Practical Sailor last tested metal polishes in March 2007, and the best choice for most jobs was the Miracle Cloth. The treated cloths best feature is its ease of use. Since that test, Practical Sailor has come across a couple other products: another impregnated cloth product called the NautiKlean, two cloths that are meant to be used together; and Mothers Power Metal, a polish that can be used with the drill-mounted Powerball, a foam ball that allows power polishing around curves and in tight spaces. Theres also a smaller mini-Powerball. Testers pitted the NautiKlean cloths and the Mothers mini-Powerball and Power Metal Polish against the Miracle Cloth on a variety of metals, including anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and bronze. Testers also included a one-year-old tub of Prism Polish, a conventional polish that did well in the last test.
Over time, chafing from lines can actually wear away gelcoat. Likewise, chips will appear where hatches or ports bang. While eliminating chafe is the best course of action, in some cases, a protective patch can be a viable solution. Faced with a chafe problem on his own boat, sailor Andrew Grogono developed the Wear and Tear Pad, an ultra-thin (.002 inches) piece of 301 stainless steel backed by an all-weather double-sided tape. To use, just peel off the backing paper and stick the patch on the hull at the point of friction or impact (making sure the hull is clean and dry, first).
Practical Sailor finds the Alado Nautica headsail furler to be easy to install and a worthwhile sail-handling tool. One feature that sets the Alado apart from other jib or genoa furlers is its staggered slotting of five-foot foil sections that slide together and interlock over a conventional wire or rod headstay. This design allows the do-it-yourselfer to fit each foil section over an attached headstay, and simply push the formed furler up the wire or rod. Mainstream headsail furlers tend to be assembled on the ground and installed with the mast horizontal. The Alado furlers design uses integral halyards to place a compression load on the foil, eliminating the need for Loctite, set screws, and a top swivel. We tested the Alado over five months of coastal cruising and daysailing.
Practical Sailor tested a field of 10 tubs of paste waxes for ease of application, gloss, texture, finish, and price. Most of the products did a fairly good job of producing initial shine. The two waxes with the most glossy fiberglass test patch were not the easiest to apply nor were they the least expensive. The boat wax test included marine paste waxes and car waxes-some with carnauba-from Meguiars, Turtle Wax, 3M, Collinite, Kit, Mothers, Nu-Finish, and Star brite. You need only dip a toe into this topic to realize that there are almost as many recipes for a glossy hull as there are sailors whod rather do anything than wax their hull. As long as marketeers keep alive our hopes for a glossy finish that will last forever, there will be people who will plunk down hard-earned money for the latest and greatest gelcoat elixir. We generally define gloss as being the surface ability to reflect light. Gloss, along with ease of application and the ability to repel dirt and water, are the features that Practical Sailor focused on for this report (see "How We Tested," page 32).
Among the marine maintenance products Practical Sailor evaluated recently were 14 pump-spray mildew cleaners to find out which one was the most effective at removing severe mildew stains. We tested chlorine bleach cleaners, chlorine-free cleaners, hydrogen peroxide cleaners, and ammonium chloride cleaners on a variety of materials, ranging from mildewed shower curtains to moldy vinyl seat cushions and moldy life jackets. We also used them to clean a mildewed sail and mildewed Sunbrella. All products were effective at removing the mold mildew from the shower curtain, but the cushions, life jacket, Dacron sail, and Sunbrella were more of a challenge. One product stood out as a more effective mildew cleaner: Klean-Strip Mildew Stain Remover. Klean-Strip is a highly concentrated product with 19 times more sodium hypochlorite than common bleach, and we do not recommend it for cleaning sails or fabrics. Other products tested include 3M mildew stain remover, Boat Armor mildew stain remover, Boatlife mildew remover, MaryKate mildew stain remover, MDR Amazons Amazing Mildew Stain Away, MDR Moldaway, Naturally Clean Mildew, Nautical Ease Mildew Stain Remover, household Spray Nine, Star brite Mildew Stain Remover, Sudbury Mildew Cleaner and Stain Remover, Thetford Mildew Stain Remover, and West Marine Mold and Mildew Cleaner.
In this LED cabin light test, Practical Sailor looks at 17 light bulbs from seven manufacturers. The LEDs were tested to see which was the most worthy replacement for a 20-watt xenon bulb in a bulkhead-mounted reading light. Testers measure LED beam angles and intensity, LED power consumption, LED color temperature, LED radio frequency interference, and LED reading and cabin illumination. The LED lights tested include: Alpenglow TR LED complete brass fixture; three lights from Cruising Solutions; three lights from Doctor LED; four from Imtra; two from Opto Technology, two from Daniel R. Smith & Associates (DRSA) manufactured by Mast Products; two of Scad Technologies (Sailors Solutions) Sensibulbs; and one LED light from West Marine.
Plastic scrapers have been around for a while. They are popular among painters, woodworkers, and auto detailers. For boaters, they make sense for jobs that need to be done quickly without scratching a delicate surface. However, for a fine cut and a lasting edge, metal blades remain the best choice. We tested the new ScrapeRite plastic razor blades on a variety of surfaces and found them handy for removing vinyl, cleaning dried paint on varnished wood, and trimming sealant. The blades come in three levels of hardness: red, general purpose blades for delicate surfaces like paint or varnish; blue, a polycarbonate blade for use on fiberglass and gelcoat; and yellow, acrylic blades for use on hard flat surfaces.