Functional Fabrics

In some ways, the good old days just weren’t that good. Just ask any old salt who has watched an expensive canvas dodger mildew, rot, and fall to pieces. When Sunbrella entered the market four decades ago, the strides forward were significant. When it comes to fabricating a long-term, waterproof fabric cover, it’s hard to beat the combination of vinyl and acrylic or vinyl and polyester. Practical Sailor compared Sunbrella, Sunbrella Plus, and WeatherMax in a long-term field test and some creative bench tests. Testers compared weight, sewability, breaking strength, water shedding, permeability, and price.

Pushing Marine Fabrics Beyond Their Limits

Two years ago, we sewed up our own dodger and assorted deck covers made from Sunbrella and WeatherMax fabrics and monitored how well the materials stood up to 24/7 weather exposure and the extreme climate flip-flops of the mid-Atlantic region. On a parallel track, we did some controlled—and creative—material testing restricted by tight budget constraints. For example, we lacked an Instron tension test machine to carry out a formal ASTN D5034 elongation and breaking strength test, so we did the next best thing: We made our own.

Caring for Marine Fabrics

To keep your Biminis, dodgers, and sail covers clean and in service for the long haul, regular maintenance is a must. Here are some best practices and care tips weve picked up over the years.

The Art of Building with Thermal-setting Plastics

One of the themes seen among the new entries is a trend toward thermal-setting rather than thermal-fixing plastic construction. The latter is representative of the most common approach to fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) boatbuilding. A process in which room-temperature liquid-resin systems are used to wet-out reinforcing filaments in what has become generically referred to as fiberglass boatbuilding.

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.

Sailmaker Survey Reveals Readers’ Favorites

Our informal online sailmaker poll generated 336 complete responses, not large enough to be statistically significant, but still useful, in our opinion. In total, readers recommended more than 100 different lofts. The responses are subjective to each respondent’s experience, making it impossible to fairly rank sailmakers based on the poll, so readers should consider this report an overview and use it accordingly in any sailmaker search. The responses can offer some insight into what can be expected of a specific sailmaker and what should be considered in the selection process.

Where Credit is Due: August 2011

Letters to Practical Sailor, August 2011. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Weems and Plath, and Moorhouse Sailmakers.

Old Salt’s Anti-chafe Solution

Being a team of diehard do-it-yourselfers, we decided to try our own hand at devising a workable solution to defeating line chafe. After fiddling with canvas, old fire hose, and even messing around with some Kevlar, we settled on leather—an old rigger’s standby. It proved to be rugged and remained unholed after a ride on the belt sander. The fabrication process was kids craft 101, and there was something quite seafaring about the result. …

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.