December 2017

Building a Custom Safety Tether

With few choices available to them, most cruisers use factory-made tethers built to meet World Sailing's racing standard.

A safety tether keeps you safely on board, but it also comes with its own risks. Previously, we investigated jackline materials (“Jackline Materials Evaluation,” Practical Sailor, November 2016), testing both common materials and commercial products. When redesigning a new tether, tester Drew Frye wanted something that fit his boat—very short for the side decks, but long for the broad decks and cockpit of his catamaran.   More...

Revisiting the Two-Legged Tether

Tester Drew Frye's home-made tethers (above) relied on common materials used by rock climbers. The elastic sheaths used in the West Marine tether (and others) helps pull up slack, but it loses its elasticity over time.

Subscribers Only — Driven by World Sailing standards, the sailing tether market is dominated by single 6-foot tethers and two-leg 3-foot/6-foot tethers. In fact, if you intend to race your boat in a World Sailing event, you will have to choose one of these tethers to be compliant with race rules.   More...

Sailing Safety Tethers Are No Guarantee, Say Pro Sailors

Harness fit is key. A loose fitting recreational lifejacket/harness (left) will no better spread the impact of a fall than would a snugly fitted Metolius harness (right) that pros wear. Both tethers are meant to be worn high on the chest.

Recent fatal accidents in the Clipper Around the World Race inspired a closer look at sailing safety tethers. Seeking a racer's view of gear that racing rules engendered, we spoke with Sailing Hall of Fame navigator Stan Honey (a past PS contributor) and Casey Smith, skipper of Comanche, the 100-foot racing yacht that crushed the trans-Atlantic record in 2016. We were not surprised to hear that these racers made their own tethers, although their low-stretch Dyneema tethers are very different from the climbing ropes we advocate.   More...

The Rain Catcher’s Guide

In search of an endless clean water supply, PS tester Drew Frye set out to refine onboard catchment and treatment process.

An efficient, clean rainwater catchment isn’t just for cruisers venturing into remote areas. While biologically safe, many areas of the U.S. are served by well water that is not chlorinated, high in sulfate that makes it prone to going bad. When stored in the absence of oxygen, the sulfate becomes the preferred oxygen source for microorganisms and hydrogen sulfide is the byproduct. Only .05 parts per million (ppm) sulfide is required to make water distasteful. Even if the water at your next marina is fresh and sweet, filling from an unfamiliar source is always a roll of the dice.   More...

Simple Steps Will Keep Salt Out of the System

A modified innertube blocks the gutters to divert water for rinsing or when tanks are full.

Depending on the collection area and the sailing, salt can be a primary problem. Spray falls and dries, layer after layer, until the decks hold enough salt to foul a considerable flow of water. The solution? Wash the deck with seawater before the rain comes. Squeegee off as much as practical or towel dry, and common sense dictates this is best done when at sea and must be done away from red tides. We tested the run-off from the top after scrubbing with seawater, allowing to dry, and then spraying with tap water equivalent to 1/10-inch of rain (see results in table below). In addition to taste, seawater contains significant sulfate levels, which combined with bacteria in the tank under anaerobic conditions, can lead to sulfurous water; sailors notice this when a seawater flush is used for the head, but allowed to become stagnant for a few days; the first flush will smell.   More...

Blue Seas New Smart Charger

The Blue Sea smart BatteryLink system now comes in a 20-amp model, to be released in the spring.

Subscribers Only — Keeping batteries fully charged is a science that cruisers have to master sooner or later. If today’s high-capacity AGM batteries aren’t managed properly, valuable amp hours in can permanently trickle away through sulfation, as we saw in our test of AGM batteries (See “Fighting Sulfation in AGMs,” PS May 2015). Good battery management means complete re-charging that matches the charging profile of your battery, and this means an accurate sensing of battery voltage. As we saw in our recent report on battery monitors (see “Best Battery Monitor Test Update,” PS October 2017) a good monitor will also keep track of temperature, as this can be a limiting factor in charge acceptance rate.   More...

Tohatsu’s Propane Engine Ups the Ante

The Tohatsu LPG model comes in 20- and 25-inch models.

Subscribers Only — Just as we were wrapping up our small outboard test, Tohatsu introduced a 5 horsepower LPG motor into the mix. The new model competes squarely with the propane motors from Lehr that have been on the market since 2012 (see “New Options in Small Outboards,” PS January 2016.)   More...

Selling Your Boat without a Broker

The author advertised his PDQ 36 saiboat online for several weeks before finally attracting interest from some serious buyers.

Subscribers Only — I’m not anti-broker. I’ve happily used agents buying and selling boats and houses. They serve a valuable function, bringing buyers and sellers together, managing the viewings for out-of-town and busy owners, and generally helping the transaction go smoothly. They can serve as go between during negotiations, inspections, and formalities. But they also represent a large expense in a transaction, generally 10 percent by default, though this may be negotiated lower (potentially with a reduction in service).   More...

