Travel 2018-2019


Yacht Club Cleanup

CA and I (and a handful of others) chose the “Cleanup Sticks from the Rip-Rap” job for the fall cleanup at West River Sailing Club. We have a large checklist of things that need doing. In previous years I helped rebuild the dock. This year after something went wrong with my ankle, I didn’t feel confident working on the dock. Instead, I limped around picking up sticks.

We filled a utility trailer with sticks. Filled. 8’ x 4’ by maybe 3’ deep.

And this.

That’s a recycling tubby half-full of plastic. We filled two of those.

Sadly, it’s a mixed stream of every kind of plastic, so it’s not generally recyclable. It’s effectively trash.

Same with the stray pieces of pressure-treated lumber we picked out of the rip-rap: they can’t be chopped for mulch. They’re trash.


CA also found a nearly complete fish skeleton, courtesy of some carnivore who ate the fish, leaving the bones essentially intact.

And. What might be a seagull skull. Super light-weight bones. 

The volume of trash was remarkable.

It’s not that the sailing club is a particularly trashy place. Quite the opposite. We’re generally pretty good about keeping the lawn clean even when there are big regattas and lots of visitors.

This is simply the global plastic problem, writ small on a little peninsula in the West River off Chesapeake Bay.

When they tell you there’s a planet-wide Garbage Gyres in the middle of the ocean, your response should be anger. Unmitigated anger that plastic is not relentlessly sought out and recycled as soon as humanly possible. Separate recycling bins should be everywhere civilized people live. Everywhere.

The idea that we can simply throw plastic “away” is utter stupidity and needs to be actively and constantly fought. Plastic is a curse. It has a limited purpose, and it must be immediately recycled as soon as its purpose is met. Alternatives to indestructible plastic need to be put into places decades ago.

It was a beautiful day. The sailing club people are wonderful to hang around with. It’s great to be with people who love the water and love to talk boats.

Center Fuel Tank

I think — or perhaps I hope — I’ve solved a serious problem. I have a theory about diesel fuel in the bilge.

Last winter, a hose clamp for the deck drains failed. The winter rains and snowmelt poured into the engine room, and the deep bilge. It froze. The pump broke. The bilge filled to a remarkably high level.

See The Drain Hose for some background. We have diesel in the bilge and on top of the center fuel tank. 

I pumped the bilge dry, carrying bucket after bucket to the bilge-water recycling barrel.

Then it was summer and time to go sailing. Most times we got back there would be diesel in the bilge. I’d shut off the pump, manually pump out the bilge, and carry bucket after bucket to the bilge-water recycling barrel.

Tedious, messy stuff.

I think I must have pumped at least 30 gallons of bilge water contaminated with diesel. Possibly more.

My theory is the drain hose filled the center tank, and the diesel is floating on top of the water, and leaking out around the cover plate the same way rain water is leaking in. Indeed, there’s an exchange: each gallon of water leaking in displaces a gallon of diesel to leak out.

You can see the red-died fuel in the middle of this picture, with the vent hose sticking out of it.

This weekend, I finally had time to take it very seriously.


There’s a tiny vent fitting on the top of the tank. With a vent hose. I can take the hose off, and use the wand on my oil-change pump to pump fluid from the center tank. I pumped out something like 10 gallons of fuel, and the pump started gurgling because the level had fallen and the pump was only getting air.

I pushed the wand in exactly one more inch. Pumped out another eight to ten gallons of fuel. The third round — I’m now down to about 4” — I got another eight to ten gallons of almost entirely fuel. The fourth round — 5” in — I get water! 

I pumped until I get down to air, and most of what I got was water. Water with a little bit of fuel. At this point, there are still traces of fuel in the center tank. If I’m right, and it’s the source of diesel in the deep bilge, I won’t see anything for the next few years. Then, perhaps, traces of diesel once the tank is full again.


I’m wrong and the fuel is coming from a massive hole somewhere else. A hole that only seems to leak when we’re under way. A leak that doesn’t let fuel into the pan under the engine, but somehow lets fuel into the deep bilge. And it’s not leaking onto the floor of the pass-through. Nor is it visible on the sides of the hull above the bilge. Somehow it’s leaking in a way that means it’s only visible on the top of the center fuel tank.

