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.
The February 2010 issue of Practical Sailor has letters on the following topics: requests for more used boat reviews, foggy electronics, hard varnishes, propane fridges and Iphone apps.
While many potential failures are easy to spot, some flaws are hidden under paint or within the structure, or are so small that a routine visual inspection won't pick them up. Standing rigging, hulls, decks and hardware fittings are the most common places where hidden structural weaknesses can lead to big repair bills, or even loss of life.
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).
Sunbrella does not shrink. That is the mantra, and for covers and dodger that are left in place, it seems to be the true. It stretches a little when wet, and so long as it is maintained under tension while it dries, it retains it shape. So says Sunbrella. While this seems true for tensioned cloth (our dodger still fits) and it hardly matters for a sail cover, our real world experience with removable Sunbrella window covers has been different, shrinking as much as 5 percent over a period of years. The problem, no doubt, is that these are worst case scenario, repeatedly removed while still wet with dew and allowed to dry. The end result was that the covers became difficult to install and some of the snaps were being ripped out by the excessive tension.
In response to Whats in the Practical Sailor Toolbag? (PS, January 2012): How about a list of tools that a live-aboard cruiser should carry? Given storage, power, and workspace limitations, many of the suggested tools are not feasible and may require alternatives. For instance, I carry a major Dremel toolkit, and it cuts the very occasional holes I need for switch installation, etc., plus helps me with sanding and minor refinishing work. I use my Dewalt 18-volt right-angle drill probably twice a month for repairs and upgrades. I also use my cordless screwdriver several times per year, especially when removing and reinstalling my headliner while chasing wires. Most others are tools that don't require electricity, but there are many.
While our topside paint panel test (Practical Sailor August 2008) seeks out the most durable topside paint, this test was to determine which two-part LPU is the most user-friendly for the amateur painter and whether the project is manageable for the average do-it-yourselfer. We chose to use the roll-and-tip painting method, and selected two-part polyurethanes from manufacturers that historically have done well in Practical Sailors topside paint durability tests: Interlux and Epifanes. On the port side, we applied Epifanes Poly-urethane No. 800 white thinned with Epifanes poly-urethane thinner, and on its starboard side and transom, we painted Interluxs Perfection Mediterranean White and used 2333N brushing reducer.