Travel 2014-2015

Southbound Farewells

In Deltaville this weekend, we visited with boats heading south: Bellatrix, Joie de Vivre, Island Time and Rovinkind II.

All heading south.

All except Red Ranger.

We’ll be traveling with them vicariously.

Joie de Vivre will be heading offshore to make St. Augustine in one big outside run. The weather starting on Sunday looks favorable for them to try that.

Bellatrix will be picking their way down the ICW starting Sunday. If you want to know more, check out the October 2014 edition of Spinsheet Magazine. Page 84 to 86. 

Rovinkind II is going to make some repairs before heading south. Island Time is almost ready to head south after considerable work getting everything shipshape after sitting on the hard for a few years.

Red Ranger is getting cleaned up prior to haulout.

Lifesling Container

There are some important lessons learned in safety here. Very important.

One of the first pieces of safety equipment we bought for Red Ranger was a Life Sling 2. It’s a tidy container with hook and loop strips (Velcro™)  that fastens neatly to the taffrail or lifeline somewhere.


Most folks have one or so, and they mount it well aft.

At the Whitby Rendezvous I saw Virginia, owner of Morning Light, having her crew deploy the Life Sling before setting out. She carefully removes the vinyl package from the taffrail when arriving. Before departing, she has the crew attach the container to the taffrail so it’s available. 

“Why does she remove it?” I wondered.

Back on Red Ranger, it was immediately obvious why she removes it. 

The vinyl cover rots in the sun. It is — figuratively — eaten by the sun. Figuratively eaten.

Our cover was literally flakes of vinyl. If we so much as touched it, vinyl chunks dropped onto the deck and into Jackson Creek. 

CA replaced the top of the LifeSling 2 cover. 

The rest of the container was fine. Just the cover had been eaten alive by the sun. Figuratively Eaten Alive.

[I’m amused by the number of things I read where “literally" is literally abused. It’s figuratively beaten with a stick. You can download a browser plug-in to fix this problem. Visit]

Running Backstays

We have an additional issue on Red Ranger. It seems sensible to keep the Life Sling well aft. But this means that a slacked running backstay can — potentially — chafe on the lifesling.

We try to keep the slack backstay under some control. But when running well off the wind, the slack backstay will still rub on anything that’s hanging on the taffrail.  We have the outboard (port) and the life sling (starboard) in positions where they — literally — run afoul of slacked backstays when running off the wind.

I slapped some duct tape (really) on the LifeSling cover to act as a sacrificial guard from backstay chafe. And it (sort of) worked. The duct tape was a mess and the vinyl cover less torn up than the tape.

We really needed some leather to act as a proper chafe guard.

Where can we get 2′ to 3′ of leather? 


The Wheel Cover

Red Ranger had a leather-covered wheel. The leather was showing signs of age. It had fairly big chips missing. There were some flaps where the leather had been dinged or cut and was starting to fall off.

Mostly, the leather was intact. But. Age was taking its toll.

While a leathered wheel is cool — for a sports car — we couldn’t figure out what the draw was for boats. I think I read somewhere that it keeps it cooler. But we have a bimini and the wheel hasn’t seen direct sun since the first bimini was put on in the 90’s. For us, it was just something we had to be careful not to chip.

I took a utility knife and carefully slit the stitching and peeled off the wheel leather. No more worrying about the wheel leather chipping.

Use a knife on stainless — it turns out — is not really the smartest idea. A good, sharp utility knife will score the wheel with a fine stainless steel burr.

The little burr raised by a sharp knife can be an annoying way to cut yourself when spinning the wheel quickly to maneuver in a tight place. It was annoying enough while wiping it down with Goof Off™ to get rid of the residue from leather and fabric strip.

A thorough wipe with some emory paper clears up the burr problem. 

But. This reduces the overall level of shine to about zero. At some point in the future, I have to get some jeweler’s rouge to restore the original level of shiny finish to the wheel. See this: And this:

Some of the leather has been put to good use on the lifesling case. The rest will go into the spare parts locker behind the settee. 


Finished Cover

The final cover is a thing of beauty. It echoes the other red design elements. It doesn’t have chunks of vinyl littering the creek.

The SailRite LZ-1 machine makes short work of sewing the box corners (with rolled hems: 6 layers of fabric.)

The stitching through vinyl and ancient wheel leather?


