Tools & Gadgets

Testers Check Beam Patterns and Illumination

Testers evaluated a number of spotlight features. Although some points such as ergonomics involved a small degree of subjectivity, features such as brightness carried much heavier weighting in the final ratings. Here is what we looked at: Ergonomics. Some models merely have an on–off switch; others add one or two controls to change power, or activate a strobe feature, or turn on a red beam. There were, however, as many configurations of use and meaning of the switches as there were spotlights. Testers concentrated on how these are used: Is one–hand operation possible? Are the controls logically placed? Do they snap into position, providing satisfying feedback? Can the light be turned on by accident, possibly leading to a depleted battery?

Orion Reports on Defective Flare Investigation

In the July 2011 Mailport, Practical Sailor reported that a new Orion handheld flare had malfunctioned during an emergency training course at the Annapolis School of Seamanship. The defective flare had melted through its end cap, allowing hot, melted slag to drip out.

Chandlery: August 2011

Practical Sailor Chandlery: August 2011. This month reviews a tiller, tool toter, and smart-phones.

Adjust Your Own Compass

With a little care, boatowners can do a perfectly adequate job of compen­sating their own compasses. The ob­jective in compass adjusting is to neutralize the boat's magnetism, not to make the compass point in any par­ticular direction. You can determine the effect of the boat's magnetic field on any compass bearing by simply turning the boat 180 for the amount that the compass overshoots or under‑shoots a 180' change is always just twice the effect of the boat's field on that heading.

Chandlery: June 2011

Although the ease and convenience of electronic chartplotters has ensured their place aboard most every vessel these days, the punch-and-go navigation that makes them so popular has also spawned a generation of slack-jawed zombies when it comes to even the most rudimentary of navigational skills. Prudent mariners continue to carry paper charts, both as backup to chartplotters (and their “one diode away from disaster” nature) and to have the big picture view that a plotter just can’t match.

The Complete Propane Appliance System

Of course, everything on a boat is a compromise, and so it is with propane. It has two nasty traits that must be dealt with: Propane is heavier than air, which allows the gas to collect in the bilge in the event of a leak; and propane is explosive when it collects in such places.

Hard-to-Find Mercedes Parts – Knotmeter Fouling

Given the number of Mercedes diesels you see on the highway, its amazingly difficult to find parts for the marinized versions of these engines. Part of the difficulty is the origin of the marine versions of the various Mercedes engines. Mercedes, like several other engine manufacturers, doesn't make marine diesels. They do, however, license other companies to do marine conversions using their engine blocks.

Update on 10 Long-term Practical Sailor Tests

As a publication that strives to give readers a thorough look at similar items competing in the marketplace, Practical Sailor's long-term testing is vital to determining product durability. Over the years, weve found various ways to update our views. Occasionally run a column called Gear Graveyard, and once in a while, we just round up products that have or havent stood the test of time. This is one of those roundups. All of the items mentioned are, or have been, in use aboard either a 26-foot biodiesel-powered inboard powerboat or a 32-foot Union cutter test boat. They are among quite a few items aboard that undergo testing and abuse, formal and informal, intentional and unintentional. The 10 items included in this report are the Plastimo flexible water tank, Seoladair Easystow inflatable fender, Garmin GPSMap 545s chartplotter, Coleman thermo-electric cooler, Jabsco oil changer, ACR Firefly 2 strobe light, Force 10 Seacook single-burner propane stive, FilterBoss, Aere inflatable fender, Boatsense systems alarm.

Chandlery: Practical Sailor Holiday Gift Ideas 2010

Every November, Practical Sailor editors celebrate the impending holiday season by reviewing gift ideas for the sailors on your list-or to add to your wishlist. This years wrap-up covers a range of interests and includes something to fit every budget. Looking for a new gizmo for the gadget junkie? Check out solar-powered, water-resistant Eton Soulra sound system, which can play most MP3 players and iPods, iTouch and iPhones while charging them. Or take a look at the SolarTech SolarPulse, a solar-powered device that charges and maintains a ship's batteries. The featured galley goodies from Galleyware and JetBoil will make practical gifts for those galley goddesses, and the Sailor's Solutions wireless remote switch for 12-volt devices is a good stocking-stuffer for creative boat owners and those looking for convenience.

The Liquid Image 310 Video Mask

For those of us who spend nearly as much time under the water as on it, the Liquid Image 310 video mask sounded like a great addition to our diving kit-and a good fix for our gadget addiction-so we had to give it a try when we came across it at a spring boat show.