January 2019

Seamanship in a New Era

Because cruisers often sail shorthanded, each member of the crew should be competent reefing, setting and dousing the headsail and mainsail. Casual near-shore racing is a fun way to develop on-deck agility, muscle memory, and task-based reactions.

Subscribers Only — Good seamanship is the cornerstone of safety at sea, and its best allies are a seaworthy vessel and an able crew.   More...

Last Chance Line

The boat brake and grab line trail behind the Corsair F-24 at about six knots. With the parachute deployed boatspeed reduced to about 1.4 knots.

Subscribers Only — Most sailors are familiar with Thor Heyedrahl’s adventures aboard his balsa raft Kon Tiki. Some may remember the self-rescue line that they dragged behind the boat. Since the raft travelled so slowly, this “last chance” line gave a fit sailor a sporting chance to haul himself aboard.   More...

Solo Sailor Safety

Climbing aboard unassisted while a boat is underway is nearly impossibly if you don’t have aft platform, fixed ladder or an emergency boarding ladder that is already deployed or can be deployed from the water.

Is an auto-inflate PFD the right answer for solo offshore cruisers?   More...

Safety Harness Chest Strap

Preventing the harness from sliding too far up the torso is one of the biggest challenges to chest strap design.

Subscribers Only — When we buy rain gear, deck shoes, or binoculars, we assume they’ve been tested, not just in the factory and in the lab, but just as importantly, in the field in the normal manner of use. If a climbing company develops a new carabiner, rope, or harness, you can bet they give prototypes to their sponsored climbers, with instructions to take them out in the mountains and fall on them.   More...

Heat-Seal Connectors

A cross-sectional view of a soldered connection reveals how deeply the solder penetrated the interlaced strands.

Subscribers Only — A typical cruising boat has thousands of electrical connections. The consequence of failure range from a light that doesn’t work to a fire that can cost lives.   More...

Sailing Socks

With the right socks, ordinary insulated hiking boots with non-marking soles are enough to keep toes warm and dry during winter sails.

Subscribers Only — We can endure a great deal in the name of good sailing, but cold, wet feet chill us through, and we’d rather not resort to heavy sea boots. Regardless of the weather, even in winter, we prefer deck shoes if possible.   More...

Mailport: Cold Weather Suits

Former Colorado River rafting guide Bruce McElya is all kitted out for trip downriver. Even in summer, he wore his trusty drysuit.

Regarding your recent Inside Practical Sailor blog post “Drysuits vs. Survival Suits,” I raft the Colorado river in Grand Canyon where water temps are around 50 F, even in the summer. The whitewater down there is furious and sometimes dangerous. I wear a 3 millimeter neoprene wetsuit under a full drysuit. If the drysuit rips, the wetsuit should slow down thermal loss. The problem is heat buildup in the sun. The solution is to jump in the cold water now and then to keep from over heating. On a sailboat that would be harder to do. There have been a few times sailing solo when I wore both garments, but it was pretty clammy inside. There is no perfect solution, just reasonable compromises by which to stay alive. Something to remember is that once a drysuit rips, it will take on hundreds of pounds of water. A high flotation PFD is mandatory, at least 26 pounds I would think.   More...

The Bluewater Sailor’s School

Frenchman Jean-Luc Van Den Heede arrives in Hobart, Tasmania for a film drop during the Golden Globe Race. At press time, the 73-year-old five-time circumnavigator and his Rustler 36 yacht Matmut had a 1,000-mile lead over second place Dutchman Mark Slats.

Many years ago, when I was shopping for a boat to sail around the world, I sought out wiser sailors for advice. A recent college graduate, I had a ridiculously low budget but lucked into finding a boat that appeared fit for the task. It was a 32-foot gaff-rigged William Atkin ketch, a double ended “Thistle” design based on the Colin Archer lifeboats.   More...

Prop and Shaft Check

This off-center shaft indicates that the cutless bearing is clearly worn. An obvious wiggle or audible thunk also suggests its time for a new bearing.

A vessel’s drive train is typically defined as the components between the engine transmission coupling and the “bitter end” of the propeller shaft. For traditional drive trains, this includes the propeller, shaft, cutless bearing and packing gland, although the list could also be expanded to encompass ancillary items such as the rudder, engine mounts, and engine bedworks. Here’s a look at two major drive train components you should know and what to look for when inspecting each. Next month we’ll look at the components inside the boat—stuffing box, shaft, and coupler.   More...