Where Credit Is Due: September 2013

Alpenglow I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to (and recommendation of) the folks at Alpenglow Lights (www.alpenglowlights.com). We have many of their fixtures and have contacted the company on numerous occasions for new sales, upgrades, and technical questions. Without fail, they have exceeded our expectations, from offering to perform upgrades at minimal cost, to telling us secret workarounds that enabled us to use locally sourced parts and supplies to re-invigorate their excellent lighting units.

Mailport: September 2013

In response to Whats in the Practical Sailor Toolbag? (PS, January 2012): How about a list of tools that a live-aboard cruiser should carry? Given storage, power, and workspace limitations, many of the suggested tools are not feasible and may require alternatives. For instance, I carry a major Dremel toolkit, and it cuts the very occasional holes I need for switch installation, etc., plus helps me with sanding and minor refinishing work. I use my Dewalt 18-volt right-angle drill probably twice a month for repairs and upgrades. I also use my cordless screwdriver several times per year, especially when removing and reinstalling my headliner while chasing wires. Most others are tools that don't require electricity, but there are many.

Mailport: July 2013

A few issues ago, you had a short article on deck hardware (blocks, traveler, cars, etc.) that included Garhauer, and you mentioned that the manufacturer offered individual parts and complete systems that allow conversion from on deck to cockpit adjustment of the car position. We recently installed the EZ adjustable genoa car system from Garhauer and are very pleased with the results. This equipment fits on existing traveler tracks, is easy to install, and performs as advertised.

Summer Sailing Gear

Summers warm breezes and lazy weekends have arrived, so PS testers have put together a lineup of cool toys and tools for the dog days. Tower Adventurer Inflatable Standup Paddleboard: Inflatable SUPs are sprouting up everywhere on the Internet; many boards are identical, made by different brands at the same factories in China. Quality varies. Generally, boards 6 inches or thicker offer better stiffness and stability, making them easier to ride.

After-market Cordage Treatments

Practical Sailor treated used running rigging with Downey fabric softener, Granger’s 2-in-1 Cleaner and Waterproofer, and Nikwax Rope Proof to determine whether softeners or waterproofing treatments improve the performance of nylon and polyester double-braid lines on a boat. Can aftermarket treatments improve line handleability, reduce water-weight gain and strength loss, and prevent lines from freezing in colder climates—without damaging the lines? We also wondered whether any treatment would keep aging lines from squeaking as they run over blocks under high strain. Our tests found the definitive answer.

Field Testing Treatments

Practical Sailor followed manufacturer instructions for treating used lines, with one exception. Both the Granger’s and Rope Proof advise users to dry the treated ropes in a warm dryer after soaking them in the diluted solution and laundering them. As we’ve learned in past tests (PS, July 2011), most rope manufacturers caution against placing rope in a heated dryer, and cleaning them in a washing machine can be damaging (to the rope and the machine). So for this test, we opted to clean the test ropes by gently agitating them in a bucket by hand, rinsing them in a pillowcase on a shortened gentle cycle, and air drying them. (We did test one set of lines by air-drying and heat-setting, but there was no measurable difference.)

Practical Sailor’s 2011 Gear of the Year Picks

Each year, as the fall boat shows—and the deals that come with them—appear on the horizon, we pore over the numerous products we’ve reviewed in the previous 12 months to select the cream of the crop for our Editor’s Choice awards. We hope the list will help readers better navigate any boat-show or end-of-season shopping. This year, we picked from the Best Choice products evaluated in the September 2010 through August 2011 issues. The 2011 GOTY roster includes an electric outboard, some stout bullet blocks, electric marine toilets, bilge pumps, chafe gear, and marine maintenance products like bottom paint.

Buyers Guide: Choosing a New Cruising Main

As with any big ticket item, choosing a new mainsail involves a number of choices, each of which are driven by an equally diverse list of factors to consider, from the type of boat (cruising, racing sailboat), and area sailed (inshore waters, coastal waters, or bluewater), to the type of sailor you are (performance-oriented hard charger or weekend warrior). Practical Sailor offers a step-by-step rundown of the available options and the selection process our testers experienced when we shopped for a new mainsail for our Chesapeake Bay test boat. While the decisions will vary, the exercise can serve as a template for any sailor looking to upgrade a mainsail.

What’s the Best Way to Clean Marine Rope?

Every spring, there are numerous online forums discussing the best rope-cleaning methods. Practical Sailors interviews with technical representatives from major rope makers Bluewater Ropes, New England Ropes, Samson Cordage, and Yale Cordage yielded uniformly conservative guidance on how to get the grit out of old lines without destroying the rope's integrity. Testers also took to the laundry room to determine the effects of detergent, wash cycles, acids, bases and solvents, fabric softeners, power washing, bleach, hot water, and heat on rope strength and stretch.

The Multifarious Mainsheet

The mainsail is a big part of the motive power of almost every sailboat. The art of mainsail control, however, is a relatively modern one. One tool that greatly facilitates mainsail control is the traveler. Traditionally, the mainsheet traveler was a heavy bronze or iron rod that allowed some control over the position of the boom relative to the centerline of the boat. In heavy air, the main could be eased down to leeward without easing the sheet, helping to keep the boat on her feet with the main still sheeted down. Compared to modern travelers this is a primitive system, but it can be made to work.

Caring For Your Marine Diesel Engine

Expecting calms for most of the passage, we set out in a flat calm with 70 gallons of fuel. Six hours later, around mid-day, the engine wailed, screeched, clanged, and died. Hardly a ripple stirred the Gulf of Panama.