October 2017

Removing 3M 5200

Poised for a second round versus 3M 5200 are, from left: Debond Marine Formula, Re-Mov, Un-Hesive, and Release.

Subscribers Only — Our recent test of caulk removers, (PS Tests Caulk Removers, Practical Sailor, January 2017), focused primarily on silicone caulk remover because these caulks can leave a residue that makes it impossible for anything to bond. After that test, we got a call from reps at Debond who explained that their product, although effective with silicone, is formulated to break the bond between to break the bond between 3M 5200 and a smooth gel coat surface. This is a common challenge for sailors who must disassemble through-hulls, remove chainplates, or repair structural components. So we went back to the lab to find the best antidote to 5200, and we present the results of our tests here.   More...

Kayaks for Cruising Sailboats

Subscribers Only — Selecting the ideal tender is like picking the ideal sailboat—it depends on what you want. Within the universe of tenders are kayaks, and the diversity within this subset is just as great, with options ranging from inexpensive inflatables to pedal-drive fishing machines. Knowing we could not possibly test every kayak on the market, we focused on familiar brand names, and tested models from each maker with the hopes of answering a simple question: what kayaks best meet the specific needs of a sailor.   More...

The Best Kayak Paddle and Stroke

Walker Bay’s two-piece paddle (shown here with the Airis Play) was heavy but the asymmetrical blades bit well.

A paddle should be selected with the same care you buy a shoe, since it is your connection to the water. For long-term cruising a spare may be good idea. A good economical choice is the Aquabound Manta Ray Fiberglass (about $100).   More...

Best Battery Monitor Test Update

The Balmar Smartgauge is run through a series of tests to monitor current in a flooded-cell, deep-cycle battery. A ProMariner ProNautic 12-40P battery charger managed charging duties; two 120-volt, 70-watt incandescent light bulbs powered through a Heart 140-watt DC to AC inverter provided the load. A Fluke Model 867B graphical meter and a Blue Sea Systems Model 8110-amp clamp/multimeter confirmed voltage and current draw.

Subscribers Only — Back in our October 2016 issue we looked at eight battery monitors and compared features, installation needs and overall usability. Unfortunately, we overlooked the Smartgauge made by Balmar. Thanks to our reader’s input we got our hands on one of these recently and ran it through the same test regimen we applied to the other eight monitors.   More...

12-volt Battery Gauge Testing

After a few charge cycles, the Smartgauge “learns” how to self-calibrate for accurate state of charge readings.

Our test gear comprised a ProMariner ProNautic 12-40P battery charger; West Marine-branded, flooded-cell, deep-cycle battery with a 75-amp hour rating; and two 120-volt, 70-watt incandescent light bulbs powered through a Heart 140-watt DC to AC inverter. This setup created a 12-amp DC load on the battery. We confirmed voltage and current draw using a Fluke Model 867B graphical meter and a Blue Sea Systems Model 8110-amp clamp/multimeter.   More...

Converting an Anchor Light to an LED Tricolor Light

The cost of masthead tricolor navigation lights, a safety improvement many sailors add to their boats, involves expense beyond the fixture itself such as a switch on the DC panel, additional wire to snake from the panel to the masthead, through-deck fitting, and labor.   More...

Essential Sailing Gear that Lasts

The Sunbrella dodger held up incredibly well against weather and UV exposure. Its weak spot is abrasion resistance, which is why its important to keep solar panels and booms and running rigging from coming into contact with the material.

Our long-term testing at Practical Sailor may have the initial appeal of a tortoise race, but things do heat up at the finish line. The following conclusions stem from a decades, and in some cases, an even longer period of observation. In this round of field test feedback, I focus on hardware, cordage, fabrics and coatings plus two pieces of essential equipment that have kept my Ericson 41 Wind Shadow ready for sea as she enters her 50th year.   More...

Fire Extinguisher Tips for Cruising Sailors

1. This jury-rigged “fixed” system blocks the port to the engine space, inhibitting the ability to fight an engine-room fire.

2. A wasp’s nest in this fire extinguisher suggests that routine monthly inspections were hardly routine.

3. An extinguisher in a locker is a last resort. If you decide to do something like this, be sure to clearly label the outside of the locker door.

While portable dry chemical fire extinguishers are a common sight aboard any sailboat, their installation, upkeep, and use is almost sinful. During marine surveys I’ve asked boat owners how long they think a typical BC-I portable unit will last when fighting a fire and have received answers ranging from “about 20 minutes” to “until the fire is put out”—scary, when you consider that the correct answer is around 10 seconds of continuous use.   More...

Mailport: What about Bon Ami?

Thank you for the distillation of basic cleaning agents (see “The One Bucket Cleaning Kit,” May 2017). The presentation is clear and will be cost-saving. I’d like to add a plug for a small sponge and Bon Ami. Most gelcoat blemishes disappear with this basic combo. Other abrasive cleaners (e.g. Comet) mar the finish. In my experience Bon Ami is the most friendly to gelcoat. Just make sure you use boat soap to clean afterwards, or it leaves a residue.   More...

Heating Equipment Support Warms Our Heart

Ocean Equipment quickly replaced reader Brad Schaffer’s cracked Nav Pod.

Three and a half years ago I had a Hurricane hydronic heater installed on our 1969 Grand Banks 32, Athena. Compared to our prior hydronic heater from Espar, I have been exceedingly pleased with the Hurricane. It has been completely reliable and it is very easy to service. Recently though, after the unit was out of warranty, the fuel pump failed after 300 hours of use. The Hurricane technician who replaced the failed fuel pump indicated that normally the fuel pumps last much longer, generally 3,000 to 5,000 hours.   More...

Custom-Made Hard Top Biminis

I was wondering if there is any information regarding the protocol for replacing canvas with a rigid Bimini/dodger on a small 36-foot catamaran. I could not find a review of solid Bimini replacements. We have strong stainless steel frames. They are fixed with metal struts with no flexible straps. I do want to be able to see the sails from the helm and bulkhead mount. I want to be able to take advantage of roll up clear plastic front and side curtains. Most summers my current set stays in the rolled up position. They have since shrunk enough that they can no longer be fully snapped.   More...

Surviving the Great Hurricane

Hurricane Ivan brought the end to many cruising dreams in 2004. But this boat, as the owner related to us earlier this year, refused to succumb.

Would the owner of the boat pictured below please call or write me again? I imagine by now, in the wake of Harvey and Irma and whatever heartbreaker came after, there are a few more people like me who would benefit from your tale. People in need of a bit of encouragement, some cloud-vaporizing wit, the kind of inspiration you brought me over the phone. Sadly, I’ve forgotten many of the details.   More...