January 2018

Mildew-resistant Caulks for Boats

Testers compared a variety of marine sealants and adhesives as well as some hardware-store varieties not explicitly designated for use in a marine environment.

Subscribers Only — We recently tested shear strength of many caulks on many different materials and delivered a few tentative recommendations (See “Marine Sealant Adhesion Tests,” December 2016). Here is the two-year follow-up focusing on resistance to weathering, dirt, and mildew, as well as the ability to maintain a good bond above the waterline when flexed. This is one of nearly a dozen similar tests that we’ve done in recent years. Be sure to see the online version of this article for links to previous reports covering other key characteristics (underwater bonding, sealing teak decks, sealing hatch glazing, etc.).   More...

Top-notch Wind Indicators

The wind wands were mounted on a car roof to check performance in high-speed winds. All survived highway speeds unscathed.

Subscribers Only — That fragile plastic wind vane at the masthead looks like a child’s toy to a lubber. It’s a nautical curiosity perched at the top of yacht that is also equipped with a comprehensive electronics suite. While we can certainly sail without wind indicators and telltales, judging the strength and direction of the wind by its effect on the sails and the feel on our neck, those little bits of plastic and yarn are darn handy when trimming sail, or balancing the helm.   More...

A Do-it-Yourself Wind Sensor

The do-it-yourself sensor is surprisingly effective, although it can be difficult to read from a distance and it gets tangled.

Subscribers Only — For more than 20 years, I always had bow-mounted vanes—a Telo Cat on my beach cat and a Windex sport on my Stiletto 27. The Telo Cat was sheltered under the forestay bridle and bowsprit and was never damaged. The long bows of the Stiletto kept the Windex out of harm’s way—although the Stiletto had a spinnaker, it reached faster than the wind and we always tacked downwind, jibing the chute inside like a jib and keeping the sail and sheets away from the bows. When I moved on to a PDQ32 catamaran, a cruising cat with a chute that is jibed outside, there was no place where either a sail or sheet couldn’t pulverize the vane in short order. I learned this the hard way, crumpling several commercial vanes. The solution was not to build something strong, but rather to build something that could flex with the assault and pop back up; a flexible wand topped with a length of yarn.   More...

Dirt-cheap Winter Insulation for Liveaboards

Applying bubble wrap. Simply mist the hatch with water and apply the wrap, bubble-side out. If the bubble wrap is cut too large it will buckle and fall off, so provide ¼-inch clearance all around.

Insulation is a greater energy-saving expedient; if our heater or air conditioner is undersized, fixing drafts, shading or insulating windows, and insulating non-cored laminate are all ways to reduce the thermal load. For boaters, however, that is only half of the equation.   More...

Test Compares Insulation Below Waterline

Testers calculated the R-value of each insulation material taped to the hull (left) and also tested long term service on the test boat.

First, we set up an R-value test rig, exposing sample materials to a temperature difference and measuring the difference in heat flow (see adjacent photo). The main thing to take away from this is that small areas of very poor insulation—windows or non-cored laminate—will benefit best from insulation.   More...

Snap Extenders for Old Canvas

Snap extenders captured in action.

Sunbrella does not shrink. That is the mantra, and for covers and dodger that are left in place, it seems to be the true. It stretches a little when wet, and so long as it is maintained under tension while it dries, it retains it shape. So says Sunbrella. While this seems true for tensioned cloth (our dodger still fits) and it hardly matters for a sail cover, our real world experience with removable Sunbrella window covers has been different, shrinking as much as 5 percent over a period of years. The problem, no doubt, is that these are worst case scenario, repeatedly removed while still wet with dew and allowed to dry. The end result was that the covers became difficult to install and some of the snaps were being ripped out by the excessive tension.   More...

‘Magic’ Fix for Hairline Cracks in Gelcoat

Hairline cracks commonly develop around fasteners.

Spider cracks can indicate impact damage or serious structural problems that will need to be addressed to prevent spreading, but most often they result from relatively inflexible gelcoat that is too thick. Stress by thermal expansion or when bulkheads and liners were installed can cause minor flexing. Cracks from larger issues­—a winch, for example, that was inadequately mounted—will need to be fixed before cosmetic repairs begin.   More...