Winterizing Wisdom from the Chemistry Lab

Expanding ice cracked this valve (above right). Ethylene glycol (on left) did far less harm than propylene glycol (right) to filter bowls

Each winter sailors must tackle the project of winterizing their potable water system. Our preferred method is to dry the system completely (see PS September 2014, “Step-by-Step Winterizing tips.” If that’s not possible we completely empty the tank and then treat the plumbing with the correct concentration of anti-freeze. The online version of this article provides all the details you need to carry out this process, as does the recent Inside Practical Sailor blog post, “The (Cold) Case of the Frozen Anti-freeze.”   More...

Flim-flam Artists Prey Upon Sellers and Buyers

Subscribers Only — You will get crank requests for information. The most dangerous are those offering to buy the boat sight unseen. For example, the person described below has not seen the boat “perfect” since I had not shown the boat and had only cleaned it of clutter that day. The most obvious protections are to meet face-to-face, and to accept payment by wire transfer or cash only, since cashier’s checks can be counterfeit. Use the services of a documentation and title company for larger boats. If a cashier’s check is the only practical means, do not release the property until the check has cleared.   More...

What You Should Expect from a Boat Broker

Bob Fulton preps his Island Packet 40 for a showing in St. Augustine, Florida.

Subscribers Only — If you decide to work with a broker, remember that you have options. A broker’s fee is always 10 percent upon the sale of the boat, but some offer more services than others for the same price. Brokers asking you for funds up front should be immediately discounted.   More...

Towing Generator Field Report

The author’s Hamilton Ferris water gen survived thousands of sea miles.

For free power when under sail on ocean passages, towing generators are hard to beat. In the early 1980s I purchased a first generation towing generator from Hamilton Ferris. At six knots the output was five amps providing all the electricity I needed on passage. During 15 years and 100,000 miles of use I only needed to replace brushes and bearings twice.   More...

Mailport: Shackle Sense

During the past few years, Practical Sailor has been conducting a series of shackle and chain tests at Robertson’s Lifting and Rigging in Sydney, Australia.

You have written thousands of words about shackles. One item that I don’t think you have ever addressed is the use of ‘double’ shackles. Our boat weighs 14,000 pounds dry (probably 17,000 pounds fully loaded for cruising). We use a 45-pound Manson, 200 feet of 5/16-inch G4 chain rode, and a Crosby 3/8-inch shackle (working load limit 2 tons). After hundreds of nights at anchor we have never dragged. We are big fans of a having a single anchor that you trust, and keeping a spare ready—but don’t ever use it unless you lose the one you love. So I have no motivation to change the set up.   More...

Marine Toilet Tech: A New Joker Valve

A jangle of joker valves (clockwise from top left): Jabsco, Groco, Raritan, and Thetford’s new valve.

Joker valves are no joke for us. We’ve spent far too many hours tackling what has to be one of the least favorite tasks of sailor-dom­—the cleaning and rebuilding of the marine head. Situated at the toilet outlet, the joker is the infamous valve between what you want in the toilet bowl (odorless clear water) and what you want out (the other stuff). It never seems to work right and requires the sort of lavish attention we’d rather save for our beloved. The most common problem is that the valve stiffens with lime deposits and remains open, allowing holding tank odors to permeate back into the cabin. When we heard Thetford had come up with yet another iteration of the infamous valve, we were intrigued.   More...

Stopping Deck Hatch Leaks

Bomar hatches, named to the “Gear of the Year” list in 1998, remain a favorite among builders.

When I searched the internet for advice on repairing a small leak between the lens and sealant on a 20-year-old Lewmar Ocean 60 hatch, on my 1996 Valiant 42, I was dismayed by the dearth of information. Even the Lewmar site does not provide a schematic of the hatch or a service manual. You can purchase a new gasket but that is not what is leaking. There is no mention of the sealant. Hatchmasters quoted a repair cost 1/2 the price of a new replacement with a greater than four-week turnaround. I would still have to remove and replace the hatch. I will wing it, but thinking that if it came to that, I would definitely not want to replace it with a hatch I could not readily service myself. In my subsequent search I found a reference to a PS July 1, 1994 comparison of Offshore Deck Hatches. I was then dismayed to find that the PS archives stop at year 2000. Fortunately, after some rummaging I found the print version. It was still relevant and useful. In fact as far as I can tell, it is the most recent hatch comparison out there.   More...

Lessons from the Storms

A furled jib took “Undecided” down during Irma.

Every storm is a learning experience, but sometimes it takes time to deconstruct the events and recognize what worked and what didn’t—and what can be done to prepare for the next storm. Two lessons, in particular, stand out from this year’s hurricane season.   More...