December 2008

Finishes to Coat the Sole

As with all wood-finishing techniques, there are a million different "best" coatings for a cabin sole—the answer just depends on who you ask. Advice runs the gamut—from using the same urethane clear-coat recommended for basketball courts and bowling alleys to leaving it natural. According to Interlux (www.yachtpaint.com), its Cetol products can be used on cabin soles, but we do not recommend using them. Cetol Marine, Cetol Marine Light, and Cetol Marine Natural are relatively soft coatings and will not last long or wear well with the amount of traffic a cabin sole sees. The Cetol gloss overcoat is not as hard of a finish as most urethanes, so it would offer less protection but just as much slipperiness as a hard varnish.   More...

EarthNC Software

Subscribers Only — On a recent boat delivery from Michigan to Florida, I had the opportunity to try out some new computer-based planning software from EarthNC. EarthNC uses Google Earth images to present marine chart data by overlaying the charts on Google Earth satellite images. For $50, EarthNC provided 757 vector-format charts (raster format charts and other packages are also available) for the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the Caribbean. These charts can be used online or offline. When combined with a USB-connected GPS—and the ooPs’ (www.goopstechnologies.com) GPS software for Google Earth—EarthNC provides a real-time, moving map experience similar to modern chartplotters. EarthNC also has automatically updating weather maps with data supplied by NOAA.   More...

Practical Sailor Sea-trials 1,000-watt Honda Gas Generator

Bluewater voyagers and Practical Sailor contributors Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard put the Honda EU1001 gas-powered generator, Honda’s smallest “super quiet” four-stroke generator, through its paces during an extended cruise of Southern Chile. They report that the 1,000-watt generator is well engineered and essentially maintenance free. Wanting to go months without running the engine and unable to depend on wind and solar power in Chile’s Beagle Channel, the couple chose the lightweight generator to feed their onboard battery-charging needs. The Honda will run for approximately eight hours on less than a gallon of gas, and its noise level was measured at a mere 59 decibels, quieter than normal conversation.   More...

Practical Sailor’s Heavyweight Anchors Test 2008

Subscribers Only — In a followup to the November 2008 shoreside testing of three large cruising anchors, this field report offers a glimpse of how the Manson Supreme, Manson Ray, and Rocna anchors perform in the real world. The test products, two roll-bar anchors (Rocna and Supreme) and one Bruce-style anchor (the Ray), are all acceptable as main cruising anchors. They are all good, but with distinctive strengths and weaknesses, so we tried them out, anchoring in dense kelp, soft mud, and hard rock bottoms, as well as in anchorages where short scope was required.   More...

Green and Clean: Multitasking Shower Kit

Subscribers Only — With labeling that advertises "Simple is better" and "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without," J.R. Liggett’s products appear to be made for sailors. And what boat owner doesn’t love multifunction stuff? J.R. Liggett’s products take multitasking to a whole new level: The soap bars can be used for shaving and washing your body, hair, or laundry. The company’s Natural Traveler Kit includes the handmade, all-in-one shampoo/soap bar, a recycled-plastic travel case with drain hole and shower hook, and a camp-style face cloth. Testers liked the convenience of the traveling case, which holds one soap and the face cloth. We used it for all advertised purposes and found that it works well as a soap and laundry wash. It rinsed away with little water, but did not lather in salt water. One 3.5-ounce bar equals 24 ounces of liquid shampoo, according to the maker.   More...

Foulie Gear for Your Feet: Socks from SealSkinz

Subscribers Only — In our continuing effort to stay warm and dry this winter, testers took a look at a few pairs of waterproof socks from SealSkinz, the maker of cold-weather gloves recommended in the November 2008 issue. Protecting feet from the elements typically involves trudging on deck in a pair of clunky, heavy boots. Waterproof socks, however, mean you can stick to your favorite deck shoes—or sandals for that matter—and still have your feet warm and dry. Testers tried out two styles of SealSkinz waterproof socks (all-season and over-the-calf lengths) as well as the company’s WaterBlocker sock. The SealSkinz socks have three layers: A nylon/Lycra spandex outer layer offers durability and flexibility, while the inner layer is knit from a wicking material, and the mid-layer is a Moisture Vapor Transportation membrane designed to keep water out. The WaterBlockers have the same weight, construction, and materials as the other socks, but they have the added benefit of an in-cuff seal intended to keep water out.   More...

New Semidry Suit is a Good Fit for Water-sports Fanatics

Subscribers Only — Cruising sailors often need a wetsuit to clean the bottom of their boat or clear a fouled line from the prop—not to mention the added fun of snorkeling the clear, cool waters of the west coast or granite ledges of Maine. Neil Pryde’s new Elite II semidry suit answers these needs and then some. Better known to many of us as a sailmaker, Neil Pryde is also one of the largest wetsuit makers in the world, catering to windsurfers, kite boarders, and other water-sports enthusiasts. The company’s latest offering, the Elite II is a unique product that combines a drysuit-style top with a regular wetsuit bottom. The top’s "roll-neck" seal keeps the wearer’s torso completely dry, as a heat-locking liner improves heat retention.   More...