The Worry-free Bilge Pump

The secondary bilge pump (visible in background) should be mounted higher than the primary, not at the same level as it is here.

Due the lack of maintenance they receive from the average sailor, I often refer to bilge pumps as the Rodney Dangerfield of boat equipment, meaning “they just don’t get no respect.” It’s a funny, but also troubling statement, particularly as bilge pumps are often the first and only line of defense against sinking.   More...

Bilge Pump Basics to Keep Your Boat Afloat

Our research into bilge pumps and associated equipment stretches back several decades with the most recent bilge pump tests taking place in 2010 (See PS September 2010, and October 2010 online). When selecting a pump, keep in mind that sailboats rarely meet the ideal flow rate.   More...

Preventing Emergency Flare Fizzle

PS Tester Drew Frye checks operation of a flare kept in a damp lazarette.

Subscribers Only — We’ve been enjoying desert-dry gasoline for five years, courtesy of silica gel vent driers from H2OUT (see “EPA Mandate Sparks Fuel-Vent Filter Test,” Practical Sailor, January 2013). As a result, carburetor corrosion and jet plugging have been eliminated. PS diesel testers have report reduced condensate water and corrosion. We tested H2Out space driers against desiccants and dehumidifiers (“Dehumidifier Field Tests,” Practical Sailor, June 2017) and concluded they had insufficient capacity for cabin drying. However, we quietly put one to work, protecting our flares. Although marine signal flares are waterproof, are packaged in plastic bags, and include deliquescent ingredients in the formulation, it is well known that by the expiration date, as many as half will not function. When we cleaned out our new-to-us boat 10 years ago, we discovered a package of four Orion Hand Held Signal Flares stored in a damp transom locker. They looked shaky, so we tested them, still a year short of expiration. Three of the four flares lit, but only one burned properly. The others sputtered, one going out and the other burning long and dull. This time, with fresh flares, we included an H2OUT SD109 space drier inside the bag and stored them in a dry cabin locker.   More...

Mailport: EPIRB Battery Shocker

Readers Maryanne and Kyle Webb sailed their 38-foot Fontaine Pajot Athena to New Zealand, only to discover that replacement battery for their EPIRB and their PLB (an ACR Aqualink like the one at right) would cost nearly $500.

We have an ACR Global Fix EPIRB and an ACR Aqualink PLB. We had the EPIRB battery replaced 5 years ago in the USA, and it is time again to do so. We are currently in New Zealand and have been given a quote of close to $350 to replace the EPIRB battery and $120 for the PLB.   More...

Jerry Can Storage Tips

Joe Rosenfeld boosted his tank capacity with the simple addition of a stainless steel rail between two stanchions.

Jerry cans are a fact of life when cruising on small to mid-size cruisers. When fitting out our 37-foot cruiser for an extended trip from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas we supplemented our diesel tankage with four jerry cans for diesel and three gas cans to power the dinghy and run the water maker/generator.   More...

Stopping Centerboard Pin Corrosion

The centerboard pin showed signs of wear and corrosion.

I’m trying to determine the cause of erosion of the centerboard pivot pin from Arcturus, our 36-foot Soverel keel/centerboard cutter. It is a ¾-inch diameter silicon bronze pin installed new in 2004. I removed the centerboard a few weeks ago and was surprised to see that the pin was heavily corroded. I’ve attached a few pictures of the pin. The boat has a fiberglass encapsulated lead keel, with the lead bedded in a resin/sand mixture. The pivot pin fits in a hole drilled through the keel and centerboard trunk (which has encapsulated lead on both sides).   More...

Tether Failure Cited in Fatality

Tether hooks have drawn attention in past tests.

Just as we were wrapping up the report in our December issue describing how to make your own safety tether, 60-year-old British sailor Simon Speirs went overboard and died during the Clipper Around the World Race in an accident linked to tether failure. The race, which charges non-professional sailors to race with pro skippers, was already under scrutiny after two deaths in the previous running.   More...