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Essential Sailing Gear that Lasts

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.

Mailport: Epoxy, Anchor Shackles, and More!

In regard to your article on mold release agents in the September 2016 issue: We often have small epoxy repairs that require mold release, and weve found that box tape works well to help release the molds. For example, the interior wood surrounding our Perko ports became wet and rotted, so we removed the wood and created clear box-tape molds/release surfaces to replace the removed wood. Box tape, neither the shiny or adhesive surface, does not stick to epoxy. Once cured, the tape is easily removed, leaving a smooth surface. Sometimes, the clear tape alone creates an adequate mold. In other situations where the tape deflects, it is easy to back up the box tape with clamped wood to prevent deflection. The box tape has not been tested with radical cure systems, though they are usually less adhesive than epoxy.

Age Calls for Close Inspection

The Islander 36 is a fairly light-displacement boat. The hand-laid hull is an uncored, single skin, with polyester resin and fiberglass furniture components adding rigidity. The hull and plywood-core deck are bolted together at close intervals through an aluminum toerail.

Mailport: June 2012

Letters to Practical Sailor, June 2012. This month's letters cover subjects such as: Safety Lessons, USCG Registration Fees, Waterproofing Fabric, and more!

Steer Clear of Stainless-steel Mooring Chain

We made an unpleasant, although not surprising, discovery this week as we revisited the topic of ground tackle. Many readers will recall that we began a series of mooring chain tests back in 2006, with corrosion reports in 2007 and in 2008. As one Practical Sailor tester put it, the test could be described as an attempt to determine how long it took our hard-earned money to turn into a pile of rust. (As it turned out, this happened a lot faster than we expected.) At the end of 2.5 years in the water, when we decided that no one in their right mind would trust their boat to any of the seven badly corroded 5/16-inch chains, we pulled them out for the final inspection.

Inspecting the Aging Sailboat tip #1

Excerpted from Don Caseys Inspecting the Aging Sailboat

There arent many experiences more ripe with promise than buying a boat. When you find the very craft you have been dreaming about sulking impatiently on a cradle or shifting restlessly in a slip, perfect days on the water suddenly play through your mind. You step aboard and run your fingers over her in a lovers caress. Look how perfect she is. This is the one! You stand at the helm, gripping the wheel, feeling the wind through your hair, the sun on your back, the motion of …


Are those cracks in the gelcoat? Should the deck crackle like that? Are those rivets in the rubrail, and why are they loose? Why doesn't the head door close? Why are there brown streaks beneath the portlights? Are those water marks inside the galley cabinets? Should there be rust on the keel bolts? What is that bulge in the hull?

If any of these indicate real trouble (and some of them do), it is about to become your trouble. It is going to be your money paying for the repair or, God forbid, your feet treading water. So be still your beating heart; shopping for a boat is about looking for warts.

But where do you look? And what do you look for? And when you find something, how do you know what it means? Thats what this book is all about.


The interior of a boat is a trap. Manufacturers discovered long ago that attractive interiors sell boats. If you don't believe it, go to a boat show and compare the amount of time shoppers spend below to the time they spend on deck. Nice woodwork and plush upholstery are essential to getting signatures on the dotted line.

There is nothing wrong with having a great-looking interior - but never use interior dcor to judge a boat. Far too many manufacturers building to a budget have scrimped elsewhere to put money into their boats interiors. This strategy is often successful financially, but intellectually - and perhaps morally - it is bankrupt. Coordinated colors and rubbed varnish don't account for much when the wind pipes up and the seas start to crest.

Dont misunderstand; a cozy woody interior is a definite plus over a boat with the interior charm of a refrigerator, but you should not be overly influenced by a boats below-deck look. Treat a fab interior as a bonus or as a tie-breaker, but not as a major selection criteria.

Whats behind the wood and fabric is what youre most interested in. Is the deck hardware through-bolted with generous backing plates? Are all through-hull fittings accessible? Are electrical wires secure or are they free to chafe dangerously against raw glass as the boat pitches and rolls? A couple of sheets of veneered plywood can hide a plethora of flaws and omissions. Make sure both the intent and the function of the interior design is nothing more sinister than to give the boat added appeal.

Cabinets and furniture can also seriously complicate some emergencies. Imagine sailing into submerged debris; if the hull was holed below the waterline, could you get to the damaged area to stem the flow from inside?

Look at the cabin of a boat critically. Fight the tendency to form an opinion based on a pleasing dcor. Interior varnish and velvet have almost exactly the same significance as a nice shade of red engine paint; they don't give a reliable indication of anything.

Don Caseys book, Inspecting the Aging Sailboat will show you, step by step, how to evaluate the condition of an older fiberglass sailboat - the one you own or the one youd like to purchase. To buy a copy of Inspecting the Aging Sailboat from Practical Sailor, click here.