Practical Sailor tested more than a dozen bullet blocks (sized 40 to 45 millimeters) from eight marinedeck hardware manufacturers: Barton, Garhauer, Harken, Karver, Holt, Ronstan, Schaefer, and Selden Mast. The units tested were ball-bearing and roller-bearing designs, and the growing trend toward more composite material and less metal construction was evident among the products. Blocks were loaded to 200 pounds-well within the safe working load for the test blocks-and testers measured the amount of force required to move a line in a closed loop set up. Once the efficiency test was complete, the blocks were subjected to an aerated saline bath to gauge corrosion and oxidation tendencies. Weight, price, safe working load, cheek material, and attachments were also evaluated.
We have a love-hate relationship with nylon rope. When it comes to absorbing shock, it offers the best available combination of strength, elasticity, and economy. On the downside, it is sensitive to UV, abrasion when wet, has a low working load limit, and is weakened over time by internal wear.
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.
Cape Dory sloops-even those like the 25, which was not designed by Carl Alberg-have one of the most loyal followings among production boats. These loyal owners, added to a reputation for quality construction, enables Cape Dory boats to hold their resale value well, making them prime candidates for a do-it-yourself project boat like Practical Sailors test boat, Satori, a 1981 Cape Dory 25.Satori was purchased in 2008 in Sarasota, Fla., for $1,500. Although structurally sound for a boat her age, the interior had been gutted.Satoris sale price included an inventory of like-new sails, a new 5-horsepower Nissan outboard, and ground tackle. Completely rebuilding a boats interior would seem daunting to many, but Satori owner Jon Perkins is a carpenter by trade so he had the tools, resources, and know-how to get the job done. Cape Dory is an ideal fixer-upper boat, if the owner is up for the project. On today market, the Cape Dory 25 can fetch $3,000-$8,000. The pocket cruiser is also an excellent boat to fix and sail as a nice weekend cruiser for a family or a coastal cruiser for a couple.
Take a cursory glance at a new 35-footer and you might easily conclude that, except for cosmetic changes, the boat is essentially unchanged from those that made their debut in 1995. But that is not the case. In contemporary designs, modifications to deck layouts, the design of creature comforts, and boathandling systems, all reflect the market's desire for easy use, as evinced by below-deck sheeting systems (X Yachts), electrically controlled stern platforms (C&C), and removable traveler systems (Etap), for instance.
If you're going to sail you'll be doing some stitching-no two ways about it. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard with sail repair tools. Don't jump into the $100 do-everything kit. Start with a modest kit, adding tools and materials only as your skills grow and projects require them. Chances are, you already have most of what you need in your other supply lockers or tool boxes.