February 2019

Crimping and Sealing for a Life Offshore

Subscribers Only — Mast antennas, like all electrical components, are particularly vulnerable to water intrusion at connectors. In the extreme, corrosion at unions or terminals can damage a transmitter.   More...

Special Report: Prevent VHF/AIS Malfunction

Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) ships—including tankers, passenger vessels and cargo ships over 300 gross tonnage—must be equipped with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). In the U.S., carriage requirements also includes vessels over 65-feet. AIS can allow you to “see” a distant ship, but is not a substitute for radar.

Subscribers Only — Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) ships—including tankers, passenger vessels and cargo ships over 300 gross tonnage—must be equipped with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). In the U.S., carriage requirements also includes vessels over 65-feet. AIS can allow you to “see” a distant ship, but is not a substitute for radar.   More...

Register Your VHF Radio

A cover protects the DSC distress button to prevent accidental activation. The button should only be used in an emergency.

The U.S. Coast Guard continues be concerned about the misuse (or lack of use) of VHF radios for distress calling. Many boaters, it seems, don’t understand the importance of registering their radio equipment, and how to properly use Digital Selective Calling (DSC) feature. Here we offer a brief overview of the most frequently asked questions regarding DSC. More information can be found at the Coast Guard’s Navigation Center website, www.navcen.uscg.gov.   More...

Testing VHF Coaxial

Connect the VHF radio to the SW meter, and the other port of the SW meter to end of the coax that connects from the mast to the AIS splitter. A Bird 43 power meter was used to evaluate performance in our VHF antenna test.

The loss in RF coaxial cable increases substantially and quickly, when there is water intrusion. Coax that uses foam dielectric, like RG8X and LMR type coax, is particularly prone to this problem because the water can quickly propagate along the foam dielectric used in these type coaxes.   More...

Antenna Gain and VHF Transmission Range

1. The preferable VHF antenna for a sailboat is a 36-inch whip antenna with a gain of 3dB. A directional 6 dB antenna (8-foot) or a long stick 9 dB antennas will have greater range, but directional antennas lose their advantage when the boat is heeled.
2. Watertight integrity is essential for any marine antenna, especially one that sits at the top of your mast, where it’s difficult to inspect. In February 2007 we tested four 3dB antennas. All featured the PL259/SO239 connector, which should be sealed.

Recreational marine VHF antennas are usually broken down into three categories: 3- and 4-foot sailboat antennas (3dB gain), 8-foot powerboat antennas (6 dB gain) and 16-plus-foot, long-stick antennas (9+ dB gain) that are popular on larger, long-range craft. Antenna gain is a ratio related to an antenna’s effective radiated power (ERP) instead of a fixed quantitative value.   More...

Overheating Ropes

What is the rate of cycle loading on a docked boat? What is the ratio of those loads to breaking strength? PS looked at load cycling rates for a report on spring lines (see PS July 2016 online).

Subscribers Only — We have a love-hate relationship with nylon rope. When it comes to absorbing shock, it offers the best available combination of strength, elasticity, and economy. On the downside, it is sensitive to UV, abrasion when wet, has a low working load limit, and is weakened over time by internal wear.   More...

The Sailor’s Boot Dryer

Wet boots are a part of life at Practical Sailor. Here editor-at-large Ralph Naranjo enjoys an icy dip while testing dry suits.

Subscribers Only — I like the outdoors. I sail year-round, and I can endure as much heat and cold as my passions demand. But whether it is summer or winter, I just can’t abide cold, wet feet. There is something about damp socks that chills me through. If my feet are warm, I’m warm.   More...

Seacocks for Thin Hulls

You can use a hand-drill to cut out the backing plate, but a drill press is safer and ensures a perfectly squared-off hole.

Subscribers Only — A proper below-the-water line sea cock consists of three parts: the outside portion or mushroom, which threads into the flanged valve, the flanged valve, and the backing plate.   More...

Sailor’s Reading List for 2019

Winter reading list spans the globe and explores all genres.

Few pleasures can compare to the warm comfort of curling up with a good book while another winter front blows through. Whether you’re holing up in the Bahamas waiting for the wind to clock, or tucked beside the woodburning cabin stove in Puget Sound, here are some recent publications to help you dream and scheme your way to your next adventure.   More...

Mailport: Dustless Sanding

Drew Frye's do-it-yourself dust bucket collects dust between the sander and shop vac for easy disposal. Readers recommended the Dust Deputy as another option.

Regarding your recent Waypoints article about making your own dustless sander (see “Dustless Sander, PS April 2016 online) I added a Dust Deputy (~$50 Ace Hardware) upstream of my shop vac around 3 or 4 years ago.   More...

Double Check Your AIS

Nearly one year ago, the Volvo Ocean Race boat Sun Hung Kai-Scallywag was deep in the Southern Ocean bound from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil when 47-year-old John Fisher was thrown overboard during an accidental jibe. (Fisher’s tether was unclipped at the time of the accident as he moved between stations.)   More...

Stuffing Box Care

A corroded stuffing box isn’t necessarily a sign of serious trouble, just neglect. Neglect can lead to serious trouble though, if the hose clamps holding the shaft log hose fail. This is why double clamping is essential.

Only boats with inboard engines have stuffing boxes. To locate yours, trace the propeller shaft from the transmission to the point where it exits the hull. That’s where your stuffing box will be (unless you have a newer, dripless style shaft seal installed instead).   More...