Nonskid Test Update

Practical Sailor recently tested a nonskid mat from Soft Deck Inc. as a followup to our January 2012 report on do-it-yourself options for replacing worn nonskid. Soft Deck Inc., owned by brothers and lifelong sailors Ross and George Champion, is a family-run business with manufacturing based in Southern California. The January report reviewed six nonskid paints, three nonskid additives, and two nonskid mats. For this evaluation, we used the same test protocol to compare the Soft Deck to our Best Choice mat, Tiflex’s Treadmaster (

Taming the Wild Boom: Two Designs for a Gallows

A wildly flailing boom is one of the most dangerous ob­jects aboard a sailboat. If you could completely control the boom at anchor and under power, and while raising, lowering, and reefing the sail you'd avoid worry, save energy and be much safer. For this reason, many serious cruising boats have traditionally carried permanent boom gallows. They usually take the form of metal pillars bridg ed across the top by a wooden cross member. Bolted to the deck at the aft end of the cockpit or on the aft deck itself, they serve several functions: holding the boom firm­ly when the sail is down; catching the boom easily as the sail is lowered; and, perhaps most importantly, keeping the boom steady during reefing operations.

Exterior Wood Finishes

After a brief-and for testers, much needed-hiatus from testing wood finishes, we recently launched a new long-term evaluation of exterior wood coatings. Our last round of tests, a two-year death match, wrapped up in 2011. Although the test field this go-around is smaller than the previous tests lineup, it includes some new products and some that have been reformulated since the last long-term test began in 2007.

Glue-on Fasteners

Although through-bolts may be the gold standard for strength and security, sometimes drilling a hole isn't practical, or exposes foam or balsa core to water intrusion. Mounting a sump-pump to the side of the hull, attaching electrical components when the other side is either inaccessible or exposed, mounting an air conditioner on the bridge deck of a catamaran, or adding solar panels to a hard top are just a few examples of situations where a surface mounting is needed.

Painting Water Tanks

When it comes to onboard water tanks, we prefer stainless, fiberglass, and even roto-molded tanks (in that order) to aluminum ones. Aluminum tanks tend to pit and corrode over time, often needing to be replaced. The insides of the two 60-gallon aluminum water tanks in our 30-year-old Valiant 40 were more like a nasty moonscape than a drinking source. Their surfaces were pitted and rusted from what looked like a reaction to long-time use of chlorine.

Fitting a Roller Furling Line

Replacing the roller-furling control line is an easy do-it-yourself job for the boat owner. Inexpensive, double-braid Dacron is a fine choice for furling lines on most boats shorter than 40 feet. On longer boats, you can opt for a furling-line material of more esoteric double-braids with less stretch. However, any line smaller than 3/8-inch diameter is too difficult to grip.

Do-It-Yourself: Salted Surfaces

While new finishes-paint, epoxy, or varnish-may be beautiful to look at, they are also as slick as can be when a little seawater hits the surface. You can cover your handiwork with nonskid tape; slather on a coat of bland nonskid paint; try one of the nonskid paint additives like crushed walnut shells (favored by PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo); or you can try an easy, age-old method that PS tester Drew Frye favors: salted varnish (or paint).

Rust Busters: Spray Solutions for Seized Fasteners and Other Metal Hardware

For those of us living, working, and playing on the water, rust can show up all too often, as the trailer for one of Practical Sailors test boats recently reminded us. Testers tried four aerosol products marketed as penetrating oils-WD-40, Liquid Wrench, PB Blaster, and CRC Freeze-Off-on the rusted U-bolts, and seized nuts and bolts of the neglected trailer to determine which is the best rust buster.

Out, Out Brief Wiring Terminals!

Eurostrips, Euroblocks, set-screw terminations-whatever you want to call them-they are here to stay. Many companies supply set-screw terminations as part of electronics installations, solar controllers, inverter/chargers, navigation lights, or even engine gauge panels. These set screws, if not protected by a pressure plate or a wire terminal, can cause damage to the wire stranding and eventually lead to failure. Attention to the details should always be top on the list when dealing with Euroblocks or any set-screw termination that bears directly onto the wire strands.

Stuck Like Glue

Just about every sailboat owner has at some point mixed up a batch of epoxy to fill a hole, glue parts back together, or tackle an extensive project. Practical Sailor testers evaluated four marine epoxy resins based on their mechanical properties (strength, adhesion, hardness, and flexibility) and key handling attributes such as wet-out, sag, curing, and overall handling. We tested West 105 Epoxy Resin, MAS Flag Resin, Raka UV-inhibited epoxy, and Interlux’s Epiglass HT-9000.

Caring For Your Marine Diesel Engine

Expecting calms for most of the passage, we set out in a flat calm with 70 gallons of fuel. Six hours later, around mid-day, the engine wailed, screeched, clanged, and died. Hardly a ripple stirred the Gulf of Panama.