Travel 2015-2016

Hatchboards, Epifanes, and Brightwork

I have no clue about Epifanes. Really. Zilch.

But I have a can. And some “brush thinner.” And some foam brushes.

I’ve got sandpaper in 60, 80, 100, 150, and 220 grit. And a sanding block that grips a ¼ sheet of sand paper nicely.

And I’ve got woodwork that’s hasn’t seen anything but wind and rain and bright sunshine for at least five years.


I’m going to learn. 

The hard way.

By sanding and slathering on Epifanes. I can’t make it any worse, right? I can just keep sanding and coating.

We’re not coating everything. The toe rails and eyebrow trim is going to say natural. Some teak oil once in a while is all it needs. Some ammonia once a year to clean it. The scrubbing with a brush is perhaps more important than the chemical used.


But. The hatches are exposed to the sun and rain, and … well … it’s nice to have a well-finished hatch.

So. I’m sanding off the old finish. With all of its nicks and scrapes and stains.

And I’ll paint on the expected eight coats of Epifaines.

There’s a magic arc to this. The first three or four coats are thinned. The first coat is only 50% Epifanes. The next is 7%. Then 90%. The idea is for the chemical to soak into the wood. The next three to five coats are painted straight on with no (or minimal) thinner. Since this hatch board only needs about 75 ml, it’s hard to justify splashing in a teaspoon of thinner. It seems like it will barely have any effect.

Behind me is a decorative cover that has six or so coats. It is staring to look really crazy glossy. Very nautical and shiny. I guess that's why they call it brightwork.

It’s going well enough that CA suggests we take the winches off and do the sides of the cockpit. It would look spectacular. But. Sanding. And eight layers.



Went sailing with a bunch of guests from work. Did I take pictures? No.

That’s sort of awkward, isn’t it?

I did take this picture.

It’s a cleat that attaches to a shroud. We use these for our various flag halyards.

It broke. So I took a picture of it.

People swimming? Nothing.

People pulling ropey things to get Red Ranger to tack? Nada.


I’ll have to email them to see if anyone can send me their pictures.

Answers to some little questions

We had two “events” on the way North.

  1. The chain looks really cruddy. Flakes of metal are coming off. Not a good look for chain. The question is “Exactly what kind of chain is it?” The difference in measurements between ⅜” HT, ⅜” BBB and 10mm chain is tiny. And with rusty chain, even tinier.
  2. IMG_1372.jpgMr. Benmar didn’t respond right away when we set hm to steering. Is it the binnacle switch or something more severe (and more complex to fix?)

First. The chain.

It looks like “RCB70” is part of the gipsy casting. Maybe it’s stamped on. According to Simpson-Lawrence documentation, that’s suitable for ⅜” HT or ⅜” BBB, no doubt about it. 

(Our previous owner saved every scrap of paper. We have the original documentation, plus on-line scans of the documentation.)

We can — confidently — make a choice between BBB and HT based on weight and strength. No worries about buying something that won’t work properly.

Second. Autopilot.

I pulled the switch out of the binnacle. I tested it with the handy-dandy volt-ohmmeter.  


It’s dead. 

By “it” I mean the switch. Also — now that I have it in my hand — it’s clearly an SPST switch. It appears to be the Normally Open variety. (It’s broken, so it’s Permanently Open right now.) Cole Hersee makes about 10 different variations on this theme alone. Bewildering. 

What do do?

One of the chrome finish switch hanging on the wall at West Marine would do nicely. However, there are three apparently identical products with different ID’s and slightly different prices. Sheesh. How hard can this be?

I just grabbed one at random. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to over-analyze this. Besides. It’s raining heavily, so I could stretch this job out for as long as I can by studying each switch. 

But I won’t.

Fireworks and the return

Once we finished fixing the various things that needed fixing, we could do what we planned to do in Norfolk. Nothing. The trip back was eventful and a bit more delightful than the trip down.

The fix list from the trip down was reviewed in  “Running down to Norfolk.” Here’s a picture of Scout with the port tube sagging into the river.