Skip Allan Says Farewell to His Beloved Wildflower on Transpacific Crossing

Subscribers Only — Practical Sailor’s June and July 2008 issues documented veteran West Coast racer Skip Allan’s preparations for the 2008 Singlehanded TransPac, a race he eventually won. In this tragic epilogue, Skip describes his final days aboard his custom Tom Wylie-designed sloop, Wildflower. After 62 hours gale-force winds, Skip made the decision to leave Wildflower and transfer to a commercial vessel, the MSC Toronoto. Just before boarding the passing container ship, Skip scuttled the boat he called home—one that he built himself 34 years before. Skip describes in this article the weather conditions, what gear and techniques worked well during the storm, what led to his decision to leave Wildflower, and how he boarded a 1,000-foot-long, 125-foot-high container ship in gale conditions.   More...

Ocean Voyaging Medical Kits Rated for Contents, Quality, and Price

Subscribers Only — This is the final installment in Practical Sailor’s four-part series on medical kits for sailing. This article looks at Group IV pre-packaged first-aid kits, which are expected to sustain the crew during an extended cruise or ocean passage. Previous articles tapped the best medical kits for daysailors, coastal cruisers, and offshore cruisers. The Group IV kits must provide supplies and medications needed not only for first aid, but sometimes for extended treatment of even the worst injuries and the most serious illnesses. They must enable sailors to cope with anything that can happen to a person at sea for days on end. Test kits included the Adventure Medical Marine 3000, Filedtex Trans-Ocean Pak, and Ocean Medical International’s Class A medical kit. All three kits were stocked with most of the first-aid components that testers outlined as necessary for an offshore cruise. Although the OMI kit was clearly the most comprehensive, its price was prohibitively high. The Trans-Ocean Pak from FieldTex was well-stocked and well-organized, but PS found the kit by Adventure Medical to be the best choice.   More...

Practical Sailor Tests Two New Handheld GPS Units from Garmin

Subscribers Only — Garmin’s new scroll-wheel Colorado 400c and touchscreen Oregon 400c offer some unique features, but their multi-sport focus falls short in satisfying all of a mariner’s needs. Although both new units are high-quality handhelds, testers preferred an older-generation GPS, the Garmin GPSMap 76CSx, which was the Practical Sailor Best Choice in a previous test. Practical Sailor tests compared the units’ features, performance, ergonomics, and price, along with how well they meet sailors’ needs.   More...

Practical Sailor Names 13 Products Best Gear of the Year

Subscribers Only — Practical Sailor’s annual wrap-up of the year’s best sailing equipment looks at our favorite top-rated products from November 2007 to November 2008, including the Facnor furler for light-air sails, Scad Solo external holding-tank sensor, Pelican Recoil LED flashlight, and Adventure Medical’s first-aid kit for coastal cruisers. In the boat maintenance category, Interlux’s Micron 66 bottom paint and Spray Nine’s waterline stain remover garnered Editors’ Choice picks. Foulie sets (jacket and bibs) by Gill and Helly Hansen were tapped as Practical Sailor Editor’s Choice in apparel, and a host of marine electronics made the list, including the Icom CommandMic III remote mic and Garmin GPSMap 545s 5-inch chartplotter sounder. Jeppesen was recognized for its top-notch electronic chart updating services. Other top gear picks were the Acco proof coil mooring chain and the Achilles HB315-LX fixed-transom inflatable dinghy.   More...

Mailport: 12/08

Regarding safety, the choice to design Glacier Bay’s system around a 240-volt DC buss was made for reasons of both safety and practicality. Increasing voltage reduces current and, with it, the risk of fire from overheated electrical connections. As for shock hazard, AC voltages above 50 and DC voltages above 80 are potentially dangerous. Unfortunately, the article leaves the impression that DC voltage is more dangerous than AC voltage. In fact, the U.S. Navy has found that DC voltage is five to six times less likely to cause fatality than the same AC voltage. Our system is based on the best practices of numerous standards for DC systems in other industries. We have been at the forefront in attempting to develop American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) guidelines for installations in yachts. Regarding fuel efficiency, the similar fuel burns seen by the Maine Cat 41 with diesel-electric propulsion and the Maine Cat 45 with a 160-horsepower conventional diesel propulsion are exactly what would be expected. It is only under rougher sea conditions that the diesel-electric system will be more efficient than the conventional diesel system. (See our website, www.ossapowerlite.com, for more on this.) What was not clear in the article is that Maine Cat significantly modified the hull of the boat to improve performance between testing the Glacier Bay system and the Volvo diesels. We believe that the efficiency improvement with the Volvos is a result of the hull changes, not the engines.   More...

Stinging Lessons

Subscribers Only — During our 11 years of cruising and living aboard, my wife Theresa and I had a few close calls, but none involving the usual things many people worry about—no pirates, no survival storms, and no amorous whales. The most serious incidents involved something we too often take for granted: our health. The final installment of Practical Sailor’s four-part series on medical kits in this month’s issue (page 19) brought to mind one particularly scary incident. We were tucked behind a cape on the northeast corner of Flores Island in Indonesia. After two weeks of nearly windless sailing, we looked forward to a cool dip and the chance to plant our feet on the deserted coral beach beckoning 50 yards away. I grabbed my mask, jumped in to check the anchor, then swam toward shore. Theresa dove in a few seconds later. In my haste, I had not put on my water shoes, so I picked my way through the rocks on the way to shore. A few feet from the beach, I felt a sharp prick between my toes. Below the surface, I saw the demon, pectoral fins flared, teeth bared, venomous spines raised on its back. Instinctively acting in its own defense, the scorpion fish had found its mark.   More...