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Marine Electronics

Ships Log Goes Digital

Almost every sailor keeps some sort of logbook-from totally minimalist to absolutely exhaustive-and now, they have the option of keeping a digital logbook. We recently tested two digital logbook apps for the iPad: Logbook 2.5, from German company 2K Yachting, and WaveTrax from a British company of the same name.

Mailport: 08/09

As a new boat owner, I have no end of questions, but here’s a quickie: I have recently had my boat hauled and sanded to the gelcoat, and repainted with all the right stuff. (The bottom was coated with Interlux CA Bottomkote.) Now, how often should I have a diver clean the underside, bearing in mind I live in San Diego? The service providers have a vested interest in selling frequent cleans—one company running a special at the moment wants me to sign a contract for a bottom clean every three weeks, but that sounds way too often to me. I realize it may well vary with geography and ambient temperature, but there should be some kind of general rule of thumb, perhaps?

Field and Bench Tests Determine the Best Full-Feature VHF Radio for About $175

Practical Sailor tested 10 new mid-priced marine VHF radios. All VHFs tested are waterproof, can be interfaced with a GPS, and have Digital Select Calling (DSC) capability. The marine radios were run through a series of tests including VHF transmitter power output, frequency accuracy and frequency stability, and receiver sensitivity to determine which was the best marine radio in the group. The display on each radio was rated based on the size and readability of the information, the quality of the information displayed, and the backlighting. The test radios had a lot to offer in the way of extras with everything from hailers to remote microphone capabilities and voice recorders. Ratings were based on overall performance and features. The VHF radios tested in this price category were the Cobra F75, Cobra F80, West Marine VHF550 (made by Uniden), West Marine VHF650 (made by Uniden), Raymarine 49, Raymarine 55, Standard Horizon Quest X GX1500S, Standard Horizon Matrix GX3000S, Icom M304, and Uniden UM425.

Marine Systems: Wire Exposure Test Update

There are a variety of wire types that exceed government and industry standards for onboard wiring. Because these types of wire can be 10- to 15-percent less expensive than high-quality boat cable, Practical Sailor wanted to determine whether any of these other options would be acceptable for the cost-conscious sailor.Using a moisture chamber designed to mimic years of use in a harsh marine environment such as a bilge, PS's test focuses on the durability of tinned wire, non-tinned wire, and various wire connectors. It also examines whether using a corrosion-inhibiting product could help extend the life of these wires and connections. The test led to some definitive conclusions on which wire types are best in specific onboard uses, and also showed that long-term wire protection begins with well-sealed connections. Our July 2010 issue reported the six-month results, and here, we offer the one-year update.

Practical Sailor Tracks Down the Best LED Tri-color Light

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.

New Waterproof Handheld VHFs Enter Crowded Market

Electronics is the most rapidly changing category of marine products, and the steady stream of VHF radios is an example of how fast the market changes. Since our reports on VHF radios earlier this year, two new waterproof handheld VHF radios have entered the market. Practical Sailor compares the new, inexpensive Standard Horizon HX28OS to the 2009 Best Choice, the Cobra HH325VP. Testers compared the new floating handheld from Icom, the M36, to the high-end Best Choice, the Standard Horizon HX85OS, a floating VHF that also offers full DSC capability and has a built-in GPS.

Can You Hear Me Now? Mariner 500 Communication Aid

One of the many challenging aspects of on-board life is exchanging information between the helmsperson and the crew at the other end of the boat. While anchoring or docking, for instance, wind and engine noise can present formidable hurdles. Thats why many resort to hand signals to be more effective in these tasks. But an even more effective approach exists. Voice communication aided by wireless headsets is not new technology, but its a fitting solution to the problem. In the last Americas Cup in Valencia, Spain, wireless headsets were du rigueur for bowmen, headsail trimmers, and tacticians. But PS considers those high-tech gadgets cost-prohibitive (from $600 to $1,000 each), which is why we were pleased to discover Cruising Solutions Mariner 500 headset (www.cruisingsolutions.com) ($60).

Sailboat Design Conference Part I

Beyond the text and photos contained in a sailboat manufacturing company’s brochures, and the words of a dealer or salesperson, and absent an understanding of yacht design, discerning the actual capabilities of today’s production boats is a major task. Gone are the days of Herreschoff et. al., when the conventional wisdom held that a long, deep keel was the best method of producing good tracking, displacement produced a seakindly ride, and performance (straightforward speed) was a simple matter of adding sail area. Prior to the age of fiberglass, most yachts used similar raw materials (wood and metal), and construction methods, so those variables were not generally a consideration.

River of Forgotten Days

When it comes to promoting my books, my wife says I’m much too shy. She tells friends that I won’t even ask a book...

Battery Power Packs: Are They Too Good to Be True?

Batteries dead? Need to jump start your engine? We test four 17-lb., 17-Ah power packs that can do that job and others. The most expensive is also the best-the Solar ES-5000.

Simple Tips for Maintaining Stainless Steel

When applying a paste cleaner, a toothbrush is useful for buffing tight spots and working into the pores of welds; follow by buffing with a cotton cloth. A green 3M scrubby pad helps for removing more aggressive stains. Continued rusting in welded areas might indicate a developing failure, requiring replacement. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water and mild soap when done buffing.