About The Temperature Gauge

On Thursday, we dialed the speed up to 7 knots. This means a bit over 2,000 RPM on the tach. 

And the temperature started to increase. And increase. I don’t often check the temperature. But I did manage to notice it in time.

Did I mention we had guests? 

We had guests. See Friends and Boats. First-timers on Red Ranger, too, so everything’s mysterious and a little scary.

I pull the throttle back. I run below, calling out, “Nothing to worry about. Remain calm.” As if that makes anyone feel calm.

There’s no cooling water spraying around the engine room or bilge. (whew!) There’s a lot of steam coming out the exhaust pipe. With the gauge over 200°F, Cooling water is boiling away. Which makes sense. 

There were no alarms. Yet.

At low RPM’s, the temp fell. At high RPM’s it rose. 

Possible cause 1. Blockage in the input — i.e., grass in the strainer.

Possible cause 2. Failing impeller in the raw water pump.

Remotely possible causes include broken or leaking hoses or jammed up heat exchangers. 

Saturday, CA cleaned the strainer. She found grass. ✅

I took out the impeller.  You can see a vane partially missing. ✅

I poured the water out of the oil cooler and didn’t see any obvious rubbery parts. So. I’m guessing the busted up pieces flowed on through the system and out the exhaust.

Ran the engine at idle to pressure test it when I was done. Worked.

Now to run up the RPM’s and race around at 7 knots again to see if it’s fixed.

Friends and Boats

Brought some friends — David and Bo — along to move Red Ranger from West River back down to Herrington Harbour. 

They’d never seen Red Ranger before, and hadn’t fully appreciated how much boat she is.

The winds were light, and — of course — on the nose, so we motored for an hour or so. Revisited old times. Talked about family. Planned future parties.

When the wind clocked a bit, we could put up the sails for another couple of hours, and drift down the bay, close-hauled.

It was an ideal afternoon.

They had to continue on to Virginia Beach, so they spent a night in a nearby hotel before leaving in the morning to continue south.

Whitby-Brewer Rendezvous 2018

Another year of fun and sharing! There’s a lot we can learn from other sailors with the same boats and a wide variety of experiences. An important lesson from this year is how long it takes before we’re talking about the ship’s head. (For non-sailors, read “toilet.”)

For the 2018 edition of the rendezvous, we had four boats at the dock of the West River Sailing Club:

  • Red Ranger
  • Shooting Star
  • Wild Oats
  • Allegria

We had almost two dozen attendees reflecting — perhaps — a dozen boats. James and Christine won the prize for coming all the way from Calgary, Alberta, some 2,300 miles. We keep Red Ranger at Herrington Harbour North, so our trip was about 15 miles: 3 hours by boat. Shooting Star and Wild Outs, similarly, are close by. Allegria, however, came down from from Newfoundland.

Some Whitby-emeritus owners (Ted, Alice, John, and Mary) live in the area so, they win the prize for shortest distance traveled.

There are some key ingredients for a proper rendezvous.

Introductions. And a boat card exchange. We all describe our boat and our favorite locations. We get to meet the folks we don’t know, greet the folks we've met before. We learn about folks new to the group, and new to their boars, as well as the folks with thousands of sea miles under their keels.


Shared Meals. We use the West River Sailing Club and Betka’s Real Food catering service provided us wonderful meals Monday night, all day Tuesday and all day Wednesday, also.

Boat Tours. With four boats at the dock, we can swap ideas, and learn from each other. I’ve seen these three boats several times before, and I’m starting to understand some of the smaller differences between them.

Program. Ruth of Shooting Star built an amazing program this year. She seems to know a huge number of cruisers, and invited lots of them to speak.

