Equipping Drones for At-Sea Search and Rescue

The radio crackles with an emergency dispatch: A sailboat is sinking 50 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Theres no EPIRB signal, just a garbled mayday overheard by a commercial ship. The weather is snotty and getting worse. Within minutes, a Jayhawk helicopter and Falcon jet are airborne, roaring toward the search zone, where theyll meet up with two unmanned drones launched from a cutter on patrol. Sound far fetched? Not really. Early-generation unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) armed with lightweight cameras are already being deployed on limited search missions. Fitted with high-resolution cameras, infrared, and other sensors, the drones cover wide swaths of ocean forup to 20 hours without refueling.

Navisafe’s Handy ‘Mini’ LED Light

Specializing in lighting for nautical and other outdoor activities, Norway-based Navisafe’s products include the U.S. Coast Guard-certified Navi light 360, Practical Sailor’s Recommended small-boat rail light (PS, May 2011), and now, the Navi light Mini.

Long-term Test Evaluates Synthetic Lifelines

Sailboat lifelines have jumped back into the spotlight thanks to a growing acceptance of-and some controversy over-high-modulus rope like Dyneema and Spectra being used as an alternative to stainless steel. These high molecular weight polyethylene (HMPE) ropes are as strong as stainless-steel wire of equal diameter, yet they weigh far less. To determine whether the synthetic lifelines are practical for cruising applications, Practical Sailor launched a longterm, in-depth set of seatrials (linked with lab testing at the U.S. Naval Academy) aboard an Ericson 41. The evaluation compares several options and their installation, durability, and cost.

USNA Lifeline Test Reveals Weak Spots

During the time PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo worked as the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, he organized a research project that was carried out by first-class midshipmen (seniors) in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The goal was to design a steel box beam jig replicating the perimeter of a Navy 44.

A Non-standard Issue

One of the first things we research when designing a new product test are industry standards already in place. Frequently, there are none, or those that exist have little to do with the real world.

Anti-Seasick Bands

Always on the lookout for drug-free anti-seasickness options, Practical Sailor recently tested a new one designed to ease seasickness by activating acupressure points on the wrists. PsiBands are similar to other acupressure bands, including Davis Instruments’ Queaz-Away ($10, www.davisnet.com), which PS reviewed in the December 2009 issue. Acupressure bands are designed to stimulate specific nerves located at the inner wrists. Applying pressure at these points can provide relief from nausea.

Extreme Ocean Gear Testing

Matt Rutherford recently completed a record-breaking, non-stop solo circumnavigation of the Americas, covering 27,000 in 309 days, aboard his 36-year-old, 27-foot Albin Vega to raise funds for the Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) nonprofit group. Rutherford’s success was founded in his ability to make a boat with modest design and modest structural attributes behave well in a wide range of conditions. The journey was a true test of the boat’s seaworthiness, the skipper’s seamanship, and his gear’s durability in harsh conditions. Practical Sailor takes a look at the Albin Vega, the gear Rutherford found to be essential—like his Monitor windvane, Origo stove, and Harken furler— and the products that let him down along the way—like multiple GPSs and a Kindle e-reader.

Small Boats Open Big Vistas

In 2003, Matt Rutherford made a sight unseen commitment to cruising from his home in Ohio. Over the phone, he bought a Coronado 25 located in Trappe, Md. The boat needed a lot of TLC. He fixed what he could and learned to do without what he couldn’t afford.

US Sailing Investigator’s Recommendations

Ron Trossbach, the lead investigator for US Sailing in the Rambler 100 incident, recommended the following changes to US Sailing’s Offshore Special Regulations (OSR) and US Sailing Prescriptions. He also recommended that these be forwarded to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to be included the ISAF Special Regulations Governing Offshore Racing for Monohulls. The items in parentheses reflect the OSR section that would be amended.

Shaping the Cruising Spinnaker

In designing an asymmetrical cruising spinnaker, most sailmakers begin with the boats fore-triangle rig dimensions (I and J), and combine those with information about the intended use of the sail (tight reaching, reaching, or running) and information regarding where the sail will be used.