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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 (14)

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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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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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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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Preventing Mildew in Marine Fabrics

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)

The Pro's Guide to Restoring Gelcoat

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)

Too Many Layers of Bottom Paint?

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?
Posted by at 01:43PM Comments (7)

Steer Clear of the Marine Cleaner Con

April 12, 2017 - Lest you think multi-billion-dollar chemical companies and their geeks in white lab coats have a lock on cleaning your boat, there are numerous homebrewed solutions that have the ability to bring back that new boat shine.
Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 08:04AM Comments (4)

Ham Versus SSB for the Sailor

March 29, 2017 - Most long-range sailors first start out on marine SSB, and monitor the ham traffic nets for valuable local and distant marine weather forecasts. If the ham service sounds intriguing, they move forward and study for the general class ham radio license.
Posted by at 06:10AM Comments (10)