CA called the leather portion effortless since there’s no complex corners or hems: two straight stitches. One side had leather and vinyl. The other had leather, two layers of Sunbrella and vinyl.

She wanted to preserve the big flap with the Velcro™ closures because it has some safety tips on how to use the sling in the rare event that you actually need it.

Clever Menehune Solution

We'll call this the “Menehune Modification” to the Whitby/Brewer fuel tank vent issue.

For non-sailors the essential issues are these:

  • Your boat has some fuel tanks. Red Ranger has one. Sister ships have as many as three.
  • A fuel tank needs an air vent. Fuel going in will displace air, which must go out. Conversely, when the engine is running, fuel goes out and air must go in.

Now comes the difficult marine architecture issue.

Where does this vent go?

The not-always-obvious answer is “Above The Level of the Fuel Fill”. On many boats, the fuel fill is a deck fitting. That means that the vent must be above deck level.

This isn’t always an easy thing to do. To rise above the deck, the vent hose has to go through the interior somewhere and pop out through a pleasant-looking vent fitting on the side of the cabin. 

On the Whitby’s — sadly —  this hose went aft, to a fitting that was below the level of the tank. Below.

Let me emphasize the below-ness of that. 

You’re filling your tank with diesel. Floating in pristine, protected, wild-life-filled waters. And when the fuel gets near the top of the tank, some will splash around down there; some of that splashing is into the vent line. Where air is rushing out as the fuel rushes in.

Now you’ve got a hazmat cleanup issue: diesel floating on the water.

And this was a risk every time we fueled. Vigilance meant climbing down the stern ladder with a rag to catch the drips from the vent line.

The Menehune Modification

The simple and idiot-proof solution is to reroute the vent line.

(So happy that John C. — formerly of Menehune — noted this so emphatically.)

The design goal is to remove any human intervention from taking on fuel cleanly. That way the omnipresence of idiocy doesn’t matter any more.

John C. shared pictures of his starboard fuel vent located above the hanging locker. There’s a complicated bit of joinery just aft of that locker. The aft bulkhead runs just under the cockpit seat edge. There’s a fiberglass headliner for the interior space. There’s fiberglass deck which is offset from the interior glass, leaving a small gap. And up on the deck there’s actually a molded-in fiberglass box with the winches on top. 

We could — in principle — run the vent hose out of the hanging locker and into the winch box. With some care, we might be able put enough goo around the hose to prevent water running from winch back back into the hanging locker. This isn’t too appealing because I’m not a fan of lavish goo. 

I’d prefer to use a double-ended through-bulkhead fittings. If seen this advertised for plumbing fish tanks and live bait wells. The smallest are ¾” and we only need ⁵⁄₈”. I might be able to make something like that work, but it would involve drilling and cutting in a right awkward position inside the hanging locker. I can’t fit my shoulders in there, so there’s a strict limit on how much work can be done without dismantling the interior cabinetry.

The Red Ranger Alternative


Here’s a closeup of the top of the aft hanging locker. 

The metal box on the top-left is how we give orders to Mr. Benmar. In the cockpit, there’s a control panel with two knobs to dial in a course. The wire arcing out of there goes down to Mr. Benmar’s personal compass hanging in the aft berth.

[Yes, our autopilot has a name. We like Mr. Benmar. He grunts and swears a lot, but he’s trustworthy and reliable. But he has his own personal compass.]

The wooden structre in the middle of the image covers the electrical tie. It hides two big 30A plugs that we can use to plug Red Ranger into shore power. 


The box comes off  comes off to reveal a tangle of wires related to the aft VHF station, Mr. Benmar, and the two outlets.

And a space below the outlets into which we can drill to put a deck fitting.

This means that the vent hose could possibly snake through the hanging locker in parallel with the electrical connections and pop out the top of the locker and run overboard through a pretty-little vent fitting just under the eletrical connectors.

If only the vent hose was routed that way. It wasn’t. The vent hose was routed down low. After all, the vent was about the level of the aft bunks. Low.

About the Deck

The deck is fiberglass. The interior is teak. How thick is it? It can’t be that thick, right?


