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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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)
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)
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.
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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)
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)
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)
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.
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May 17, 2017 - Canvas dodgers and biminis are the hallmark of a cruising yacht, keeping the sun at bay and allowing the crew to "dodge" the worst of the weather. Canvas also protects sails, windows, and machinery. The cost of these fabric covers adds up quickly, so we wanted to find the best way to protect the investment and extend the lifespan of the fabric.
Glen Raven, the manufacturer of Sunbrella, recommends that routine maintenance include frequent freshwater rinsing plus spot cleaning the fabric. After a more thorough cleaning, Sunbrella advises owners to apply a treatment (specifically Gold Eagle 303 High Tech Fabric Guard) to restore the fabric's repellency. In our February 2014 report on canvas maintenance, we took a look at 303 High Tech Fabric Guard and other treatments designed to keep on-board canvas water repellent and looking its best.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:36AM Comments (3)
May 10, 2017 - This week's blog on restoring old hulls includes tips like this one on wet-sanding: If you’re using an electric sander, mist the hull surface with a spray bottle. Mix a few drops of dish detergent in the water to keep the hull evenly wet and keep it wetter longer. Rinse the surface often to look for potential burn-through areas, and look at it from several angles. You can use a window squeegee to quick dry the surface after a rinse to get a low-glare look at the gelcoat. Do not use circular movements. Wet-sand until the hull has an even dullness, a matte finish; then rinse with fresh water.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:42AM Comments (5)
April 19, 2017 - So, a couple of years back, you acquired a good old boat at a pretty good price—thanks to the market—but now you’re wondering how many coats of bottom paint it has. And what kind? You’ve put on a few coats of ablative antifouling since you’ve owned the boat. It has adhered well and has done its job. But each year, the bottom looks rougher and rougher—with big recesses where paint has flaked off. You sweated out some extra prep-work this season, and thought you had a nice, durable subsurface for painting, but each pass of the roller pulls up more paint. What’s going on here?
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