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Safety & Seamanship

Distress ‘Flares’ Go Electric

The first USCG approved electronic beacons entered the market in 2015 (46 CFR 161.013). Classified as electronic visual distress signaling devices (eVDSD), they emit a slow flashing white SOS (three short, three long, three short) distress signal for more than six hours. While not as bright as pyrotechnic flares—75 candela vs. 680 candela—they are still […]

Search & Rescue Tech 2.0

On December 1, 2020 Kevin Escoffier was plucked from a life raft, near the infamous “Cape of Storms.” The name dates back to 1488 when the Portuguese explorer Dias rounded the promontory. Dutch sailors called it Stormkaap, but a more optimistic King of Portugal renamed it the Cape of Good Hope. Weather systems have ignored […]

Rescue at Sea Meets High Tech

Disasters at sea always grab big headlines. But very few of these accounts deliver as much good news and valuable lessons learned as the recent rescue of solo sailor Kevin Escoffier. Escoffier’s survival story is more than a summary of safety gear. There’s no question that an EPIRB beacon, a survival suit and a seaworthy […]

Don’t Be Fooled by Warmer Air Temps

As air temperatures in the northern hemisphere warm enough for sailors to start spending time on the water, boating safety experts are reminding sailors...

Life Jackets for Active, Racing Sailors

For this test, we rounded up seven flotation aids from four manufacturers: Float Tech, Gill, Spinlock, and Stohlquist. The test field included an inflatable rash guard, foam racing-style life vests, inflatable PFD-harness combinations, and PFDs designed specifically for women. Only the Stohlquist PFDs meet U.S. Coast Guard standards, but all have innovative features and offer increased comfort and mobility over many Type I and Type II PFDs.

DIY Stability Check?

When the waves kick up, you can’t help thinking about ultimate stability. Am I feeling form stability, the stability that relies on the boat’s beam and buoyancy to resist healing? Or is it the counteracting righting moment of ballast that is keeping the boat upright? Except for unballasted racing dinghies, it’s a bit of both. […]

Sailboat Stability Uncensored

It’s clear that the tools we use to measure stability, and to prevent future incidents are still imperfect instruments, as we saw in the fatal WingNuts capsize in 2011. And in the cruising community, where fully equipped ocean going boats hardly resemble the lightly loaded models used to calculate stability ratings, we worry that the picture of stability is again becoming blurred by design trends.

When Water Makes Sense Against Fire

We’ve never been entirely satisfied with dry chemical fire extinguishers for marine use. We’ve used them on petroleum and electrical fires in refinery settings, and while they put fires out fast, the smoke cloud is choking, even in open spaces, complicating efforts to determine if the fire is truly out. If there is hot metal […]

In Search of the $50 Rescue Float

Recovering a person in the water is a daunting problem. If the seas are rough enough to fall overboard, it’s not easy to hold the boat alongside in a controlled manner. Cold water often saps the strength of the swimmer so much that they can’t hold on to a rope or lifesaving device. Once you […]

Rhumb Lines: Kill Switches Save Lives

In the wake of a terrible tragedy that struck a few days before Thanksgiving in Sarasota, Florida, home of the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program (as well as Practical Sailor’s editorial office), we’re asking all organized sailing programs to review their chase boat safety equipment and rescue protocols. Cruising sailors with planing dinghies should also take […]

Winterizing Your Boat’s Water System

Much of your winterizing success will depend on the initial condition of your existing water system. If it is nearly sterile (effectively chlorinated water), there may be too few bacteria and fungus present for infection to start. However, if you use less than 20 percent alcohol or glycol (after dilution with water left in the system) you are at risk of biological growth; the lower the concentration the greater the risk. This is the reason why vodka and other alcohol-based winterizing fluids should be avoided. In our testing these solutions acted like an invitation to a microbial feast.