  • Jeanie and Scott talked about the Whitby-Brewer web site. Jeanie explained the detailed history of the boats she’s collected. This history can help a buyer learn about previous owners and previous names for a boat you’re thinking about buying. It also helps when you see a boat and wonder who you should hail on the VHF.
  • Fred reviewed the rules of the road. “Red over Red, Captain is Dead.” Okay. It’s silly, but we’ve learned to recognize the lights of a ship not under command.
  • Monty and Sara — the folks who publish Explorer Chartbooks — stopped by to tell us how and why they put their unique offering together. We learned about coloring scheme for the hydrography and their policy for stating depth. The books include tons of need-to-know information about the Bahamas. Since they offered us a discount, we bought the latest editions.
  • Dee and Molly told us about their trip up the coast of Newfoundland. They shared details of anchorages, and spectacular photos. This wasn’t their first trip up north, and we learned how they managed the persistent SW winds they encountered.
  • Molly Winans— editor of Spinsheet Magazine — told us about sailors and the twelve reasons why she loves sailors. Stories from a  master story-teller are a delight.
  • We demonstrated how flares work. We tried 12-gauge and 25mm flare launchers, signal rockets, SOLAS flares, and (cheap) locator flares. Out-of-date flares really do work. We saw how the pistol-like flare launchers can be unimpressive: a 12 gauge flare with a six-second burn is barely visible. If you’re going to use this, have a generous supply. The 25mm launcher with converter sleeve didn’t work out very well, either: when the flare misfired, it wound up jammed in the sleeve. Have multiple sleeves in case of misfires. The demonstration required a fair amount of coordination with US Coast Guard, Galesville Fire Department, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and local businesses to be sure everyone was aware of what we were doing. You can see Molly’s Facebook post of our flare demo.

Day two was just as informative and helpful:

  • Brian Smith from American Diesel stopped by to help us understand our diesel engines. We talked about a number of topics, including the frequency of oil changes and the complexities of getting all the oil out of the pan. We learned about the importance of looking closely at your oil as a diagnostic tool for how your engine is running.
  • Kathy Barth from Seven Seas Cruising Association told us of the many benefits of SSCA membership. We have several members — and at least one commodore couple— in the Whitby family. What we’re doing is like an SSCA Gam on a smaller scale. 
  • We shared our stories of things that work — and things that don’t.  As Milly Winans pointed out, it’s only about ten minutes before we’re talking about the boat’s head and the various complexities of marine sanitation devices. 
  • After lunch we had a brief business meeting to examine our finances. We pay for Whitby Brewer Sailboats. The rendezvous pricing is designed to break exactly even with the fees for Real Food and the West River Sailing Club. And that’s it. We have a couple of people who handle the tiny dribble of money. Ruth, Cindy Ann, and Maureen put the program together for the rendezvous.
  • Steve showed how rock climbing safety techniques can be applied to ascending the mast. Use proper 22 kn rated carabiner clips, and use a figure-eight with follow-through knot for anything you’re climbing on.

And then we moved on to visiting boats, having hors d'oeuvre and then eating a delightful dinner.

An associated event can help. In this case, the Annapolis sailboat show starts the next day. Some of use will sail up to Annapolis to make last-minute purchases before heading south.

A bonus this year was yoga at 07:00 both mornings. CA finished her instructor training at Blue Nectar recently.  The morning program was designed to build up some strength and flexibility based on the kind of activities common on a sailboat.

Equinox Cruise

Sailing is all about cooperation. Nothing happens in isolation. The progress of a sailboat through the water requires wind, for example. There are other examples of cooperation, we’ll get to them.

The Equinox cruise was timed to greet the passing of the sun over the horizon on September 22nd, 2018 at 21:54 EDT. We celebrated the end of summer in Dunn’s Cove, off Harris Creek on the east side of Tilghman island.

Susan signed on as crew, and brought mountains of food. By itself, this is a wonderful example of cooperation. But it gets better.

The weather Saturday was spectacular for a big, heavy cruising boat like Red Ranger. We had winds from 10 to 15 knots, with a rare gust to 20. The early-morning seas were relatively flat. With wind from almost due north, we could comfortably broad reach across the Bay. 

Rather than go through Knapp’s Narrows, we went south around Back Walnut Point. The turn into the Choptank river always involves a huge question. “Will the wind on the other side of Tilghman cooperate as well as the wind in the Bay?”

With only two on board, tacking the huge Yankee is difficult. With an extra hand, we were able to beat up the Choptank through several tacks. Cooperative sail handling is one of the best parts of sailing. There’s a profound joy in the essential cooperation required to call “Ready about?” and “Helm’s a-lee!” 

