Travel 2017-2018



It was a weekend of contrasts. Two dear friends came down to visit for the weekend and sail. We’ve had some drive-by visits where a quick sail on Red Ranger can be worked out. This visit was a stark contrast to those. These were folks looking to sail. 

To make things more complex, we have tenants on Red Ranger.

Chris was seriously entertaining a “crack-of-dawn” departure: nautical twilight. 40 minutes before sunrise. Amy was not delighted with the idea because we didn’t need to cover a lot of miles by sailing through all of the available daylight hours.

Saturday, we got a comfortably early start. The wind built from what we call 10g15 (10 kn gusting to 15 kn, or F4) to a steady 17 kn (or F5.) When we cross over to Beaufort F5, conditions start to get sporty. The good news is that the sea state in the Bay was pretty flat, so it didn’t turn into Red Ranger crashing into the waves, throwing spray everywhere.

We started the day with a relatively simple Yankee-Mainsheet until the wind was clearly past the 17kn threshold. While we could reef the main, I prefer to drop  the main entirely, and raise the mizzen. Since the winds were building and projected to keep building, jib-and-jigger seemed more prudent.

Our tenants — the crew of Island Time — were working at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis. That meant we could sail around with their apartment during the day on Saturday.  Chris, Amy, CA, and I went back to DC to leave Red Ranger for the tenants on Saturday night.

On Sunday, we returned to the boat. The six of us spent a long time chatting while we waited to see if the rain was really gone or whether there might be a tiny bit wind.

The wind didn’t show up, but we went out for an hour or so and drifted around haphazardly. We rigged the mizzen stays’l to see if we could coax a little speed out of Red Ranger in the nearly still air. 

On the left side of the picture is the mizzen mast and mizzen sail. There’s a red sail cover in the lower left corner. The mizzen stays’l is a vast contraption, stretching from just abaft of the main mast all the way back to the end of the mizzen boom. 

Saturday — blustery and lively, Sunday — chatty and slow: a weekend of contrasts.

Whitby-Brewer Rendezvous 2017

When we bought Red Ranger, we bought more than a boat. We bought a family. This year’s rendezvous involved six boats at the West River Sailing Club dock, and almost 30 people in the various presentations.

CA put together an epic program and party.

Our trip up on Sunday was bouncy and unpleasant. There was 10 kn of wind directly on the nose. There was no alternative to bouncing up the bay. We hoisted the sail near the West River Green “1”, but only sailed for a half-hour or so. We had a schedule, and beating back and forth wasn’t really part of it.

While Monday is the expected arrival day, Sunday had good conditions and several boats arrived early. Our contract with WRSC doesn’t really start until Monday, but, the club was flexible.

The proper content begins on Tuesday.

We learned about the refit on Uhane Kai. It’s almost done. She may be departing the Chesapeake next year.

We learned about surveying from a local surveyor, Karen Alt.

We discussed weather, and weather resources. Terry, of Island Time, moderated the discussion. Here’s what I jotted down.

Attainable adventure cruising.

Modern Marine weather.

Delorme in reach weather

Weather underground marine

We learned about the San Blas islands from the crew of Memory. Get Eric Bauhaus’ book.

We learned about dinghy renovation from the crew of Shooting Star.  We’re going to buy some ToobSeal for the pinhole leak in our dinghy.

We learned about sewing projects from the crews of Indefatigable and Alembic.

We got some promotional gear from Sailrite, including hats, shirts, and tote-bags. We had a raffle to share the bounty among all the crews in attendance. (I got a new hat.)

And that was just the first day!

On Wednesday, we shared tips and best practices. This is facilitated by Deb, of Island Time, who makes sure that everyone can share their lessons learned with the rest of the Whitby-Brewer family.

The crew of Alembic talked about Western Caribbean destinations. Looking at the hurricane devastation in the Eastern Caribbean made this particularly poignant. 

We also reviewed some more mundane details. Scott (of Joie de Vivre) showed is the latest features of the web site, including the Slide Show of boats. We looked at sales information about our boats. And we also have a brief “business” meeting. There’s rarely much business beyond reviewing our tiny budget and getting volunteers lined up for next year.

Indeed, the biggest budget issue is the pennant. We have been selling some appliquéd nylon pennants, and it’s time to reorder. The current material doesn’t stand up well in a marine environment. Maybe we should switch to printed dacron? Or appliquéd dacron? Or Sunbrella? Lots of discussion. 

Thursday, we bid tearful farewells.

