November 2007

Mast Wire Worries

My Tayana Vancouver 42’s mast wires and cables were cut when the keel-stepped mast (63 feet) was removed. The wires include those for a tri-color with strobe, DataMarine 5000, VHF radio, radar, and nav lights. I am thinking of using a terminal box for the connections when the mast is replaced, but I’m concerned about bilge moisture over time as well as the multiple wires in the cables. The wires exit the mast just above the step. I tried to leave sufficient wire for a terminal box, but I don’t think a box outside the bilge is currently possible without additional wire extensions. Thoughts and recommendations?   More...

Nikon and Fujinon go head-to-head in Practical Sailors’ test of image-stabilized binoculars

Subscribers Only — We pitted the Nikon 14x40 Stabil-Eyes against the Fujinon TS 1040 Techno-Stabi binocular, which beat out four competitors—priced from $500 to $1,300 and with magnification factors ranging from 10x to 16x—for the top pick in December. This time, the two nearly identical binoculars carry the same 14x magnification rating but do vary a couple hundred dollars in price. Performance-wise, testers consider these two units to be equals. We found no advantage to the Nikon for its extra operating mode as it proved to be of little use on the water. We did find significant advantages for Fujinon in two areas: its superior carrying case and its lower price. However, for normal day-to-day use onboard, IS binoculars are no substitute for a quality 7x50 binocular with compass.   More...

Practical Sailor’s 2007 Bottom Paint Field Test Update

Subscribers Only — For the last year, Practical Sailor has been conducting head-to-head antifouling field tests on four boats (two sail, two power). In August 2005, we painted one of our test power boats—a 21-foot Parker—with three coats each of two products: Interlux’s Tarr & Wonson Copper Boat, a soft paint, or sloughing “workboat” paint, that is one of the cheapest on the market, and Interlux’s Micron 66, an advanced (and expensive), ablative copolymer paint blended to release biocide at a controlled rate. So far, Tarr & Wonson’s field testing and panel results indicate that a budget paint will hold out well for at least one season without hard growth, although you may have to scrub the bottom once or twice. At one-third the price of Micron 66, the Tarr & Wonson paint is not as effective, nor do we expect it to be.   More...

Ocean Tested: A Professional Carpenter and Cruiser Tells Practical Sailor What’s in His Power-tool Box

Subscribers Only — In the last decade, tool manufacturers have drastically improved their standard products. Today, all of the major manufacturers offer professional-grade power tools at reasonable prices. My personal choices are based on a wealth of experience with literally hundreds of tools owned by myself, my employees, and subcontractors. It boils down to reliable and versatile tools. The must-haves include: Hitachi angle grinder, Porter Cable Orbital Sander, Fein Multi-master, Dremel, Makita 14.4-volt drill driver, Makita 9.6-volt angle drill, and an 18-volt Milwaukee reciprocating saw.   More...

Practical Sailor tests 22 hull cleaners on scummy, brown waterline stains to find the best remedy to the ‘ICW mustache.’

Subscribers Only — We tested 22 products from 15 companies, dividing the playing field into four categories based on the type of stain remover: gel, liquid, spray, and powder. Those tested included products from Boatlife, Davis FSR, Interlux, Marykate, Spray Nine, West Marine, Y-10, Aurora, Nautical Ease, Star brite, Poli-Ox, Boat Brite, MDR Amazon, Sudbury, and Toon Brite. Picking the top products was a tough job considering the minor differences in performance. We found that the thicker gels worked best and were the safest to use. They are easier to apply thanks to their easy-to-see color and their consistency. In the end, all of the “Excellent” rated products are effective, but to avoid the cleaners with sinus-scorching vapors, go by the individual product descriptions in the review.   More...

Marine Myth Buster: Can sun-reflective tapes also reflect ship’s radar?