Red Ranger’s cutter rig worked out well when we switched from the giant yankee down to the inner stays’l. We could then do our version of short tacking up the Choptank. The history is truncated by Marine Traffic. I think this is because we vanished from coverage. The last point recorded properly was at 17:57 UTC (1:54 EST). We made one more tack before firing up the engine to wind through the marks in Harris Creek.

We rafted up with Cephas Dawson. Our 25 Kg Rocna held both boats comfortably through drinks and snacks and story-telling. There’s a whole host of cooperation involved in rafting up, and shipping drinks from one deck to the other deck.

Rachel Dawson photo of the moon over Cephas Dawson

Red Ranger’s cockpit is large. However, getting over the winches to get into the cockpit isn’t always easy. It takes a deal of cooperation from everyone involved to make sure the guests arrive safely and can find ways to be comfortable.

The moon peeked through the clouds to see what we were doing. The night was calm. Until it started to rain.

It was a quiet, gentle rain. But thoroughly soaking. And it thoroughly soaked us all day Sunday. Here’s a view of Red Ranger during a brief gap in the showers.

Rachel Dawson photo of Red Ranger in Dunns Cove

Besides tacking, another joy of having a cooperative, skilled crew is getting a  hot breakfast. (Thanks Susan!) We spent Sunday morning rolling across the two-to-three foot seas and 10 to 15 knot winds with driving rain. It may have been a good sailing day, but we motored through the wet.

Here’s a picture of another guest on Red Ranger.

This was an Osprey with a fish, looking for a place to settle down and enjoy a meal. It tried the top of the mizzen mast a few times, but didn’t stay with us.

The secret to a great Equinox Cruise is cooperation. While cooperative weather might have been nice, having a cooperative crew and fellow sailors is always the best way to spend a weekend.

Hurricane Florence

We’re lucky. As of Thursday (when Florence made landfall) the projected course was well away from the Chesapeake bay. There will be Tropical Depression wind and rain, but not a direct hit, and — hopefully — minimal storm surge.

Here’s Red Ranger’s hurricane preparation list:

  1. Remove foresails. The furling line can break and the sails unfurl destructively. Some marinas won’t haul with headsails in place.
  2. Tie up main and mizzen. We use a long line to wrap up the sails and sail covers with a technique called “Swedish Furling.” 
  3. Stow floaty ball. We don’t need the anchor marker float on deck.
  4. Deflate and stow Scout. We don’t need the dinghy on deck.
  5. (optional) Stow jerry cans. These don’t provide too much windage. They’re heavy. They can be put into the cockpit.
  6. Stow fenders. Either use them or put them below.
  7. Take down the Bimini. The fabric will flog itself to death.
  8. Close the galley hatch. With the bimini gone, it will let rain in.
  9. (optional) Double up lines with chafe guards. We have large (at least ⅝” perhaps ¾”) dock lines that utterly fill each cleat. It’s hard to find anything else to use for ducklings. Winches, maybe.
  10. Use extra line to tie down the anchors. They’re secured with a number of small lines, a few extra bits of line won’t hurt.

And now we’re going to wait until the 18th of September before we undo everything. The storm’s track involves a potential for some fearsome winds in the beginning of next week.

Rainy Weekend

May as well clean.

And fix things.

This thing is the pump assembly on our Marine Sanitation Device (MSD). You might know it as a toilet.

CA’s picking the paint out of the inlet valve packing nut.

The forward cylinder (with the greenish top) is raw water used for flushing. The rearward cylinder (with the lever) is the waste pump. 

The water wasn’t going in to the MSD to flush. The packing nut was spinning when the foot pedal was operated. 

What’s supposed to happen is a cam rod going through the packing nut turns to open and close the water valve. But it wasn’t. The whole packing nut was turning. And slowly unscrewing itself. So water wasn’t going in.

Which lead to a volcano of shit (“shitcano”).

Now. Fixed.

“Eeew,” you say. “The water’s brown.”

“Correct,” we respond. “The creek is very turbid. The MSD flushes with raw water, and it’s brown when there’s been a lot of rain."

Next job?

Pump some of the fluid out of the center tank to confirm it really is full to the top with diesel. 

And it is. Each time it sloshes around, some diesel comes out. I guess I’ll pump a few gallons out each time we’re on the boat until it stops coming up diesel.