The trip back had (again) wind almost directly on the nose. The sea state was much flatter than the trip up. With a little care, we could keep 45° off the wind. With a wind-speed of 4 kt, we couldn’t really make much headway. We motor-sailed under main alone. This let us make a good speed (generally over 6 kn) with the engine a hair above idle speed. I think we set a record for the trip, doing the entire thing in 3h 20m. 

The crew of Island Time are working at the Annapolis Sailboat show. Their boat is in Florida, so we invited them to stay on Red Ranger while they’re working up here.

Some Firsts

The West River Sailing Club Autumnal Equinox cruise involved a number of firsts for Red Ranger. It’s difficult to count the number of firsts we enjoyed.

The first of the firsts was visiting Harrison Creek and Dun Cove. This is about two miles north of Knapp’s Narrows. It’s quiet, and secluded. We’re grateful for the recommendation as a cruising destination. We’ll be back.

Rather than move Red Ranger nearer to town, we took the dinghy down to Knapp’s Narrows and the village of Tilghman. Two miles by dinghy in flat conditions was fun. If the wind had picked up, this would have been a long, wet mess. 

This was our first visit to Tilghman and it was a delight. Lunch at Marker Five was excellent, and the price for fuel on the other side of the narrows made the dinghy ride even more valuable.

The town is (of course) cute. It’s also microscopic. We saw two restaurants — Characters and Marker Five — a small marina, some commercial wharves for the watermen, and a gas station. The buildings seem to be a mixture of newer vacation homes and older, traditional houses. We didn’t look very hard, and we’re certainly going back to take a more thorough survey.

The Kronsberg Park Tower wasn't our fist mysterious structure. It was, however, our first mystery on Tilghman Island.

We had a number of theories to explain this structure. All were proven wrong when we finally checked WBOC’s web site for information on the tower. The mystery is much more exciting than the reality. 

Hint. Note the four doors on the side of the tower. They have knobs. And they have hooks so they can be held open.

And yet.

There are no steps or platforms. Weird, right? What kind of giant can use the top 7' tall door that’s almost 21’ off the ground?

And no, I won’t reveal the mystery here.

One of Red Ranger’s sailing firsts was to sail off the anchor. We watched another boat hoist their mains’l while at anchor, haul in the anchor, and sail away. Because the cove is large, and there were few boats, and only 6-8 knots of breeze, we decided to try this, also. 

We have a mizzen, which makes it very easy to turn her and sail away from the anchorage. Pushing the mizzen rotates the boat. She’s remarkably responsive to the twisting moment of this sail. The gentle drift generated by the mizzen is only about one knot in six knots of wind. I think this is too slow for the rudder to have much impact on direction. The mizzen, however, steers nicely.

CA’s personal first was nabbing four mylar balloons in the Bay on the trip back.

We treat balloons in the water as an MOB drill. We have a passionate dislike for balloons released into the wild. Plastics in general cause a great deal of harm, and balloons in particular are dangerous to the Bay. Here’s an article from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on balloons and wildlife.

Another important Red Ranger first was raising the main. This does sound a little crazy. It’s true that ketches handle well under heads'l and mizzen: we call it the the jib and jigger rig. I’m talking about something else on this trip. For the past eight years, we’ve used the engine to hold Red Ranger into the wind when raising the main. We’ve read about using the mizzen for this, but never actually tried it before. With light breezes and plenty of room to maneuver in the Choptank, it turns out that the mizzen does better at steering into the wind than CA does.

We also tried another experiment on Red Ranger. We invented the “shabby traveler.” The Whitby was not designed for a conventional square bimini covering the whole cockpit. The main sheet’s anchor point requires a semi-circular bimini. 

Many boats have travelers, but Whitbys have an aft cabin hatch, and the traveler would block access. A removable traveler is an expensive option.

We have a cleat that’s more-or-less under the boom. I think it was intended for handling the running backstays. Our boom vang is a removable four-part block and tackle that can be used to pull the middle of the boom down to the toe rail. Or. It can be used at the end of the boom on the cleat. With a big snap shackle, the main sheet can be removed, eliminating pressure (and chafe) on the bimini when running downwind.

Of course, gybing is complicated. Need I say more? It’s a challenge on any big boat. 

Sunset on the Dun Cover on the 2017 equinox. 

Anchor Locker, Ground Tackle, and Silt

The bottom of the Chesapeake involves silt. A lot of it. Anchoring in silt is kind of fun. You barely have to think about it. Except, of course, for the silt that stays with your anchor chain.

