New Options in Small Outboards

Propulsion has long been lingering high on the list of priorities for our trailerable test boat, the Catalina 22 Lil Spitfire. Our first instinct was to go used. We scoured the Internet for a rugged two-stroke like the old Johnson 9.9-horsepower Sailmaster (with electric start) that we loved (and hated) back in the 1980s, but each one was broken or missing a rare part. Although there are still plenty of aficionados who enjoy resurrecting these old engines-Lee Roy Wisner has a website dedicated to the motors, disheartening glance at our calendar showed no time for messing about with and old blue-smoker. We poked around for a newer motor.

Testing Boat Fuel Stability in Diesel and Gasoline

We followed standard test methods for storage stability. Diesel was tested using ASTM method D 4625, Standard Test Method for Middle Distillate Fuel Storage Stability at 43C. Samples were exposed to air for up to two years at 113 degrees (45 degrees Celsius); each day simulated about four days of real-world storage, according to industry experience. We settled on 8 months of exposure, the equivalent of about three years. At the end of each period, samples were filtered, and the insoluble solids weighed.

Propane-powered Propulsion

Capt. Bernardo Herzer has been converting small engines from conventional fuels to propane since he was a teenager. In 2012, he introduced his first propane outboards, 2.5 horsepower, 5-horsepower, and 9.9-horsepower models. Practical Sailor recently tested the 5-hp Lehr LP 5.0, a water-cooled four-stroke with an electric ignition-no priming or choke required. It operates at 4,000 to 4,500 rpm at wide open throttle, and the 49.6-pound, short-shaft model pushed our 120-pound test boat at 11-12 knots. The engine can be fueled using a 16.4-ounce propane twist-on bottle like those used with camping stoves or a 5-gallon, 20-pound remote propane tank.

DIY Engine Oil Tests

Sailors obsess over the health of their engine; it is the heart of the boat (other than the rig, sails, and through-hulls). Failure is inconvenient, expensive, and even dangerous. And sailors love their maintenance, or so it seems. Anything that promises to ease the mind for a few dollars merits investigation.

Practical Sailor Compares 3 Electric Outboards

When it comes to the development of electric drive systems large and small, there’s a double-headed challenge. The first is the propulsion system itself, a combination of electric motor and drive train that efficiently turns watts into speed through the water. The second part is the acquisition of power to run the motor. Electric propulsion, in our opinion, is a good fit for daysailors and marina-to-marina cruisers, so we tested a few options available to recreational boaters looking for an electric outboard: the Torqeedo T-801, which we previously reviewed; the new Torqeedo T-1003, a beefier iteration of the T-801; and the Electric Paddle, a less-expensive option.

Yamaha Updates F-series Outboards with New F4 and F6

Yamaha recently updated two of its portable outboard engines, the F-series four-horsepower outboard and 6-horsepower engine. We reviewed the original F4 and F6 in 2003. Both updated designs use an 8.5-cubic-inch engine block and both weigh 60 pounds, which marks a weight loss for the F6 but an increase for the F4. Both also have improved stowage capacity and demonstrated solid performance. The report compares the new outboards to the 55-pound Suzuki DF4, the top contender in Practical Sailors 2003 Outboard Engine test.

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.

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.

E-10 Fuel Additives that Fight Corrosion

Practical Sailor’s original goal with this evaluation was to run a long-term test of fuel additives. Instead of adding heat or oxygen or excessive corrosive materials, we would substitute time. After six months of testing additives in E-10 gasoline, we found no measurable corrosion, so we elected to add a small amount of seawater and compare fuel samples after one month. The results were surprising to even our testers. The additives we tested were: Hammonds’ Biobor Ethanol Buster, CRC’s Phase Guard 4, Mercury Marine’s Quickstor, PRI-G, Sea Foam Engine Treatment, Sta-bil Ethanol, Star Tron Ethanol, and ValvTect Ethanol.

Reduce Gasoline Evaporation in Boats with These Tips

Sometimes it is not what has been added to your fuel that matters, but what is missing. The most obvious difference between gasoline and diesel during our vented, fuel-aging tests was that gasoline samples evaporated and required replenishment at the mid-way point; diesel samples did not. Studies by BoatUS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have shown that anywhere between 5 and 20 percent of the contents of a portable or installed polyethylene gas tank can vanish in one year through evaporation and permeation. The remaining fuel is lower in octane, contains fewer of the volatiles that are so essential for easy starting, and has reduced solvency for gum and varnish. It often looks perfectly good-most of our samples did-but it is perfectly rotten and potentially harmful as fuel.

The Ins and Outs of Aftermarket Bowsprits for Light-air Sails

A salty Kiwi named Ross Norgrove once said that the most important tool for the owner of a wooden yawl adorned with a bowsprit is a sharp ax. To some degree, his witty comment holds true for contemporary sailors contemplating a mini-bowsprit.