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What is the Best Keel for A Shoal Draft Boat?

We think the best bet is the modern keel/centerboard. Unlike centerboards of 20 years ago, the new ones are very efficient going to windward with the boards down and not all that bad with the boards partially raised or withdrawn into a stub keel.

Do-It-Yourself Fuel Tank Cleaning

Depending on the size of your fuel tanks, having a professional clean your tank and dispose of the dirty fuel can cost more than $1,000. But for the careful, competent do-it-yourselfer there is another option. For those sailors whose tanks have reached the contamination point-of-no-return, heres a helpful article on DIY tank cleaning that accompanied our July 2009 test of diesel biocides.

Swaged Rigging Terminal Failures Raise Concern

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.

The Best Sailboats for the High Seas?

At the St. Petersburg Boat Show month a while back, I had the pleasure of seeing delivery skipper and author John Kretschmers presentation on what he called sailboats for a serious ocean. I have reservations about any ideal boat list, but Kretschmer, who reviews boats for Sail Magazine and whose most recent book Sailing a Serious Ocean was one of our favorite books last winter, has the ideal background for this sort of work, and a list like this is undeniably helpful for wannabe cruisers who need a place to start their search.

The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Clear Plastic

With proper care and protection, clear vinyl dodger windows can remain crystal clear for more than 10 years, yet many of the windows we see are burry, scratched, or cracked after just three years. Often, the damage occurs because the owner didn't carry out a few simple steps before putting the windows away for the winter. The cruising sailor can also shorten the life of clear vinyl by neglecting to carry out some very basic maintenance at sea. Whether you are storing your dodger for the season, or caring for it while cruising, these tips will help extend the life of your clear vinyl windows.

Cobra Handheld VHF with Cell Phone Capabilities

Cobra has been coming out with some interesting radio products at fairly affordable prices. Weve tested several of their products in recent years, and although they didnt always come out on top, theyve been very competitively priced. Their $100 submersible HH325, Practical Sailors top pick in our test of budget-priced submersible VHFs and fixed mount radios, has held up well in long-term testing. Another Cobra handheld, priced at about $150, compared closely with the higher-end portable VHFs.

Mike’s Daring Experiments with Antifouling Paint

Practical Sailor owes a debt of gratitude to Sarasota, Fla., sailor Mike Collins, who offered his Cape Dory 25 Skimmer as a test platform for a new environmentally friendly bottom paint earlier this year. The paint had done well early in our panel testing, and Collins, who oversees the health of the aquariums at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, was as curious as we were to see how it might perform on a hull. So how did it do? This photo of Skimmers bottom, taken just six months after the bottom was painted, says it all.

Navigating by iPad Using eSeaChart and ActiveCaptain

In advance of a recent summer coastal cruise, we downloaded eSeaChart navigation app, the first iPad charting program to work with Active Captain, a free service that requires registration. It cost $8 and took only a few minutes to download the charts needed for the cruising area-from Tampa to Ft. Myers, Fla.-including detailed harbor charts. One thing I liked about the charts was that they were raster charts, nearly identical to the government versions that appeal to my analog brain. Redraw rates were a little slow, as a result, but at sailboat speeds, this isn't a major issue.

Broken Anchor Swivels and the Tales They Tell

An important question that comes up in our upcoming report on stainless-steel swivels for anchors is where the shackle should be introduced to the rode. A common approach is to attach the swivel at the end of the chain rode directly to the anchor, in lieu of a common anchor shackle.

More Boat Tips: Unsticking Stuck Nuts and Bolts

My friend Nick and I had a discussion the other day about which bolts were tougher to break free: shaft-coupling bolts or the lug nuts on an old trailer. Nick pointed out that lug nuts are usually torqued down a whole lot tighter than a shaft coupling screw. On the opposite side, I argued that shaft coupling bolts require you to assume the yoga pose Downward Pretzel just to see the bolts. The argument…

The Pros and Cons of Leaving Your Mast Up for Winter

If you are like us, you may feel strangely guilty about leaving a mast up during winter storage. In our case, it is probably those old wooden spar days calling. Ideally, wooden spars need to come down and be sheltered and coddled at regular intervals. Aluminum masts really don't, and the sky is actually a decent place to store them.