PS Tests and the Death Spiral of Curiosity

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:51PM - Comments: (4)

Darrell Nicholson
Darrell Nicholson

A comparison of various stanchion-mounted fairleads, typically used for furling lines, is among the many product tests we have on the horizon.

The next few months will be busy. The particularly brutal winter of 2014-2015 drove many of our testers into their workshops, and now they are emerging from their lairs with spread sheets, macro-photography, and detailed analysis of failures in everything from anchor shackles to water filters to furler fairleads.

There is a common misconception that most of our testing takes place during the summer; but our contributors are sailors as well as scientists and marine professionals. They’d much prefer stewing over metal fatigue, battery sulfation, or mildew remedies in the darkness of December, than to be wasting daylight hours in July. Pinning down a PS tester to a deadline in summer can be like trying to catch the wind.

Pinning them down in the winter isn’t much easier.

The reason? I call it the death spiral of curiosity. Being blessed with testers who are passionate about their areas of expertise can be a double-edged sword. Their intense interest means they'll be obsessively thorough in their research and testing; but that also means that testing can spiral out of control as fascinating minutiae piques their curiosity.

As it turns out, the best cure for a tester trapped in this downward "more-research-is-needed" spiral is the imminent approach of sailing season. The varieties of bacteria that thrive in a water tank becomes less and less fascinating when weather warms and the flags outside the workshop window start to flutter. Spring, therefore, is harvest time for us—and this spring has been particularly fruitful.

Here are just some of the tests and reports we have the horizon.

  • A broad test of varnishes and wood finishes, including the latest synthetic one-part and two-part coatings.
  • Our long-term test of 5- and 6-horsepower outboards, including the Torqeedo and the propane-powered Lehr.
  • A three-part series on onboard water treatment devices beginning in the June issue.
  • A detailed buyer’s guide to roller-furling headsails.
  • An investigation into what sailors can learn from Team Vestas accident in this year’s Volvo Ocean Race.
  • A long-term test report on Yanmar’s new direct-injection 4JH57 diesel that meets the strict Tier III emissions standards.
  • The final installment in our report on single-sideband radio equipment, focusing on ground-plane options.
  • A comprehensive look at failures in anchor shackles, both conventional shackles and swivel shackles. This follows our previous report on anchor chains.
  • A report on the various peer-to-peer boat-sharing options that are cropping up online.
  • A test of synthetic teak decking surfaces.
  • A review of the latest battery monitors.
  • A look at interfacing wind instruments and autopilots.

This is just a small slice of what’s ahead for us in Practical Sailor, as we now move into our 41st year of testing sailboat equipment—with no advertising support. In addition to these reports, we’ll continue to stay on top of what’s happening in the world anchors, electronics, maintenance products, safety equipment and marine systems. Our testing is 100-percent reader supported, so, of course, we are very interested in what drives your own curiousity. If you’ve got a test you’d like to see or you think you've got what it takes to be a PS tester, drop me a line at

Comments (4)

We have done a lot of tests of safety equipment, and tests of expensive systems such as refrigeration. If you'd rather not dig through the archives to search for all of our safety equipment tests or systems tests, we have ebooks on Safety and Systems (which includes a wide range of relatively expensive gear found on boats) in the bookstore as well. You can go find the bookstore by selecting the link on the right hand side of this page, under RESOURCES -- DN

Posted by: DARRELL N | May 7, 2015 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for your comments. We've done several RIB tests, you can find them with Google, by searching "Practical Sailor RIB test." You can do the same for other products, if you have more trouble, just email me using the "contact us" link at the bottom of this page. We work hard to test all products regardless of cost; sometimes the seemingly insignificant ones are the ones that can put us most at risk, as our report on the Wingnuts tragedy pointed out (Google, "Practical Sailor WINGNUTS.") A fridge fails you lose your ice cream, a shackle fails you can lose your rig--or worse.

Posted by: DARRELL N | May 7, 2015 11:12 AM    Report this comment

Be Practical!
Safety first then focus on expensive stuff or big expense avoidance!
"A test of synthetic teak decking surfaces." ?!
"A comparison of various stanchion-mounted fairleads, typically used for furling lines, is among the many product tests we have on the horizon." ?!
C'mon man!

Posted by: Harvey N | May 7, 2015 7:52 AM    Report this comment

How about a test on best inflatable dinghy (RIBs, high pressure floor, etc.)

Posted by: andrew s | April 29, 2015 8:48 AM    Report this comment

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