Many years ago, one of our editors had an old wooden boat with lovely wooden handrails just inside the companionway that his sailing partner decided could use new varnish. The original coat, which was peeling around the base and worn where hands had gripped it, was sanded smooth and meticulously coated with varnish. Subsequent coats were applied according to the process that had served well for years-varnish, scuff, wipe, varnish, scuff, wipe . . . repeat.
We recently launched a new evaluation of marine adhesives and sealants. There is no single caulk that works in all of these cases, so its impossible to declare a single Best Choice adhesive, but we decided to at least put some numbers on paper to guide you in your choices.
Our test focused primarily on the small-wire connections tensile strength, with and without solder, but we also looked at their durability under tough environmental conditions. We tested the pull-out strength without solder and the pull-out strength of soldered connections at 400 degrees by heating the connections in an oven to simulate overheating conditions. We tested fatigue by spinning a 6-inch length of splice wire at 650 RPM in a simple device that we called the wire-fatigue whirligig. Finally, testers soaked all samples for four months in salt water to accelerate corrosion, and then, we repeated the fatigue test.
For many seasonal sailors, the winterizing routine is already well underway. But there are more than a few diehard sailors in the mid-Atlantic regions, on the West Coast, and even in New England, who plan to spend all or part of the snowy season afloat. Some, we daresay, look forward to the quiet of winter. If youre toying with the idea of keeping your boat in the water during the winter, heres a short rundown on some of the more important steps to take.
Connecting two standard-size wires is pretty straightforward: Grab a ratchet crimper, adjust it to fit the crimp connector, strip the two wires to fit into the butt connector, slide the wires into the connector, and squeeze the crimper. The required materials are readily available: butt connectors for inline splices, ring connectors for terminal blocks, and a dab of anti-corrosive grease for the bolts and rings. Done right, these connections can survive some extremely tough conditions. In a recent test of anti-corrosion greases and connections, we demonstrated how these connections can last up to five years in the worst bilge conditions.
Part 2 of our winch test this month brought back fond memories of the man who helped steer me into my position as PSs skipper, the late Dale Nouse, our former executive editor who died of cancer less than a year after I took over as editor in 2005. Dale was in charge of a winch test that year. He passed away a few months later, at the age of 82-working nearly to his last day after 13 years with Practical Sailor.
The previous owner of our test boat swore by using a funnel. Of course, the funnel was too small to catch nozzle leaks, reduced the flow, required holding a heavy can on a rocking deck for three minutes while the CARB can dribbled along, hoping the wind or rocking didnt move the funnel. (Sure, the flow is faster with non-CARB cans, but you had to reduce the flow for the funnel anyway.)
When it comes to most mechanical things-like wheel bearings on a car-its miles that wears em out, as my grandfather used to say. And while there are many reasons why 200,000 miles on a modern car is less remarkable than 75,000 miles was in his day, improvements in lubrication rank high on the list. Lubes of old would oxidize to sludge, stop circulating, wash out, fail to suspend dirt, and drop in pH from acid buildup-or all of these.
While using the right winch grease is important, servicing the winch before the grease turns to gum, washes out, or the pawls start to hang up is more important. Makers recommend annual servicing, but racers and full-time cruisers may go one to three years, and weekend sailors might stretch it a bit further. Three years really would be the max, unless you can live with increased wear. If you go any longer, you risk increased wear and even damage. If the pawls hang up and the drum releases, parts can break, and people can get hurt as the handle whips around.
Our boats are molded, heart and soul, from fiberglass resin. And while sailors will argue for hours over the best splice, multi-function display, or anchor, repairs or modification to the actual fiberglass structure are considered a black art. However, working with composite structures is not much more complicated than woodworking; it just requires a new skillset and a different bag of tricks.