When we first started sailing down here, we heard an old salt explain anchoring in the Chesapeake.

“Y’all are doin' it wrong: you cain’t back down under pow’r: you’ll just dig a furrow in the silt. To anchor in the Bay, you drop the hook. Then you take your first beer. Then you may back down under pow'r to test the set.”

“Take your first beer” he said.

The other end of this operation is hauling the chain back in. In most cases, the chain links themselves are holding the boat in place. The 25 kg chunk of steel is just insurance.

Our locker has about 100′ of ⅜ HT chain, another 150′ of rope that’s the primary rode. On the other side is another 150′ of rope with maybe 20′ of chain that is our first backup.

We have a second backup. Really.

The red ball is a float that use us to help understand exactly where the anchor is.

If we’ve been anywhere for more than a few hours, the chain will be caked with silt. A tube of mud. We have a nice wash-down system, and CA can hose the chain clean as it comes in. 

But, of course, it’s not clean. It’s mostly in a “reduced mud” state. After being hosed off, it has somewhat less mud than it come up with. But it’s not zero mud. The mud accumulates in the anchor locker because the locker has one drain, and we don’t keep the chain near that drain.

It’s hard to see, but through the little door is a white patch of hull with a brown, wood divider. The port side of the locker has a drain. The starboard side? 

No drain.

So mud tends to accumulate. How much mud?

This weekend we took out all the chain to give it a good fresh-water rinse.

You can see About ⅝” of mud in this picture. There’s a metal probe on the end of the calipers for measuring depths. 

Yes. That’s a pretty big pile of mud. It never dries out. And. The chain sits in it. Rusting.

We drilled drain holes so that the muddy water could run down into the hull and — eventually — wind up in the deep bilge. It does mean that once a year we have to take a hose and run water into the anchor locker, under the floors, chasing the mud and silt back to the deep bilge. 

We pump as much of it out with a hand pump as we can. Then wait for the sand to dry out, and shop-vac up the left-overs.

Okay. So the fun of anchoring in silt ends when it’s time to hose out the hull. But until the annual hull and ground-tackle washing, it's a lot of worry-free fun.

Happy Birthday Sail

Overnight in the Rhode River. 

Here’s where we anchored. 

There’s a big open creek with a bunch of low islands. Very salt-marsh. Many other boats because it’s very pretty and accessible.

It’s a few hours south of Annapolis. A few hours north of Herrington Harbour.

Here’s something we saw in the bay.

That’s some classic schooner. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s maybe 47′ or 50′ in length. 

Often, schooners that are still working are 80′ or over. The Spirit of Virginia in Norfolk is big.

This was small enough that it didn’t require a big professional crew to raise and lower the heavy gaff-rigged sails.

Interestingly (to me) she was slow. We blasted by her wondering why she wasn’t moving. That’s an odd thing to feel in Red Ranger. We have a ploddingly slow boat. We know that and actually kind of like it. 

When it was blowing 12 to 15, we made 6 knots and were happy. We might have been able to squeeze 7 knots of out her, but that means a steeper angle of heel and pulling out the mainsail. I don’t like to spill the olives from my martini, so we try to avoid heeling. 

As the wind died, so did our speed. When we crossed paths with the schooner, we were barely doing 4 knots. We really should have shaken out the mains'l. But. We were on our final tack into Herring Bay and there was no reason for any more speed.


The West River Sailing Club Labor Day cruise involved a parade of rain showers on Saturday, leaving a lot boats on the dock. We ventured out Friday and learned a new word: “dog-stopping.” 

The cruise had two destinations. We’d been told about La Trappe creek. “Lovely,” “Quiet.” Those sorts of things. But we’d never been there before. This was our plan, lead a cruise to a place we’ve never seen. 

We lived aboard Red Ranger for two years. We visited a lot of spots with no more preparation than a recommendation in an out-of-date ICW guide book. We ran aground in a few places. I blame the tides in North Florida for most — but not all — of my groundings.

As with many places on the Chesapeake, the understatements on the charts are hilarious. Our favorite understatement is the Reedville stack. The chart says “Stack.” It should say “STACK!!!” The Reedville stack is an immense, hard-to-believe thing.

The entrance to La Trappe creek has a prosaic little 'Fl G 4s 21ft 4M “1”’ As of it’s just a simple red day board. The only hint of the insanity is the little “21 ft”. 

This turned into one of those “No you give me the binocular” situations. 