Subscribers Only — Three common adhesive, light-reflective materials were examined: 3M Scotchlite SOLAS-A reflective tape, ACR’s Res-Q reflective patches, and 3M’s Scotch-brand reflective adhesive tape. Kitchen aluminum foil was also tested. But being a good reflector of light does not necessarily mean that a material is a good reflector of radar. What makes a good reflector of radar? First, the object must be made of something that is a good conductor of electricity, aluminum for example. Second, the object should be flat. Curved surfaces such as spheres do not reflect radar nearly as well as fl at plates. Third, the surface must be smooth. Surface ripples as small as 1 millimeter can reduce radar reflectivity by as much as 50 percent. And, the dimensions of the object must be at least as long as the radar wavelength. (The wavelength of X-band marine radar is about 1¼ inches.) It is likely that any light-reflective tape that is relatively stiff, looks metallic, and has no visibly noticeable pattern would be a good choice, but that cannot be guaranteed.   More...

For the Wooden Boat Buff

Subscribers Only — All year long, wooden boat worshippers can drool over pin-ups of the world’s classic beauties, thanks to two calendars that spotlight these works of art (and elbow grease). The Wooden Boat Festival’s 2008 calendar, by Gumbo Publishing, chronicles the annual Port Townsend, Wash., event of the same name. With photographs by well-known photographer Mitchel Osborne, the calendar offers a glimpse into the world of wooden boat groupies. Photos of schooners under way dominate the pages, but Osborne also captured the details that make wooden boats what they are. From cane-backed seats and impeccable varnish to tan-bark sails and a busty figurehead, the photos tell the unique stories of the boats that make the Wooden Boat Festival an annual homecoming for people from around the world.   More...

SailorBags Brand Tote Bags are Practical Sailor Approved

Subscribers Only — If you’re in the market for a carry-all or soft-sided cooler, check out the classic-looking SailorBags line. Practical Sailor recently picked up one of the SailorBag tote bags, and testers have found several uses for it: ferrying items to and from the boat, the beach, and the grocery, and storing dry clothes in a wet dinghy. The Vermont-based company offers three different sizes of tote bags, round and square duffel bags in varying sizes, two sizes of stowbags, and three sizes of foam-insulated soft-sided coolers.   More...

For the Multi-tasker: Bridgenorth Bailer

Subscribers Only — The Bridgenorth Bailer is a combination hand-pump, telescoping boat hook, and deck brush, but it has more than three uses. As a boat hook, it is—as Dr. Evil says—pretty standard, really. The hook tip is smaller than many, but stout, and will work to snag lines and pendants up to about 3/4 of an inch. The tip of the hook has the intake/discharge hole for the pump, and can be fitted into the deck brush. Unlike a typical boat pump like the Beckson Thirsty-Mate, the Bridgenorth has no flow-through valve for a separate discharge—you push out what you pull in through the same hole, so it’s not meant for serious de-bailing. Instead, the first purpose of the Bridgenorth is to suck water out of hard-to-reach places like the catacombs of the bilge, a dinghy skeg well, or under floorboards. The second is clean-water squirting. The volume is not great, but the pressure is excellent. It’s ideal for spot [IMGCAP(2)]rinse-offs, and with the brush attached, decks can be scrubbed without hauling around a bucket or hose.   More...

For the Grinder

Subscribers Only — You might recall a February 2007 Chandlery review of the Lewmar OneTouch winch handle. The handle’s inventer, Don Steiner, has come out with his own, updated, lighter weight version, the Dax OneTouch. Steiner engineered the OneTouch and sold the license to Lewmar for the metal version, but his Dax OneTouch is made of 50 percent fiber-filled nylon, and all metal parts are high-grade aluminum or stainless. It also has a wider grab bar and higher operatng arc than the Lewmar.   More...

Wave Survives Alinghi Challenge

Subscribers Only — One of our campaigns over the last several years has featured knives and multitools as personal emergency tools that maintain and implement a sense of preparedness for the unexpected, even when ashore. Articles in several previous issues (March and August 2004, January and August 2005) have touched on this subject. To provide instinctive access in an emergency, the tools must be personal (worn on the person). So, when we evaluate personal tools, we always pose the question, "Would we wear this tool off the boat?" If yes, then the tool is personal gear; if no, we consider it strictly a multitool.   More...