Friday night we could top up the air in Scout’s port tube to go ashore. We toddled up Granby street to get some beers at the Norfolk Tap Room and rendezvous with friends at the Vineyard

Saturday we did more of the same. Nothing.

I did nothing in Starbucks for a while. CA put in some 1 woman walking miles. She noted the way parking spaces have been taken over with non-car features. Read “parking, part two.” 


Then we did nothing at Field Guide up on Granby street. Then we went back to Starbucks for some afternoon nothing. 

Then the Norfolk fireworks.

Seeing fireworks from river is an amazing thing. It’s delightfully loud and close.

Seeing fireworks from the river with lots of other boats is a little nerve-wracking. Many folks have surprisingly casual approaches to anchoring.

We have a 55# Rocna anchor with about 100’ of all-chain rode. We have a snubber at the waterline and a second snubber on deck. We like it to be quiet, and worry-free. We dragged once in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, Florida. Never again. 

We saw folks tossing in tiny Danforths with a scope (length or rode compared with depth) that looked like 2:1 at best. More scope allows the anchor to pull horizontally, digging into the bottom. Less scope is how you retrieve an anchor. At 1:1, the whole thing is “up-and-down” and a small tug will lift it out of the mud. We watched folks toss in a handful of line, hit reverse until they seemed to stop, and that was it. Of course, they were on their boat all day; not leaving it to go ashore. 

The good news is that any of these smaller boats could drag into Red Ranger, and we could just shrug it off. All of the various big cruising sailboats that we watch out for were spread around the anchorage with lots of heavyweight ground tackle deployed. We’ve learned to judge the anchoring based on the tide swings. If you’re closer to them on one tide than on the other, the scope is different and we may need to move.

Retrievals were actually more alarming. A lot of folks will pull up the anchor before starting the engine. We would watch them drifting by. He’s in the front shouting “Yes, start it! Push the button!” I can’t imagine who suggested pulling up the anchor before starting the engine. 

We’ve had the anchor dug in so hard we’ve been forced to use the engine to knock it loose.

And, of course, Mr. Lehman needs time to warm up before you can apply any load. We don’t go anywhere until the engine water temperature is 160°. 

Eventful Return

The return started at dawn. Breakfast, coffee, warm up Mr. Lehman, haul up the anchor, carefully hosing it down.

Red Ranger has a cool deck wash down system. We can switch some valves and use the bilge pump to wash the anchor chain. In “Yet More Pumps,” I rebuild the valves to use heavier duty copper valves instead of the plastic valves that were in place.  CA is now all trained up on how to turn her deck wash down station on and off. With the 90° turn metal valves, she can inspect the system safely even while the engine is running. That was uneventful.

Out in the Bay, Mr. Benmar had trouble holding his course. For a while. Then, after the 4th or 5th restart, he was happy to steer and drove us all the way to Deltaville without any gripes or complaints.

We can’t — easily— inspect the hydraulic pump while the engine is running. It’s nestled in the least-accessible part of the engine room. It’s almost easier to take the head apart to get to it. I did pul the aft cabin settee apart to watch the steering work, just to convince myself that things were moving at all.

When the seas are flat, there’s very little rudder motion required to maintain course. Small motions are accomplished with almost no noise from the pump. You can’t really tell if things are working or not. In big seas, the pump groans — loudly — when making a big steering motion. The Bay was flat. Wind of perhaps 2-3 knots (from dead ahead, of course.) 

I’m hoping that it’s just the rusty old switch on the binnacle that needs replacing. Maybe I can add some LED’s to show when the pump is being activated by the controller.

Also, the more CA looks at the little flakes of rust that come off the chain, the more she thinks this is the last year for this chain. We need to confirm the exact dimensions so that a new chain will properly feed through the gypsy on the windlass. We know folks who’ve switched chain without doing their homework and then spent a lot of time searching for a new gypsy for their perfectly good windlass. 

The Simpson Lawrence manual lists six gypsies that were available. Which one do we have?

