Safe Navigation in Poorly Charted Waters

March 9, 2016 - I often worry that the topic of chart accuracy, which we revisit in the upcoming April issue of Practical Sailor, downplays the importance of other skills, published sources, and equipment we should use to solve a navigational puzzle. A recent bottom-scraping cruise I took along the ever-changing coast of Southwest Florida reiterated some key points regarding coastal navigation.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 05:19AM Comments (3)

Swaged Rigging Terminal Failures Raise Concern

March 2, 2016 - Among the many chores to add to the spring to-do list, a rig inspection should rank high. And any rig inspection should include a close look at any swaged terminals on the shrouds and stays. Although corroded or cracked swages have been know to be a common point of failure on older rigs, the environment and working loads are almost always the main contributing factors. But our recent tests suggest that the weaknesses on some terminals may exist since the day they were assembled.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:47AM Comments (6)

Bottom Paint Anti-slime Additive Goes Away

February 24, 2016 - Last year, multi-national chemical company BASF decided it would not renew its U.S. license for the pesticide Irgarol. A common additive to copper-based paints, Irgarol helps prevent the growth of algae and other soft growth. Bottom paints containing Irgarol are priced around $30 higher than similar formulas without the additive. If you are interested in a “slime-resistant” ablative paint, be sure to confirm that Irgarol is still an ingredient before plunking down the extra cash.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:59AM Comments (3)

Boat Bottom Blues

February 17, 2016 - Sure, spring is still a ways off for some of us, but it's never to early to start planning, especially if you've got a big bottom project. If you own an older boat, that project probably includes doing something about the years of antifouling paint that have built up on the bottom. In this blog post you'll find links to a number of useful articles to help guide you through this process.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM Comments (2)

Darwin, barnacles, and organ envy

February 10, 2016 - The oceanic equivalent of implacable in-laws, the barnacles addled me to no end. Do they ever stop eating? Do they ever sleep? Why won’t they leave my boat alone? Their unrelenting click, click, clicks on the hull kept me up at night. An obsession bordering on madness set in. My only comfort was that barnacles on the brain can have interesting side effects, like an idea that changes our view of the world.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:48AM Comments (5)

How Well Do Swivels Reduce Twist?

February 2, 2016 - We know the theory behind using an anchor swivel: The swivel releases any twists in the chain when an anchored boat swings through 360 degrees or more. Still, we question the logic of using one. Our skepticism is supported by our own experience, previous testing, and input from long-term cruisers, but we wanted to devise a test to investigate chain twisting. The results were surprising.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 05:43PM Comments (8)

Rethinking Anchor Snubbers

January 27, 2016 - Anyone who has spent a night pitching in an exposed anchorage would not be shocked to learn that in many dragging incidents the snubber parted, or was stretched to its limit, allowing the chain and boat to absorb some teeth-rattling shock loads before something finally gave. Recently, PS testers have devised a series of tests to determine what the ideal snubber looks like. Some of our findings run contrary to popular assumptions. Some will surely surprise you, and may even—one day—save your boat. What does your snubber look like?
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Jonathan Neeves at 07:36AM Comments (11)

Maximizing Bottom Paint Coverage

January 19, 2016 - In my own experience, I’ve found that I rarely can match the manufacturer’s coverage estimates using a 3/8-inch nap roller cover, so for this project we decided to do a comparison. One section of the boat would be painted with a foam, solvent-resistant hot-dog or sausage roller cover, a technique that has worked for me in the past. The roller, more commonly used for topside finishes, soaks up far less paint than a conventional, 3/8-inch cover. An adjacent section would be painted using a conventional roller.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 06:09PM Comments (12)

Keel Failure Redux

January 13, 2016 - This summer, the once lovely Oyster 825 was hauled from the water with its keel missing and a large chunk of skin laminate peeled back. Another casualty in a disturbing trend. I wrote a lengthy post on the subject of keels last year, and technical editor Ralph Naranjo discussed the topic in his report “Rethinking Hull Structure” in the February 2015 issue of Practical Sailor.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 06:38AM Comments (1)

Rethinking Faux Teak Temperatures

January 5, 2016 - Our recent report on synthetic-teak decking options (see PS December 2015) raised a bit of a ruckus among the contenders in what is an extremely competitive market. The main bone of contention was our reported temperatures of the various materials after they were left in the sun. Several manufacturers contended that the temperatures we listed in the table accompanying the article were not consistent with their own findings.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:31PM Comments (3)

Getting a Grip on New Boat Designs

December 28, 2015 - 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 (3)

Preventing Winter Damage to Your Deck

December 21, 2015 - The freeze-thaw cycle can also break the bond between the fiberglass and the core, further weakening the deck structure and introducing new problems. In a worst-case scenario, you return to your boat in the spring and find bubbles, bulges, and cracked gelcoat or fiberglass where water has pooled and frozen, pushing your deck's outer skin upward.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:13PM Comments (0)

A One-sided Defense of the Cruising Ketch

December 9, 2015 - My affinity for cruising ketches like the Allied Seawind II we feature in the January 2016 issue of Practical Sailor runs contrary to the view of their many detractors. Their criticism goes something like this: Ketches were popular in early days of cruising when undersized winches and friction-bound hardware conspired to make handling large sails a chore. With efficient winches and modern hardware, split rigs are obsolete on boats under 50 feet, they say.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:12AM Comments (9)

Portable Electrical Propulsion for Small Sailboats

December 1, 2015 - In part one of our two-part test of five and six-horsepower engines in the upcoming January issue of Practical Sailor, we take a second look at portable electric motors. Our interest in modern portable electric propulsion dates back to 2004, when then editor Doug Logan began to lose faith in the two-stroke outboard on his Boston Whaler. While awaiting the prognosis on his unresponsive 15-horsepower Evinrude, he bought a Minn Kota Riptide 55 trolling motor.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 04:35PM Comments (4)

Staying Out of Boat Trailer Trouble

November 24, 2015 - While many Practical Sailor readers are migrating southward on the water this time of year, there are dozens more who are taking to the roads, hauling their trailerable daysailer or weekender behind them toward sunnier climes. 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 (1)