Practical Sailor Tests and Reviews the Latest in Boat Ratchet Blocks

The racket block is one of the most recent innovations in the world of line-handling blocks. The most common use of a ratchet block is on smaller racing boats, where you are adjusting a spinnaker sheet or mainsheet by hand, without using a cleat. Uses on larger boats include running a line through a ratchet block when releasing the control line on a headsail furler, and for traveler control lines and genoa lead adjusters. In a search for the best ratchet block, Practical Sailor tested four ratchet blocks with on/off switches; three ratchet blocks with auto-sensing that will automatically flip the ratcheting on or off; and one ratchet block that has both an on/off switch and an automatic sensor. The head-to-head ratchet block comparison included products from top marine hardware makers Selden, Wichard, Ronstan, Holt Allen and Harken.

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.

Mainsail Track Hardware

The systems used to attach a mainsail to its mast have come a long way, and the variety of options now available plays to the advantage of the consumer.

Rest Easy with a Riding Sail

Even when your anchor is well designed and ideally matched to your boat, there are four common factors that can cause an anchor to drag: poor bottom, short scope, insufficient shock absorption, and yawing. Each of these reduces the holding capacity of the anchor, and they are additive. That is to say that any one of them can ruin your day, solving only one or two of them does not ensure good holding, and the more problems you solve, the better youll sleep.

Heavy Weather Sailing Gear

From sea anchors, drogues, and trysails to forereaching and heaving to, tactics and gear for surviving a storm at sea vary greatly. During a high-latitude circumnavigation, Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard, aboard their 47-foot Van de Stadt sloop, had several opportunities to test heavy-weather sailing tactics. The couples main storm gear was a Galerider sea drogue, made by sailmakers Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond, is a webbing bowl with a wire hoop. Deploying the drogue involved a bridle of strong nylon lines connected to the Galerider rode via an oversized galvanized swivel. Starzinger and Leonard used the Galerider when running before the wind in gale-force conditions. The drogue helped slow the boat, kept it from surfing down the face of a wave, and provided directional stability, which allowed their autopilot to maintain control. Drogues and other storm-survival gear and tactics are particularly necessary for short-handed crews and boats that tend to surf in heavy weather. Other storm gear for sailboats that Practical Sailor looked at included the Jordan Series drogue and the Seabrake drogue.

Market Scan: Sails and Sailmakers

Sailmakers tend to be competitors on the water, and it carries over into the marketplace. But while bragging rights used to come only from the race course, cruising sailors carry real clout today.

Sails and Summer Projects

While most of us are-hopefully-out sailing this summer, we know that many sailors are busy with system upgrades, do-it-yourself projects, and the usual marine maintenance adventures. Here are some archive articles we think will help you tick off the tasks on your to-do list.

Getting Rid of Mold and Mildew Onboard

Among the marine maintenance products Practical Sailor evaluated recently were 14 pump-spray mildew cleaners to find out which one was the most effective at removing severe mildew stains. We tested chlorine bleach cleaners, chlorine-free cleaners, hydrogen peroxide cleaners, and ammonium chloride cleaners on a variety of materials, ranging from mildewed shower curtains to moldy vinyl seat cushions and moldy life jackets. We also used them to clean a mildewed sail and mildewed Sunbrella. All products were effective at removing the mold mildew from the shower curtain, but the cushions, life jacket, Dacron sail, and Sunbrella were more of a challenge. One product stood out as a more effective mildew cleaner: Klean-Strip Mildew Stain Remover. Klean-Strip is a highly concentrated product with 19 times more sodium hypochlorite than common bleach, and we do not recommend it for cleaning sails or fabrics. Other products tested include 3M mildew stain remover, Boat Armor mildew stain remover, Boatlife mildew remover, MaryKate mildew stain remover, MDR Amazons Amazing Mildew Stain Away, MDR Moldaway, Naturally Clean Mildew, Nautical Ease Mildew Stain Remover, household Spray Nine, Star brite Mildew Stain Remover, Sudbury Mildew Cleaner and Stain Remover, Thetford Mildew Stain Remover, and West Marine Mold and Mildew Cleaner.

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.

Antifouling Paint Prices Follow Copper Surge

The antifouling coating industry is dominated by copper-based paint, so as copper prices reach their highest levels in recent history, I was curious to...