The delight was a sunny day running up the Bay. No wind isn’t as nice as sailing, but it is much better than bashing into big waves from a big storm.

Running down to Norfolk

The trip down wasn’t a “delight.” It was eventful, but we pulled if off without a major problem. Except for the panhandlers.

We made the dock by 19:00 more-or-less. The wind was almost non-existent. We were out of the creek on a rising tide during the last hour of daylight. We went all of 1 nm down the river and dropped the hook. A quick dinner and we were in bed by 21:00 for a three-hour nap. 

CA rigged jacklines as if we were going to sea. She broke out the offshore harnesses and headlamps. Night operations requires a little more care than day sailing.

At 00:15 we were underway to Norfolk. The seas were not precisely flat. But they were generally less than 3’. There was almost no wind, but the waves were from the N, so we were surfing down the waves as we motored down the Bay. It was a full-moon night, but the sky was overcast. We glimpsed the moon.

Sometimes the moon would peek through the clouds and light up a patch of the bay up ahead. If it was well out in front, I’d see a bright arc of water against the pervasive gloom. The moon shown down on the Wolf Trap light for a while.

We did 3-hour watches through the night. With Mr. Benmar steering, it’s a matter of setting a course to avoid the various hazards along the shoreline: Hole in the Wall, Wolf Trap, York Spit, and the Horseshoe Shoal. 


Plus, of course, avoiding the barges that work the Bay all night long. They’re lit and most of them broadcast a solid AIS. We can see them coming via the chart plotter as well as their running lights.

When we dropped the anchor at Hospital Point at 08:15, the log read exactly 42 nm. Exactly 8 hours. Now I know.


Since we’re only weekenders, each weekend is relatively eventful. We had three big events on this trip.

First, a galley light had worked its way loose. We have a small deck leak on the port side: water intrudes somewhere and had rotted the wood around a screw. The short-term fix is a new screw. The long-term fix requires careful study during heavy rain. Since we don’t live aboard, when will we do this? 

Second, the fuel tank sender was still not right. I replaced it about a year ago. (See “The Fuel Tank Sender Problem.”) At this point, I estimate we’ve piled on dozens of engine hours since we topped off the tank in Norfolk. I had replaced the sender. [A year ago?!] Yet, the gauge still read “F”. Three hours on watch gave me a lot of time to think about it. And they weren’t good thoughts.


Some exploration revealed that the gauge really works. It turns out that it works when it’s not screwed down to the (grounded) tank. What does grounding mean? It means that I’d reversed the wires. Switching the wires showed that we had between ¼ and ⅜ of a tank: maybe 21 to 27 gallons. This agreed with the stick.

Today, I siphoned as much as 25 gallons of the deck reserve fuel into the tank. (20 liters ≈ 5.25 gallons.) Some of that fuel was at least 3 years old.  I still have to buy a few gallons of fuel and rinse each jug, carefully straining out the contaminants from the bottom of each jug. Yes. There’s crud in each jug.

Finally — and sadly — Scout’s wound is pretty serious. We’d punctured Scout under the dock in Portsmouth. See “Scout’s at the Dinghy Doctor” and “Ripped out her Stitches.” The guys a Lighthouse Inflatables tried (twice) to seal the hole. After spending the winter rolled up on deck, the port side tube has a bodacious leak. We’ll have to try again to see if we can get this fixed. It might involve boxing Scout up and mailing her to a specialist — like the place in Miami that we took Scout to on the bus. See “Scout’s Puncture Wound.


When you don’t live aboard, the stuff just doesn’t get fixed. Sigh. 


The ducks are aggressive pan-handlers. Really.

This gal landed and swam straight up to me while I was sitting in the cockpit. Her flight path was straight to the boat. No mistake about it. She set up a plaintive quacking while swimming back and forth, eyes on me the whole time. She was clearly asking for me to throw food down to her. 



Bread isn’t good for waterfowl. For example, NYS has this list of reasons to Stop Feeding Waterfowl. Many other naturalists agree. It’s fun. But don’t.

ty  © Steven Lott 2020