Beginning in March 2014 with a review of wind sensors, Practical Sailor embarked on a series of articles on wind instruments. The series kicked off with a look at mechanical, mast-mounted sensors (see PS March 2014 online); Part II compared the various ways that wind data is computed and displayed (see PS May 2014 online); and Part III sought to find the ideal system, matching sensors and displays from different brands (see PS August 2014 online). The ink had hardly dried after the first round of testing, when readers began asking about ultrasonic wind sensors, which appear to offer a number of advantages over conventional mechanical sensors and their revolving-cup sensors.
Back in our October 2016 issue we looked at eight battery monitors and compared features, installation needs and overall usability. Unfortunately, we overlooked the Smartgauge made by Balmar. Thanks to our readers input we got our hands on one of these recently and ran it through the same test regimen we applied to the other eight monitors.
Recreational marine VHF antennas are usually broken down into three categories: 3- and 4-foot sailboat antennas (3dB gain), 8-foot powerboat antennas (6 dB gain) and 16-plus-foot, long-stick antennas (9+ dB gain) that are popular on larger, long-range craft. Antenna gain is a ratio related to an antennas effective radiated power (ERP) instead of a fixed quantitative value.
Keeping batteries fully charged is a science that cruisers have to master sooner or later. If todays high-capacity AGM batteries arent managed properly, valuable amp hours in can permanently trickle away through sulfation, as we saw in our test of AGM batteries (See Fighting Sulfation in AGMs, PS May 2015). Good battery management means complete re-charging that matches the charging profile of your battery, and this means an accurate sensing of battery voltage. As we saw in our recent report on battery monitors (see Best Battery Monitor Test Update, PS October 2017) a good monitor will also keep track of temperature, as this can be a limiting factor in charge acceptance rate.
Although the Icom GM1600 marine VHF handheld radio is not meant for use as a recreational marine VHF, Practical Sailor was interested in determining whether the unit’s survival-oriented design might make it a good choice for inclusion in a life raft or ditch bag. We were also interested in comparing its specs to another marine electronics product, the Standard Horizon HX850S VHF handheld, one of the top picks from our most recent series of tests (April 2009, July 2009, October 2009, December 2009).
Terry Sparks, author of the book A New Ham I Am, Made Simple For Cruisers, has seen plenty of HF radio installations-both SSB and HAM-and he noticed that even some expert installations fell short of those installed by pure amateurs. He offered this advice on how to avoid common pitfalls, whichever route you take:
We have an ACR Global Fix EPIRB and an ACR Aqualink PLB. We had the EPIRB battery replaced 5 years ago in the USA, and it is time again to do so. We are currently in New Zealand and have been given a quote of close to $350 to replace the EPIRB battery and $120 for the PLB.
The cheapest wind indicators are bestowed at birth: your nose, the back of your neck, and your fingers. Forget digital precision; these wind indicators are dialed in. They even sense changes in temperature that, in squally weather, can signal a sudden backing wind. Even the most sophisticated wind sensors cant compete with a direct skin-to-brain link. The next step up from our dermal cells is a bit of yarn in the shrouds-super light Angora wool, if youre a stickler. Here, the eyes intervene in the process, so the brain must do a bit more exercise. Well call this soft technology.
The experience of the owners of the 14-year-old, six-man, valise-stored Avon liferaft pictured here reminds us of the importance of following the manufacturers inspection schedule. With air leaking from the seams and through the fabric itself, the raft is a graphic example of how even a professionally serviced liferaft that remains dry in its hard canister can deteriorate to the point of becoming worthless.