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.
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.
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, doesnt make marine diesels. They do, however, license other companies to do marine conversions using their engine blocks.
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 haven't 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.
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.
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.
Practical Sailor tested a bevy of bird repellents to determine which are the most effective in keeping the pelicans, pigeons, cormorants, gulls, and other fowl from fouling your boat. Bird repellents fit into four basic categories: acoustical repellents, visual repellents, biochemical repellents, and those that use physical exclusion. Sailboats most commonly use visual devices, which are the easiest and most economical to use and install on boats. We installed a sampling of the various types and monitored them for six months. The test products included: Bird Barriers Scare Eye, Bird-Xs Terror Eyes, Bird Xs Prowler Owl, Bird-Xs Irri-Tape, Bird Barriers Polly-Spike, Bird Barriers Bird-Flight, Fly Byes Stainless Steel Wide Spike, Fly Byes Bird Umbrella, Bird Barriers Daddi Long Legs, Bird-B-Gones Bird Spider, Birdoffs Bird Off, WhirlyBird Repeller, Gull Sweep, and Bird-B-Gones Bird Deterrent.
Practical Sailor recently spent a week experimenting with three handheld products geared toward performance sailors. These portable tools are for tracking and improving sailboat speed. Unlike conventional portable GPS units, which have relatively small displays and deliver a wide range of navigational data, these products display large digits that can be read from a distance, and the view options are limited to those that relate exclusively to speed and racing performance. Practical Sailor tested the Speedwatch and two GPS units, Velocitek SC-1 and SpeedPuck. These instruments make good training tools for young sailors and will give all around-the-buoy sailors the ability to quickly quantify performances.
Practical Sailor found that the full brightness that LEDs offer, coupled with a huge energy savings, a wide tolerance to voltage changes, and a very long expected lifespan, make LED a great alternative to incandescent lights for masthead tri-color. The tradeoff is the considerable heft of the price tag. Practical Sailor tested LED tri-color lanterns from Orca Green Marine (OGM), Signal Mate, and Lopolight. We also evaluated LED tricolor bulbs designed to replace those in the popular Aqua Signal Series 40 tri-color light. Those were bulbs from Lunasea, Dr. LED, and LED Shop.
Sight is the mariners most important sense, and tools that enhance visual acuity can be worth their weight in gold. Leicas newest addition to its line of premium-priced, high-quality optics delivers brilliant viewing-and at $2,200 costs nearly its weight in gold-but for the sailor preferring an uncompromising pair of binoculars, the German-made Ultravid 7x42 HD is a navigators dream. Although they lack a compass, they do afford camera-lens quality resolution and their low-light gathering ability is truly astounding. The ergonomic two finger-focus adjuster, water-tight armored coating, and extendable eye cups round out their superior design.
If you're going to sail you'll be doing some stitching-no two ways about it. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard with sail repair tools. Don't jump into the $100 do-everything kit. Start with a modest kit, adding tools and materials only as your skills grow and projects require them. Chances are, you already have most of what you need in your other supply lockers or tool boxes.