Marine Handheld GPS Test Update

The Delorme Earthmate PN-40 is one of the newest additions to the handheld marine electronics market. Practical Sailor evaluated the rugged, palm-sized Earthmate using the same tests used in past GPS evaluations to see how it matched up against the Garmin GPSMap 76CSx, our top performer in past tests. Testers used the unit for multiple days and rated key functions, battery life, lighting, waterproof quality, cold starts in multiple locations, and visibility under different conditions.

Next Best Thing

While world leaders and presumed financial wizards set to work trying to right the global economy with some very expensive bailers and sponges, Practical Sailor has taken the time this month to dig through our recent collection of Chandlery submissions to see if we can find anything more useful. Given sailors capacities for innovation (aka "jury rigging"), were holding out hope that the next great invention-the ultimate stimulus package-lies somewhere in our growing stockpile of Chandlery items.

Budget-friendly Handheld and Fixed-mount VHF Radios

As a follow up to Practical Sailors recent marine electronics report on mid-priced VHF radios, we evaluated three entry-level fixed-mount VHFs and three entry-level handheld VHFs priced at about $100. Marine radios in this price range lack some of the bells-and-whistles and safety features of higher-priced VHFs, but they will suit the needs of sailors on a budget or boaters looking for a backup VHF. The three fixed VHF radios tested were Cobra Marine F55, the Midland Regatta I and the Standard Horizon Eclipse GX1000S. Handheld radios tested were the Cobra MR HH325 VP, Midland Nautico NT3, and West Marine VHF55. Testers evaluated each radios transmitter, receiver, sound quality, display screen, and water resistance. Radio performance was also tested at extreme temperatures, and handheld models were dropped from 4 feet onto a concrete surface.

Practical Sailor Tests Two New Handheld GPS Units from Garmin

Garmin’s new scroll-wheel Colorado 400c and touchscreen Oregon 400c offer some unique features, but their multi-sport focus falls short in satisfying all of a mariner’s needs. Although both new units are high-quality handhelds, testers preferred an older-generation GPS, the Garmin GPSMap 76CSx, which was the Practical Sailor Best Choice in a previous test. Practical Sailor tests compared the units’ features, performance, ergonomics, and price, along with how well they meet sailors’ needs.

Solo Sailor’s Gear Box

First sailed in 1978, the Singlehanded TransPac (SHTP) crosses 2,120 miles of Pacific Ocean from San Francisco Bay, Calif., to Hanalei Bay, Kauai. Practical Sailor contributor and SHTP competitor Skip Allan took time out from his race preparations onboard Wildflower—his Thomas Wylie-designed 27.5-foot sloop/cutter—to open his notes on solo sailing. Last month, the veteran offshore racer and singlehanded cruiser discussed his gear, sail inventory, storm tactics, and his approach to provisioning. This month, Allan focuses on the electronics, safety gear, and routing tactics he employs when racing alone. Allan’s onboard systems include two deep-cycle wet-cell batteries that total 165 amp hours, two solar panels, and a 35-amp alternator on Wildflower’s10-horsepower Yanmar single-cylinder diesel. He has a fixed and handheld VHF, an Icom SSB radio, a Pactor modem for weather charts and weather faxes, and Winlink email. Other electronics include handheld GPS, LED lighting, and a small portable radio.

Overheating in Docklines and Rodes

With hurricane season hitting full stride, many of us are going over our rope inventory, making sure we have more than enough lines to secure the boat. Chafe gear fights external friction on our lines, but how do we combat internal heat build-up? Dock lines are particularly susceptible to overheating. If the boat is exposed to short-period chop from the side, the frequency can be high and the force can exceed the 10:1 safe working limit, and even with rain or spray to cool the rope there may be significant weakening due to internal friction.