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.

GPS Receivers for Smart Phone Navigators

During our testing of pocket navigators for the December 2009 issue, we examined other approaches to propagating a GPS signal around the boat and found some viable alternatives. Several aftermarket options can turn smart phones or PDAs into handheld navigation tools by supplying or sharing reliable GPS data. Practical Sailor looked at a Bluetooth-enabled Globalsat BT-338 GPS receiver with the SiRFStarIII chipset and Franson Technology’s GPSGate software for Windows and Windows Mobile, which was designed specifically for the task of sharing GPS data. Testers found both utilities to be good choices for the job, however, we still caution against relying solely on a PC-based navigation network onboard.

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.

DeLorme Satcom Solution

We recently had a chance to ocean test the new DeLorme inReach Explorer on a passage from Sarasota, Fla., to the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys. Like the original inReach (see Practical Sailor, March 2013 online) and the second-gen inReach SE, the first such standalone device designed to send and receive texts by satellite, the Explorer is primarily a satellite texting device. The Explorer has a small display screen like the inReach SE, but the Explorer features a built-in compass, barometer, and accelerometer to give it some basic standalone navigational functions.

Marine Electronics: Build an Inexpensive Wireless Network

Practical Sailor contributor and bluewater cruiser Joe Minick details the benefits of an onboard Wi-Fi computer network on a cruising boat, and explains the easy DIY setup that connects multiple electronics to the Internet via a client router. Beyond the usual benefits, one that is particularly useful to sailors is that an onboard network allows networked devices to share GPS, NMEA instrument information and other navigation data using software like GPSGate from Franson Technology and Handheld for Mariners. Minick used the Engenius EOC2610 from Keenan Systems and the D-Link DWL G700AP in his setup, which has served his crew well as they cruise the Med. The ethernet-based system is similar to the the Bullit2 systems PS tested from Bitstorm and Wave Wi-Fi.

Stocking Stuffers For Sailors

Its hard to believe, but the 2009 holiday season is upon us. As is custom, Practical Sailor editors have put together a varied roundup of gifts to stuff those stockings more likely to hang from a bulkhead than the mantle. For the racing or small-boat sailor whos making the leap from wire rope to high-tech fiber, Colligo Marines Softies offer a lightweight alternative to traditional steel shackles and headsail hanks. Made of extra strong and chafe-resistant Dyneema, the "soft" hardware is the perfect solution for use with synthetic forestays, and unlike metal hanks, theyll never leave rust stains on sails. Using the Softies is as easy as pulling the shake-resistant knot through the expandable spliced loop, then sliding the slip ring (rubber O-rings) up to the knot. A lanyard ensures easy opening, but the self-tightening O-rings offer added security against accidental opening or shaking loose.

Chandlery: August 2011

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

Mailport: June 2010

The June 2010 issue featured letters on subjects such as: spiders, addition of color to handheld electronics, DIY boatyard recommendation and propane fridges.

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.

Mailport: July 2013

A few issues ago, you had a short article on deck hardware (blocks, traveler, cars, etc.) that included Garhauer, and you mentioned that the manufacturer offered individual parts and complete systems that allow conversion from on deck to cockpit adjustment of the car position. We recently installed the EZ adjustable genoa car system from Garhauer and are very pleased with the results. This equipment fits on existing traveler tracks, is easy to install, and performs as advertised.

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.