April 2018

Bottom Paint Care

A professional cleaner prepares to dive on one of our former bottom paint test boats, a Cape Dory 28.

Subscribers Only — Modern anti-fouling paints promise a hull free of marine growth for one to several seasons. But in nutrient-rich water and as the paint becomes expended, barnacles and green stuff take hold, slowing us down, increasing fuel consumption under power, and degrading handling.   More...

Cleaning Your Hull

Before diving into a hull cleaning project, check first what the rules are in your marina. Marinas are regulated under the Clean Water Act and they often have their own policies regarding DIY hull-cleaning.   More...

Safety Tether Caution

Testers checked several different boats and found clip effectiveness varied greatly depending on and clip style and eye size.

Subscribers Only — The hallmark of an overboard fall protection system is a system of jacklines running along the deck, with tethers attached so that the sailor can move throughout the boat with relative freedom. But this is not the real backbone of the system. A review of overboard accidents reveals that very few fall when transiting from cockpit to bow—they get washed overboard when they stop to perform a task. While moving, sailors are focused, holding on with two hands, and mindful of the approach of waves and the motion of the boat. But while taming a headsail or straightening up a tangle of line in the cockpit, the mind wanders, the hands are occupied, and risk increases. A wave strikes, we tangle our feet or step on a sail, and whoosh . . . we’re overboard.   More...

When is it Time to Retire a Safety Tether?

This polypropylene rope, once used in a Jim Buoy children’s sailing tether, broke when we dropped a 50 pound weight two feet during testing in 2007. It is no longer used in sailing tethers.

Subscribers Only — Rules of thumb are rather useless when it comes to equipment that is stored in a locker and then used roughly. We’ve broken lots of new and old equipment during testing and learned a lot about what to look for, but even so we are often surprised when good looking equipment fails and scratched up stuff works fine. Inspect closely and often, regardless of age.   More...

Low-friction Rings

The tall-ship sailor’s bulls-eye have returned in another form—lightweight, slippery, and surprisingly distinct from brand to brand.

Subscribers Only — Ever since lightweight ball bearing blocks were introduced they have been the standard anywhere a line needed to change direction. Tackles run smoother, and no maintenance is required, other than an occasional cleaning.   More...

Adding on a Ring? Let Us Count the Ways.

Splicing isn’t the only option. Here an Antal ring is stitched and spliced to Mamut Dyneema webbing, used for climbing slings.

Subscribers Only — When it comes to attaching rings there are at least a dozen ways that work, each requiring different skill sets. In most cases, installation should take only five minutes once a few simple tricks are learned. For splices, remember that deeper ring grooves will be tolerant it will be of a loose splice.   More...

Hydration, Right at Hand

Although some makers advocate polishing, we find little improvement in output

Subscribers Only — To a former bicycle racer, the aluminum water bottle cage seems like a quick and easy solution to the biggest challenge of staying hydrated on board—keeping bottles from rolling away. If wire cage bottle holders could secure a bottle on a mountain bike, it could manage a few waves. Built of anodized aluminum rod they do not corrode, and if they get bent they are easily bent back into shape.   More...

Polishing Solar Panels

Although some makers advocate polishing, we find little improvement in output after polishing a semi-rigid panel.

Subscribers Only — After years in the sun, even the best quality plastic begins to take on some surface roughness and hazing. The diligent boat owner immediately reaches for his buffer and compound, certain that a shiny panel is a happy panel. In fact, panels are often ruined by attempts to restore the plastic.   More...

Hassle-free Pumpouts

It is important that all of the hose is taken off the reel and laid flat. Otherwise the pump might not generate enough suction.

While it’s possible the waste pump-out line on the boat is plugged, most pump-out problems can be traced to poor procedure. Instructions on the pump-out station—if provided at all—overlook key factors, probably because the bureaucrat who wrote them didn’t actually understand the process. Here are some tips on doing it right.   More...

Pump Out Attention Extends to the Head

You don’t have to flush with freshwater at every pumpout, but it will help control odors and prevent vent clogs.

Although head maintenance is low on everyone’s fun task list, working on functioning head that has been flushed clean (flush with lots of clean water, soak in vinegar for 15 minutes, and then flush that through with more water) head is much more pleasant than working on a broken, clogged head.   More...

Mailport: Max Prop

A self-tacking jib on a solent stay can keep a boat on her feet and simplify sail handling for short handed crews.

Regarding “Folding vs. Feathering Props,” (PS February 2018), we sailed with a Max-Prop for a number of years. The Max-Prop caught lobster pot lines daily and often more frequently when cruising Maine. One day I dove three times to cut the like off my prop and we are very careful to watch and steer around pots as best as we can. We finally switched to Flexofold and never in many more years have we caught a line. We are still very careful to steer around pots or immediately put it in neutral if we think we have run over a pot. I would not recommend cruising Maine with a feathering prop. I highly recommend a folding prop for line infested waters like the coast of Maine.   More...

Staying Safe in the Boatyard

Practical Sailor tested respirators in September 2017

My pal Jimmy’s inflatable dinghy sprung a leak. It was a simple repair. He hoisted the boat aboard, put a wire wheel on his cordless drill and began scuffing the surface in preparation for gluing. Seconds later, a two-inch strand of wire had pierced his cornea and he was on the way to the Northern District Hospital in Luganville, Vanuatu. After battling infection for several weeks and follow up treatment in Australia, he got most of his sight back.   More...

Keeping the Shorepower System Safe

A poor connection at the boat’s shorepower inlet nearly started a fire.

One of the often overlooked maintenance items in the pre-season rush to the water is the AC shorepower system. Over the years of surveying, I’ve amassed a small collection of scary photos from past surveys showing the common examples of neglect to this critical system.   More...