There’s a bend in the Choptank around a shoal that’s charted at 15 feet; irrelevant for our boat. But. Of course, you never really know. Other boats are cutting inside red “18” and red “18A”. When we spotted the La Trappe green “1”, the concern about the exact depth inside the reds evaporated into a fight over what we’re really seeing there.

There are two huge boilers standing on rock piles with day boards to mark the entrance. The cartographers really need something other than a little magenta splash or a little circle with a dot.

We have detailed bathymetric views on our chart plotter, so we could find the 10’ deep channel without any difficulty. It’s surprisingly close to the red, but otherwise easy to follow.

Saturday was knitting day. CA and Diane had brought their knitting. We had Cokie Roberts' Ladies of Liberty on the audio book reader, and plenty of coffee. The creek is beautiful. But it was cold and rainy. And someone forgot their wooly socks.

Sunday, the weather was a delight. The wind was out of the NW falling from 10-ish to 5-ish through the afternoon. We moved Red Ranger to Plaindealing creek, across the Tred Avon from Oxford. This is quiet and secure. We’ve been here before, and we like anchoring close to the mouth of the creek. 

We launched the dinghy and darted across the river to visit Oxford. This was our first visit, and we oohed and aahed over everything.

In the afternoon, Hot Chocolate checked in when they started across the bay. Later we heard they were dog-stopping in Oxford. When we met Dupree — wearing his collar of shame — it became clear what Dog Stopping meant: tie Hot Chocolate off at the T-head by the ferry terminal, take Dupree around the park for his stop, and then back out to anchor.

Monday, the winds started at a pleasant 10 knots, blowing from the west. Since we had guests to meet, we left Plaindealing creek at 8:00 AM. With wind on the nose, we motored down the Choptank. Out in the Bay, the wind had backed into the SW, and was fair for sailing back to Herring Bay. Since the wind was dropping and we had a schedule, we motored.

We learned a number of useful lessons. First, we need to watch out for double-booking our weekends. We missed sailing Monday morning because we had a schedule. Second, we need to be sure our hors d’oeuvres are scalable from one boat to many boats. Cindy Ann has an idea for multi-part hors d’oeuvres. I’m hoping for some test-flights. Third, I realized that while it’s still technically summer, the nights can be chilly and my fleece socks need to be kept on the boat.

Finally, we learned what “dog stopping” is. We enjoyed Oxford, and we’ll need to do more dog stopping there on future cruises.

Pictures of Cousins and Cousin’s Pictures

Yay! After posting my story, Cheryl sent pictures of Rob. 

And her feet.

We might post a picture the painting Cheryl gave us.  Here’s the real deal, though. Her online portfolio:  Enjoy.

Family and the USCG Cutter Eagle

Finally got cousin Robert and his wife Cheryl out on Red Ranger. We tried last summer, but there were complicated family issues, and our schedules never aligned.

This weekend was perfect. Light breezes. Not too hot.

And this

The US Coast Guard Cutter Eagle. On it’s way to Portsmouth, VA, to take on a new crew of officer candidates. 

I look a lot of pictures. The point of closest approach was about a mile away, so these are zoomed way in and still don’t show much.

This picture offers some on-board context.

Did I take a picture of my cousins? Nope. 

Sunday was catch up on some maintenance. Specifically the exhaust riser. 

It’s wrapped in layers of insulation. Somehow, the outer layer of wrapping — a woven asbestos tape of some kind — had started to come apart. This left little bits of asbestos dust everywhere in the engine room.

I researched for a while and bought 50’ of DEI exhaust system wrap.

Here’s the 25% done picture

On the right is bare pipe covered with wrap. The fluffy stuff on the left is the old fiberglass insulation that wasn’t totally falling apart. I wrapped the old fiberglass because it’s a good extra layer of insulation.

The DEI folks sell these exhaust wrap locking ties. I couldn’t get them to work. I’ve used good old hose clamps.

Tested the engine. It’s warm to the touch, but seems to be working. Now that the fiberglass is all wrapped tightly in the new state-of-the-art wrap, there’s going to be less dust deposited all over the engine.

Just another day on Red Ranger.

Unsporty Conditions

This weekend, we went to West River Sailing Club for a party. The actual location was about 0.5 nm away from the club as the crow flies. Google said it would be five miles driving around the creeks of West River. 

What’s important is that unlike our last big outing, conditions were not sporty.

The party is called a “land-sea cruise.” It’s at someone’s house. So you can drive there or boat there. We went by boat. Two boats, really. Red Ranger took us to the WRSC. Then Scout took us the last half mile to the party location.

On Saturday, the breeze was a good direction for us to beat to weather. 

