October 18, 2017 - Two different harbors suffered almost the same fate as Hurricane Irma raked South Florida with hurricane force winds. In both places, tens of thousands of dollars in damage might have been prevented had the owners of large vessels better secured their boats. In Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, a fifty-foot houseboat broke lose from its anchor and went careening through the mooring field where dozens of boats where moored. According to the salvage crews I spoke with, the houseboat was one of the key contributors to the pile-up in the harbor that caused several boats to break loose and go ashore. Falling like dominoes, boat after boat stacked up at the dinghy dock, in the mangroves, or into a bridge on the north side of the anchorage.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:49AM Comments (3)
October 10, 2017 - We’ve had a lot of fun with toilets and sanitation systems in the last couple of years, and after last weekend, when I descended into the smelliest brokerage boat I’d ever set foot on, I thought I’d revisit some of our findings here.The good news is that a stinky head is curable. The better news is that it need not cost you an arm and a leg. That’s not to say a cure is cheap—this is a cruising boat we’re talking about—but in many cases, a change in maintenance habits and less than $20 can put you on the path to deep breathing again.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:01PM Comments (13)
October 4, 2017 - One of the most common questions we get regarding marine varnish is what kind of finish is best for a mast. Even though aluminum has long since replaced Sitka spruce as the material of choice for a sailboat mast, there is no shortage of boats that still have wooden masts. Many of the Taiwanese-built boats of the ’70s and ’80s had wooden masts, and of course, a wide range of U.S.-built classics still have their original wooden masts.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:39AM Comments (3)
September 27, 2017 - As we found in our test of do-it-yourself nonskid deck paints and panels, revamping a nonskid deck is a time-consuming project, one that you'd rather not have to repeat every few years. Here are a few tips to help you get more mileage out of your nonskid deck.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:47AM Comments (7)
September 27, 2017 - John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal of Mahina Expeditions bluewater voyaging school have weathered a few earthquakes and tsunamis in their decades of teaching others aboard their Hallberg-Rassy 46 sailboat, Mahina Tiare III. In the wake of the 2009 tsunami on Samoa, they devised an earthquake/tsunami awareness and response system that they now include in the Mahina Expeditions curriculum. With the goal of helping other sailors, the Neals have allowed Practical Sailor to post this strategy here on Inside Practical Sailor.
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September 20, 2017 -
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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)
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)
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 (14)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)