It’s that thick. Almost 1¼” from inside to out. The deck is actually a two-part sandwich: fiberglass and balsa core material. The teak is not just a strip of veneer: it’s got to be ³⁄₈” thick. The fitting, of course, doesn’t have 1½” of threads; it’s barely got 1”. So there’s a two-tiered hole. The vent line hole is skinny. Then there’s an inner hole the diameter of the backing nut.


The rest is just rubber hose and hose clamps.

Here’s how the hose looks on top of the closet. The old wooden cover conceals this little elbow fitting perfectly.

I could have used expensive hose with a wire support that might make the turn without kinking. Instead I used cheap hose and an expensive elbow fitting. Sigh.


Inside the hanging locker, I installed a Racor LG-100 fuel-air separator. This is totally a “belts-and-braces” level of over-solving the problem.

And yes. The hose goes entirely under the closet rod. It’s a little awkward to hang sweaters (“jumpers” or “wooley pulleys” ) down at that end of the locker because the hose is there. 

We’d like to test it. But.

The tank is still almost full from when we topped off the fuel in Norfolk in the spring.

Don’t forget to search for “menehune” on the web.

A Liferaft Demo [Updated]

What a liferaft looks like

This is what it looks like when you inflate a small 4-person six-person life raft.

What’s important here is that it’s (a) small and (b) small. While it clearly looks like it might remain upright, there are issues. 

In horrifying, scary weather, this may not be terribly useful. The line could be stripped out of your hand in a big wind. It might flip over, making it nearly useless. Clambering into it in confused seas may be difficult.

It’s only “better than nothing” when there is — indeed — nothing left to do. Any alternative strategy to survival looks better than messing around with this.

We’ve heard of Whitby folks who hit something in the water, stove in the side of their boat, couldn’t staunch the flow of water, climbed into their dinghy and floated from from the Whitby as it sank. The dinghy proved every bit as useful as a liferaft.

Since a dinghy (to an extent) can be rowed, it’s possible that a dinghy might have been better than a difficult-to-maneuver liferaft.

Seeing this was helpful as a way to reinforce how small a liferaft is. 

Update: changed the size from four-person to six-person.

Whitby-Brewer Rendezous

When we bought Red Ranger, we didn’t realize we were buying an entire family.

2010. We tried to sail to Galesvile, had a number of problems. We sailed back to Deltaville, got in the truck, and drove to Annapolis. 

2011. Did not attend. 

2012. A really great trip.

2013. Another really great trip.

2014. CA is now “Coordinator” for the Rendezvous. But. Since I have a new day job it’s not a brilliant idea to take two weeks off to sail up to Galesville and back to Deltaville. So we drove.

Two weeks?

Well. It can be done in two long days. If the weather is perfect. If we were lucky enough to have this perfect weather, we could leave Saturday and arrive late Sunday night. If, however, there was any kind of less-than-perfect weather, we’d be late. 

In order to run the meeting, we do need to be there on time. That means leaving plenty of time to get there including waiting for weather to change.



This year we had seven boats, just shy of 50 people. Presentations included:

  • Ford Lehman engine topics (and any other diesel power plant) with Bob Smith of ADC, Kilmarnock.
  • Wifi issues. Intereference is the norm, and will only get worse.
  • Refrigeration design and refit for Island Time. BTU’s matter: properly size the compressor and evaporator.
  • iPad navigation from Gerry O’D. Some of the best choices to use your iPad as backup chart plotter and voyage planner.
  • Mark and Diana Doyle’s “Frugal 50” list from OTW Chart Guides.
  • The state of the web site.
  • Life-raft demo: John C. pulled the rip-cord on Menehune's old life-raft.
  • Cruising Stories from Janus.
  • The Cruise Director’s problems and solutions from Island Time: comfort is easy even in a tiny boat galley.
  • No-Spill Fueling solution from Menehune. Reroute the vent line! The long run to the transom is a terrible idea. Route the vents above the fillers using the starboard hanging locker and the port lazarette.
  • Boat Paperwork.
  • Status of Wick and Monique’s refit.
  • The story of Allegria’s broken shaft: have a puller, have a surface-supplied SCUBA, don’t panic. It can be done without a haul out. The the root cause analysis included a discussion of a failed engine mount on Allegria, Island Time and Dream Ketcher. Check your engine mounts!


Visiting with the Whitby-Brewer family. Boat tours. Shared meals. A quick business meeting. A delightful three days of boat fun.

  © Steven Lott 2019