps are the first failure point on many covers and dodgers. Taking the cover to a sailmaker is expensive, to say nothing of the labor of taking it off and hoping you can stretch it back into place. Fortunately, a glued repair can be stronger and simpler than a sewn repair, just the ticket for aging canvas.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 07:31AM Comments (16)

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Adventures in Onboard Coffee-making

July 26, 2017 - As far as I can tell, no one yet has designed the ideal way to make a cup of coffee underway aboard a sailboat. With the hopes of sparing other coffee lovers years of frustration, or possible injury, I’m sharing my experience with the several methods we’ve tried.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:13AM Comments (70)

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Farewell to the Wood-Trimmed Boat?

July 19, 2017 - Do we still want exterior wood on our boats today? Is synthetic a fair substitute? When we stepped aboard the 36-foot Island Packet Estero for a test sail, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see that the familiar teak caprail was gone. For more than 30 years, the varnished caprail (usually finished in Cetol these days) has been one of Island Packet's signature features. With a teak bowsprit and additional teak trim in the cockpit, IP yachts held the course that most production boatbuilders had left behind by the mid-1990s. If you see exterior wood on a Hunter or Beneteau these days, chances are its synthetic teak. That teak toerail on the new Beneteau 34? Synthetic. The Hunter e33 we tested had teak pushpit seats, the rest - including a cockpit table top (to keep the salsa bowl from sliding, I suppose) - was synthetic. Catalina dropped exterior wood years ago. If history is any guide, even the faux wood trend may soon run its course. "Good riddance," some might say.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:08AM Comments (25)

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Making Lake Water Safe for Drinking Onboard

July 5, 2017 - When you sail on a limitless supply of drinking water why bother with a water tank? In fact, many Great Lakes sailors who are serious about racing have had their tanks removed to save weight since local racing rules permit this. So what about drinking water? Bottled water is an option. However, without too much investment, you can build an onboard treatment system that will ensure that your drinking water tastes great and meets the highest drinking water standards.
Posted by Drew Frye with Darrell Nicholson at 09:17AM Comments (4)

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Caring for Encapsulated Ballast Keels

June 28, 2017 - If your boat has an encapsulated iron keel, don't get lulled into believing that you are completely free of keel worries. Although you are generally better off than sailors with exposed iron keels, you still have to carry out routine maintenance and inspection, and be aware of the warning signs of water intrusion, which could lead to bigger problems. We've written a lot about keels recently, and over the years, we've offered tips on repairs to common problems like the C&C "smile," when a lead keel pulls away from the keel stub, or how to deal with voids in lead keels. I've also written here about the effectiveness of rust converters such as Ospho when reviving an iron keel. And more recently we've looked at the spate of keel-ectomies among older cruising boats boats with high-aspect-ratio fin keel designs.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:32PM Comments (6)

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AC Shorepower Cord Inspections

June 21, 2017 - Start your inspection with the shore power cord itself, ensuring it’s constructed of proper marine grade components, uses appropriately sized wiring, and is the shortest cord that will get the job done. Always replace cords that show signs of chafe, cracks, split insulation, or those having electrical tape repairs.
Posted by at 12:00AM Comments (3)

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Summer Squall Sailing Tactics

June 13, 2017 - The danger in running before the squall (or tacking downwind, a tactic sometimes employed by Transpac racers) is the inevitable wind shift that can cause an accidental jibe. Since squalls are usually short lived, with the strongest winds lasting less than 20 minutes, simply reducing sail to a safe configuration and motoring through is a less taxing approach. What is a "safe" configuration? Gusts much over 40 knots are not common, but some devastating downbursts in excess of 50 knots can occur in volatile areas. (The fatal squall line that struck the fleet in the 2011 Chicago-Mac race is a good example).
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:42AM Comments (6)

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Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

June 7, 2017 - If you haven’t given hurricane season a thought yet, you might want to start with our July 2008 report, “Lines, Snubbers, and Other Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms.” Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s first-hand account of his storm preparations “Tropical Storm Dos and Don’ts” and “How to Help Your Boat Survive A Major Storm” should also be required reading.
Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:01PM Comments (7)

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A Simple Solution for Boat Toilet Stink

May 30, 2017 - We tested each solution by diluting the holding tank treatment about 5:1 with water, placing the mix in a trigger-style spray bottle, and misting the toilet bowl after each use, or at least a few times a day. The results were impressive, but there are some holding tank treatments that can promote holding tank odors if used in this manner.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Drew Frye at 11:06AM Comments (12)

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Testing Sailing Knots that Really Grip

May 24, 2017 - In the current issue of Practical Sailor, we report on the performance of various commercial and homemade drag devices when used to steer a boat with a damaged rudder. This emergency tactic usually requires a towing bridle, and one of the easiest ways to create a bridle is to use a gripping hitch. A gripping hitch is the knot you would use to tie one line to another (or itself) when you don’t want the line to slip. Here's a look at some of the gripping hitches that we've tested for holding ability and ease of tying.
Posted by at 12:00AM Comments (6)