Hurricane prep. Florence is coming and — if it’s going to hit the upper bay — the headsails need to come down and the mail needs some extra lashing. We’ll relocate the fuel jerry jugs to the cockpit to reduce windage. And maybe lash down scout with some extra line to make sure it stays on deck.

Labor Day Outing

Last year, we — sort of — lead a cruise for Labor Day. We learned about Dog-Stopping. This year, we learned a little more about racing and light-air sail handling.

This year, we decided to participate in the Annual Billy Heinz Regatta at WRSC

We left the dock just a hair too late on Saturday to be part of the committee boats. 

We did, however, bag one of arch-enemies: a mylar balloon. We hates them all, precious, we curses them.

They’re a pernicious bit of trash because they also waste helium, which has better purposes than kids toys that turn into litter a/k/a an environmental hazard.

I was able to help out on Sunday. And watch some fine racing among three very competitive fleets. They used fairly complex triangle course requiring three of the large marks and two of the small marks to lay out the triangle itself, plus the start and finish gates.

Race committee is a fun day on the water.

While we motored up on Saturday, we tried to sail back on Monday.

I’ve been working on sail trim for our kind of ketch. There’s a lot going on that I still don’t quite get. I’m doing better, but…

Monday the wind was 4-5 kt at most. It was from the SE, and more-or-less on our nose, forcing us to tack our way down the bay.


Our close-hauled angle is bad. It’s about 60°, which is crazy far off the wind. And we can only get that close to the wind by pushing the bow up with a substantial amount of helm.

Ideally, a sailboat has “weather” helm. It will tend to round up into the wind unless you steer away from the wind. The normal behavior should be to “pinch."

So far, my light-air setup gives Red Ranger “lee” helm. Which means the yankee is overpowering the mains’l. This seems to mean that I need to reef the yankee when we’re beating in light air. I’ve got to experiment some more to locate an ideal reefing position.

The other possibility is to try and use the mizzen to point us higher. The problem — I think — with beating to windward with the mizzen and the main is dirty air from the main disrupts doesn’t create a useful flow over the mizzen.

More to learn! Yay!

More Sailing and Some Cleaning

Saturday was a beautiful day. It wasn’t great for sailing, but the beauty of clear air and light breezes was spectacular. Did I mention the light breezes? From almost flat calm to about 5 kt was all the wind we had. 

I (finally) started moving the cars for the yankee to change the sheeting angle of the sail. I’ve known about this for years (years!) but I’ve never really tackled the problem very seriously. I think I know two foundational changes to our sailing. 

I have gathered advice from experts. I've boiled the advice down to a few key points which I — still! — can’t totally remember.

  • Top telltale lifting: move car forward.
  • Bottom telltale lifting: move car aft. 
  • Downwind: Move car forward. [I’m not sure of this, I’ve taken to removing the sheets from the cars: effectively moving them aft to the turning blocks, a lot like spinnaker.]
  • Reef sail: Move car forward to follow the clew forward.
  • Heavy air: Well aft to flatten the bottom and allow the top to twist off uselessly. (4 stops in front of winch stanchion.)
  • Light air: Well forward to make the whole sail work. (Mid entrance gate.)

I need to make a laminated card and put this in the cockpit until I manage to internalize the expert's advice.

Partly, my problem with remembering these simple rules is lack of practice. But there’s a little more to it than that. One element is hand-on experience, and seeing the results. But there are two foundations that need to be in place for hands-on practice to make sense.


One trick is this: sail trim is visual. I can slowly reason out how the sheeting angle twists the sail to recover a proper aerodynamic shape. I can continue to try to memorize the rules. But it’s a lot easier to see the improperly-shaped sail, move the car, and see the properly-shaped sail. This is helpful because it requires the least thinking and the most doing.

When I finally learned to steer on a beat while racing, it was a super-simple visual thing. If I was pinching up, the windward tell-tales would lift: steer away from them. If I was falling off, the leeward tell-tales would lift: steer away from them. Simply driving the boat away from the lifting tell-tales made it possible to drive and start to think about higher-order tactical questions like when to tack and who else was tacking. I was never good at it, but I was able to perform.

In Red Ranger, the tell-tales are invisible from the cockpit, so beating like we’re racing isn’t really a thing. However, shifting the cars to adjust the twist, that’s something I can do. And should do more of. 