I had heard a rumor of folks who reef their headsail when beating to weather because it can be sheeted in at a narrower angle. I think there’s something to this. The question now is “how much?” 

I didn’t even take a full reef, and I think we pointed at 55° instead of our more common 60° off the wind. This is a good thing. And we went fast, which is important.

Sunday conditions were even lighter. We had a peak of perhaps 7 kn of wind; it fell and fell and fell. The wind was from more-or-less directly astern.

This means easing the main sheet out so far that it chafes on the bimini sun-shade. This is bad. Really bad.

We need a better arrangement for down-wind running: one that doesn’t involve chafe. Or the possibility of pulling apart the bimini. The more we looked at it — we had plenty of time for this — the more we thought about putting a secondary main sheet on the toe-rail.

Our idea is to have an off-the-wind mainsheet from toe rail to boom end. For this kind of run, unclip the mid-ship main sheet and use the off-the-wind mainsheet. This would be a kind of poor-sailor’s traveler. It has two positions: centered and all the way out to the toe-rail. To do this, we need more loops on the toe rail. Perhaps we should try it on for size to see how well it works. 

Here’s the Chesapeake Calms video. It was pretty calm. We had to give up sailing when speed dropped below 2 kn; we can’t really steer and are only drifting at that speed.

Here’s sunset on the creek looking up toward the commercial barges

Sporty Conditions

We invited our neighbors, Dan and Jen, to the boat. The weather was deep into the realm we call “sporty” — wind was about 15 kn, gusting into the low 20’s. It was supposed to slack down to 10 kn later in the day. Summary: 15g20>10. 

Sporty conditions aren’t for newbie boaters. Dan and Jen have some boating experience. Since it includes whitewater kayak, SUPaddleboard, they’re unlikely to be put off by some waves and splashing around.

Sporty conditions aren’t really our thing, either. That’s why we took so few pictures.

We dawdled: a lengthy tour of the boat; a tour of our end of the marina. 

We anchored sort of near the Calvert Cliffs. The chart shows a sudden shoaling from 10’ to 3’. We stayed well out in the 10’ area. The bottom there seems to be harder than other places in the bay. Perhaps it's scoured by the current from Tracey’s creek and Rockhold creek. On short (5:1) scope, we dragged a bit. 

At first, I was thinking of trying single-reefed main. But. At the last minute, I decided that might be too much, and went for mizzen and stays’l. We poked our way along for an hour or so, a little under-canvassed, but happy to be sailing relatively flat.

We tried to tack. I thought we might be able to swing from a beam reach all the way around to the other reach. I’m now sure that Red Ranger can’t make that big a change in direction. The right thing to do is to grind the mizzen all the way in to get as close-hauled as we can. 

It might even be possible to push the mizzen to windward to force the bow around. If I had two more people comfortable pulling ropes, I may try that some day.

After stalling out entirely, we gybed around. It’s easy to do under “jib and jigger” because the mizzen is so (relatively) small. I can pass it from side to side while standing on the after deck. 

Later in the afternoon — 15:00 ish — the wind finally started to slack off. We pulled out the Yankee.

CA pushed the boat speed to 7.1 kn on a regular basis and 7.2 kn when the residual 20+ kn gust hit us.

This is about the fastest we’ve ever sailed. It’s getting close to hull speed (~8.2 kn) Since high tide was 3:30, I don’t think we had much current added in to our speed. 

Trimming the yankee under those conditions is difficult. It’s almost impossible to turn the winch. I found an on-line sail power calculator. I plugged in the P, E, I, and J measurements for a Whitby (13m, 4.5m, 15m, 5.6m). LP for our yankee is 90%. This nets out to 1100 pounds of force (510 Kg). Half a ton. That seems to model what I was observing.

I think it’s CA’s skill at the wheel made it possible. She says the new B&G instruments are a huge help. Specifically, the rudder position indicator. Previously, she’d fight the wheel, presuming that it was somehow her fault Red Ranger kept pointing up into the wind. Now she can see how much rudder she’s got: this means she can have me adjust sail trim to better balance the helm. Less fighting means more forward motion. It’s like getting a new boat. Seriously.

Sun Shades and Awnings

After a great afternoon with friends, sailing. CA made the sunshade-windscoop for the bow.

The idea is to keep direct sun off the V-berth as well as catch the breeze when we’re at anchor. It rigs quickly and wraps up into a tiny bundle of fabric when not in use. We think this will be very handy when the conditions are too sporty to sail.

  © Steven Lott 2017