Each year, just prior to the fall boat show season, Practical Sailor editors consult with our testers to come up with a select list of Gear of the Year from the previous 12 months of testing. For most of the 2016-2017 testing season we focused on essential everyday products that owners of boats of all sizes-with a few exceptions-rely on. While our testers appreciate new technology, they recognize that a safe passage often depends on the reliability of the weakest link, and that weakest link is often a seemingly minor component that gets little attention. In short, our Editors Choice list is not the sexiest product roundup, but if youre serious about keeping your electrical connections corrosion free, making professional repairs on a blue-collar budget, maintaining a safe speed in a steep following sea, or looking for a way to manage a big genoa without upgrading to an electric winch, youll appreciate it.
In our previous review of dock carts, folding file carts were a standout. Marina carts are a hike to retrieve and return, where as the folding carts can be packed into a space no larger than a brief case in 5-10 seconds, fitting handily in the truck or in a locker. The downside is limited capacity (15 x 13.5 x 14 inches deep and light construction, bordering on flimsy. Prices start at about from $22. Are the trade-offs worth it?
One of the reason we pay premium for brand-name products is the expectation that if something goes wrong, wed get outstanding support. Some U.S. companies (think Buck knives) have built their reputations on their lifetime warranties. But in the global economy, when brands are sold and resold, it is getting harder and harder to obtain good warranty support.
Over the last few decades, theres been exponential growth in the availability of accurate weather forecasts and the net result is safer voyaging. Government spending on weather data gathering and forecast development has soared. Satellites and data buoys have filled in some of the oceanic gaps caused by an absence of weather balloon sampling at sea. State of the art, algorithm-driven, model data and ensemble-based forecasting have turned electronic guesswork into a better understanding of atmospheric volatility. The net result is an increase in the validity and reliability of marine forecasts and a trend that has stretched 24-hour forecast accuracy into 48- and 96-hour time frames. So, if anything deserves the label don't leave homeport without it, it is todays, better than ever, marine weather forecast.
Sailors are a practical lot. Sure, wed all enjoy a Fruit of the Month membership, but if you really want to make a sailors holiday bright, then gift them with something more useful. Weve rounded up some practical (and fun) gift ideas that any sailor would appreciate, whether theyll be decking the halls or the main saloon this season.
Pulling hoses is generally low on the fun list. They are in bad places, jammed onto crusty hose-fitting barbs, and have stiffened over the years. As part of our 2016 update on long-term tests, we needed to wiggle loose a few of the sanitation hoses were testing to see how they were looking on the inside-a job much less pleasant than new installation.
Anyone thats ever hopped on a Jacobs ladder at a fall festival can relate to the feeling of the rope-attached steps swaying wildly from side to side under your weight. Suspended boat-boarding steps can inspire that same unsteady feeling. Ascending the steps, which curve in along the chines of a boat, can throw a climbers center of gravity backward, away from the hull-possibly sending the climber into the drink.
Our 38-foot catamaran, Josepheline, was built by Lightwave Yachts near Brisbane, Australia. Josepheline draws 3 feet, 6 inches and has a 22-foot beam. It is a fairly conventional design: mini fin keels, two forward queen berths under the bridgedeck, a double berth aft to starboard, and a decent sized shower and head located aft in the port hull. Shes stood the test of time-and distance. Weve cruised about 35,000 nautical miles aboard Josepheline.
A lot can be learned from really small boats that carry no crew. In fact, sailing robotics-SailBot for short-is attracting sailors and engineering students from universities across North America and Europe. These competitive research programs are a proving ground for on-the-water autonomous craft, and they give us a glimpse of what the future of marine electronics may have in store.