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Wind, Speed & Depth Instruments

Deck-level Wind Vanes

There are two primary wind indicators on a sailboat. First, we watch the sails. Sailing to windward we watch the jib for luffing and for flow on telltales.

Testers Take Tacktick and Nexus Wind Instruments for a Spin

Practical Sailor testers compared Tackticks improved Race Master system to the Nexus Start Pack 3, a hybrid wired/wireless system. The Tacktick Micronet wireless wind instrument, a compact system featuring wireless display and a masthead sensor, has a strong following among racers. It has proven to be a good choice for those sailors serious about improving race performance as it has many options for tracking performance on the course in real time. Its ability to work with a 12-volt system makes it a good choice for small boats. The versatile, expandable Nexus hybrid has an impressive and intuitive interface and a graphic analog wind representation. It provides all of the basic functions a cruiser or racer uses most, and testers found the analog wind display appealing.

Testing the B&G Zeus3 Nav System

Multifunction display manufacturers have pushed their products through a dramatic evolution in the last five years as they try to keep pace with technology that we take for granted in our other electronics. Better interfaces, screen resolution, and the ability to download useful software apps (beyond navigation) are just some of the improvements. Most of the major vendors are on their third generation of touchscreen interfaces, higher resolution displays, downloadable software, remote music control, and other functions far afield of what MFDs performed five years ago.

Two 12-inch Chartplotters Go Head-to-Head

After testing the 12-inch Garmin 5212 touchscreen and the Raymarine E120 multi-function displays in August 2008, Practical Sailor pitted the newest big-screen chartplotter, the Simrad NX45, against its well-used Garmin, the subject of a long-term test on one of Practical Sailors test boats. For this head-to-head test, we looked at day and night viewability, functionality, user-interface, and price. We also looked closely at the software that each uses: Garmin uses Bluechart g2 software, Simrad C-Map MAX, and Raymarine Navionics.

Riding the Wireless Technology Wave

A number of the electronic devices that we tested this year are wireless products that interface with smart phones and tablet computers. Many of these products will also connect with the ships existing marine networks (NMEA) and hardware, and we encourage using these more robust connections for long-term cruising.

Heavy Weather Sailing Gear

From sea anchors, drogues, and trysails to forereaching and heaving to, tactics and gear for surviving a storm at sea vary greatly. During a high-latitude circumnavigation, Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard, aboard their 47-foot Van de Stadt sloop, had several opportunities to test heavy-weather sailing tactics. The couples main storm gear was a Galerider sea drogue, made by sailmakers Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond, is a webbing bowl with a wire hoop. Deploying the drogue involved a bridle of strong nylon lines connected to the Galerider rode via an oversized galvanized swivel. Starzinger and Leonard used the Galerider when running before the wind in gale-force conditions. The drogue helped slow the boat, kept it from surfing down the face of a wave, and provided directional stability, which allowed their autopilot to maintain control. Drogues and other storm-survival gear and tactics are particularly necessary for short-handed crews and boats that tend to surf in heavy weather. Other storm gear for sailboats that Practical Sailor looked at included the Jordan Series drogue and the Seabrake drogue.

Marine Weather Forecasting

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.

Mailport: 01/09

In the December 2007 Practical Sailor Advisor, you requested feedback on Ultimate Sole, a product for coating cabin soles. Two years ago, I added a -inch teak-holly veneer plywood covering to my sole and used Ultimate Sole as the finish. I first put on a sealer and then two coats of Ultimate Sole. It went on very easily and performed better than I expected. It is a hard, glossy finish that truly does offer nonskid properties. You look at the finish and think you will slide all over the place, but you don't! It is a wonderful product, and I wouldn't use anything else.

Wind Systems Part 2: Data Display and User Interface

Its dusk on an overcast, gusty day, and raw data is pouring into your wind display from the masthead, GPS, and the knotlog. Can you clearly see the information on the display, and more importantly, is it meaningful? Can your gloved fingers push the buttons? Can you easily change the way wind data is collected, processed, and displayed so that it best reflects the conditions? These are among the things testers examined for this report, Part 2 of our wind-sensor evaluation, which focused on the display and user interface. In Part 1 (PS, March 2014) we focused on accuracy and durability of the anemometer and vane sensors that feed into the displays.

Mailport: 12/06

MARINE INSURANCE REDUXI have been reading with much interest your articles about marine insurance this year (April and May 2006).

The Tragedy of the Driverless Dinghy

In the wake of a terrible tragedy that struck a few days before Thanksgiving in Sarasota, Florida, home of the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program...