A New Spin on Dependable Crimps and Splices

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Our test focused primarily on the small-wire connections tensile strength, with and without solder, but we also looked at their durability under tough environmental conditions. We tested the pull-out strength without solder and the pull-out strength of soldered connections at 400 degrees by heating the connections in an oven to simulate overheating conditions. We tested fatigue by spinning a 6-inch length of splice wire at 650 RPM in a simple device that we called the wire-fatigue whirligig. Finally, testers soaked all samples for four months in salt water to accelerate corrosion, and then, we repeated the fatigue test.

Ordinarily, it would be good practice to cover all wire splices with heat-shrink tubing. Soldered splices definitely require heat shrink for insulation. However, for corrosion testing, we left them bare. We wanted to judge the connection, not whether the shrink seal failed. Heat-shrink tubing-adhesive lined for damp locations-is always good practice.

Testers also left the wire nuts bare; on land, where wire nuts are permitted, taping them is required when vibration is expected (motors, industrial settings), and some suggest filling the nuts with sealant on a boat. We doubt either method is fully dependable in a marine environment. We did use heat shrink in some of the fatigue tests, and in those cases, we used plain heat-shrink tubing.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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