A Trio of Sailboat Lighting Options

Subscribers Only — One of the fastest moving targets in boating equipment is LED lighting. While researching products for a larger test, we stumbled across three products that struck us as potential stocking-stuffers worthy of mention this month. The Lightship Solar Light, manufactured in China and introduced by Simply Brilliant in the fall of 2006, weighs only 5.5 ounces and sells for $15. It’s powered by the sun, but stores that energy in a rechargeable, nickle-metal hydride (NiMH) battery. The battery, circuitry, 2x2-inch photovoltaic panel, and three LEDs (two white, one red) that produce the light are all mounted to a polycarbonate plate that fits snugly inside a housing of the same material, with a silicone O-ring to keep out moisture. That housing has three legs fitted with small suction cups, enabling the Lightship to stick easily to the underside of a hatch or inside of a portlight. We’d like to see the product modified for easier mounting in more locations.   More...

The future of marine propulsion? Practical Sailor sea-trials the portable Torqeedo Travel 801L electric outboard

Three things attracted us to the long-shaft Torqeedo: It is a light motor; it is a portable motor; and it is an electric motor. The dream of being able to easily tuck the daysailer’s engine in the cuddy cabin, or tool around silently in our dinghy, is alluring. And the Torqeedo’s detachable, rechargeable battery makes that possible. Unfortunately, two of the features that we find so attractive are also potential trouble spots.   More...

Six Remote Mics for VHF Radios Are Put to the Test

Subscribers Only — As single-handers and anyone sailing fogbound coastal waters traversed by high-speed ferries can attest, a reliable radio at the helm often becomes an essential safety item. A good remote mic fits this need, and as bonus, a cockpit mic usually allows two-way communication between the helm and the cabin. The latest remote mics allow complete radio control from the cockpit, however, in some cases, you must match these mics with the newest model VHF radios. The six units testers picked apart were Icom’s CommandMic II and CommandMic III, Raymarine’s RayMic, Standard Horizon’s RAM and VH-310, and the wireless Uniden WHAMx4.   More...

Hanse 400 Boat Review

Subscribers Only — The Hanse 400 is a cruising boat for those who love to sail, and a club racer for those who enjoy a summer cruise. Its construction quality and price point qualify it as a cost-effective alternative in the 40-footer marketplace. In comparison to mainstream production cruising boats, the Hanse 400 is an absolute performance standout, not only in its ability under sail, but in its ease of operation. (Photos by Ralph Naranjo)   More...

Mailport: 11/07

When my boat was hauled out in August 2007, there was extreme fouling in some areas. Two coats of Pettit Hydrocoat were applied in March 2006, and the boat remained in the water during the winter. By March 2007, the growth was slowing the boat. When the water was warm enough to dive, I found several areas badly fouled, including from the waterline to about one foot below all around, the rudder and skeg. I spent two hours scraping the rudder and skeg and around the waterline. I’ve been using Hydrocoat for the last six seasons, painting the bottom every other year when hauling out. No significant problems before. My boat requires approximately two gallons of bottom paint. Growth showed only in those areas in which I applied the second gallon of paint. I told Pettit that what concerned me was that everything indicates that the second gallon of paint failed. Because of that, I now have to haul out the boat, scrape the bottom, sand the bad paint, and repaint. If a bad batch of Hydrocoat is the cause, I feel Pettit should provide me with an adequate remedy.   More...

Where Have All the Bearded Sailors Gone?

Subscribers Only — Careful readers of Practical Sailor may note an obvious shortage of grumpy old men scratching their heads over sailing gear in this month’s issue. We have contributing editor David Gill brewing a variety of cleaning acids on page 27 ("Boat Bath"), but most of the articles are illustrated primarily with photos of boats, sailing gear, and perhaps most notably, women. In John Spier’s power tools report on page 31, we have his wife, Kerri Spier, aloft and handling one of his recommended cordless tools, a Makita angle drill. And in our analysis of the new Torqeedo electric outboard on page 18, we have Associate Editor Ann Key enduring a South Florida bake-athon and waiting for the battery to peter out. And in our test of remote microphones on page 13, instead of the familiar mug of our electronics guru Al Herum, we have his more photogenic girlfriend, Patti Schrader demonstrating the function of the Standard Horizon unit.   More...