I think there are two foundational concerns, however. These must be in place for any learning at all to happen.

Foundation 1: Proper Boat Setup

It may be the previous owner didn’t sail much, or didn’t sail well. I have one tiny scrap of evidence for this claim.

The sheets for the big winches were routed directly from the movable cars to the winch, leading to some right awkward angles between sheet and winch. The sailmaker who built our new headsails suggested we add a turning block. There were a bunch of reasons: (1) the entry to the big winch was always the same, coming from aft (opposite the small winch), (2) along the long axis of the box on which it was mounted. 

After he said that, I examined the loops on the toe rail and realized there were loops likely intended for this. The had been pushed well aft, and jammed in place by layers of old Cetol. Interestingly there was an extra loop on the port side and a missing loop on the starboard side. 

Putting in proper turning blocks for the winches was in spring 2012. Then in August of 2013, I realized the self-tailing stripper rings (the top piece on the winch) on two of the winches were facing the wrong way. 

They all need to route line so it would go through the top and drop down to the cleat. The pair of cleats are between the winches. This means one is fed from forward and the other is fed from aft. It took me 18 months and 2,000 sea miles to figure this out.

Before trying to get a lot of hands-on, the boat has to be setup correctly in the first place. This isn’t easy, because boats tend to get customized. The presence of full cockpit enclosures makes comparisons among Whitby’s particularly difficult.

Foundation 2: Isolate the Problems

Which brings us to this weekend. After being so dense and slow about this, what lead to inspiration?

The crew of Red Ranger may have (finally) started to figure out mains’l and mizzen trim. Now that we have a rudder position indicator, CA has taken to positively stating how much I need to ease to trim the main. It’s no longer a vague “things aren’t right.” Or worse, “I’m having trouble steering.” 

We’ve graduated to “Don’t you think you’re work is done and you can sit in the cockpit and stare at the water: ease the damn main!” 


“I need more lift to counter the yankee, put up the mizzen and use your shabby   traveler to lift it to windward.”

(The mizzen’s traveler technique is to unpin one side of the bridle; sheeting it hard will lift it above amidships.)

Since we had super light air, I could put my foot on the yankee’s sheet and see the effect. It was super easy to try different positions. And I wound up moving the car several feet forward. 

Several. Feet. Forward.

On our old Chrysler Buccaneer, there was — I think — 18ʺ of track. Each hole was profound. You moved the car inches, if at all.

On Red Ranger, the stays’l track is about six feet long. Moving the stays’l car a few holes fore or aft changes things pretty dramatically. 

The relevant portion of the toerail track (the portion used by the yankee) is about 15 feet. Pragmatically, it seems more like the aft-most 12 feet, but I’m still looking at it. 

When we reef the yankee, we take in almost five feet of sail. This means the car has to move forward five feet. Not a few holes, but Five Feet. At 3 holes per foot, that’s 15 of the positions, 30% of the track. 

This is a dramatic change, something I’ve never tried before. Not in all the years of owning Red Ranger

Pin holes in the track are — generally — 4ʺ apart. Fine-tuning the sail means choosing from any of the 36 (to as many as 45) distinct positions along the rail. Sheesh. That’s a lot.

There are two degrees of freedom: wind speed (TWS) and wind angle (TWA). Between 3 and 22 kt of TWS, we can round off to 20 distinct integer values. From 45° to 150° of TWA we can (allowing for sloppy ±5° steering) round off to 22 steps. 

This means, I have to map the 440 combinations of independent variables to somewhere between 36 and 45 values of the dependent variable, car position.

(Rubbing hands with glee) This will be fun.

While I contemplated, CA did something useful. She washed everything in the galley.


Since our AIS works, we can see our Saturday trip on MarineTraffic. You’ll need to create an account to see us there. Follow Red Ranger on Marine Traffic. The details show us motoring out, drop the anchor right at 16:00 UTC (Noon locally.) Then we motored a bit and sailed at speeds no more than 3.9 kt. The speed drops to nearly zero at 19:38 (15:38 locally) as we stowed the sails. Then we motored back at a pretty big speed.

That’s REALLY cool.

  © Steven Lott 2017