June 28, 2019 Blood, Boat, Chesapeake Bay, Dog, Drugs, Education, Health, How to, Lessons, Maintenance, Rates, Reservations, Safety, Sailing, Trip Advisor, Weather, York River

Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors

Over the course of decades, Let’s Go Sail has owned six sailboats to navigate the waters of the James River, York River, Mobjack Bay and Chesapeake Bay. Many wonderful days have been aggravated by a relatively few days of minor problems. For those buying a sailboat or otherwise getting into the sport seriously, one humbly offers lessons learned for advanced sailors.


  1. Avoid buying a boat with a gasoline engine. They are obsolete and dangerous. Stick with diesel.
  2. Lessons Learned for Advanced SailorsRun diesels at 85% of the RPM capacity to keep the mixing elbow clear. Diesels are built to run hot, don’t baby it. Find the sweet spot for the RPM, you’ll hear it singing.
  3. After choking the engine off when raising the sails, be sure to push the kill choke back down. Otherwise it won’t start later and you’ll wonder what’s wrong with the engine.
  4. Check the oil level monthly while cold. Diesels burn oil, it’s fine.
  5. Diesels are hard to start cold. When the air temperature is less than 50, use a hairdryer to warm up the engine. Tuck it underneath, in front of the transmission. This is the best advice you will ever get.
  6. At the fuel dock, don’t load gasoline into the diesel tank. Think. Someone at our marina makes this mistake every year. One year it was a Navy patrol boat.
  7. Don’t overfill the fuel tank, as it makes an environmental mess.
  8. Write a list of First of Month preventative maintenance steps.
  9. Carry box of spare parts for the engine… and the rigging as well.
  10. Develop a troubleshooting list for when the engine overheats. After checking the easy stuff of raw water intake and impeller, remove the exhaust hose and look up the snout of the heat exchange. If clogged, replace. Finally, check the cooling rods for clogging (see video above).


  1. Don’t go in reverse while dragging the dinghy. You’ll foul the line, even if it’s the floating kind.
  2. Lessons Learned for Advanced SailorsSecure other lines on board so they don’t slip into the water and foul the prop. Remember: Murphy was a mariner.
  3. Apply barnacle barrier paint exclusively designed for props. Apply primer immediately after wire-brushing blades clean.
  4. Check stuffing box for leaks and replace stuffing while on the hards.
  5. Hire a diver to clean the prop (and hull) monthly or quarterly. As few as a half-dozen barnacles can throw the prop off kilter and make the engine blow black smoke.


  1. Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors
    The ammonia in Windex crazes smoked plastic windows.
  2. Discourage guests with black soles from moving around.
  3. Wash blood off the deck quickly, to avoid staining. Red wine too.
  4. 409 works well on fiberglass, but first wax it.
  5. J-Wax works best on non-skid surfaces for protection.
  6. Old or worn fiberglass requires compounding first to get the chalky surface out. See video below.


  1. Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors
    Re-pipe to a gallon jug to flush with fresh water because seawater cooks in the lines during the week.
  2. Wrap aluminum foil around suspect hoses to smell if they’re permeating waste. Wait a few days to remove and sniff.
  3. Post a note to crew on what can and cannot go down the toilet.
  4. Use standard blue disinfectant by dropping 3 oz. before departing.


  1. Open the interior panel to look for a build-up of corrosion. Clean off white residue completely. This is how electrical fires start.
  2. Lessons Learned for Advanced SailorsTighten screws inside the panel to prevent arcing.
  3. Check both ends of the shore cord as tight, without corrosion.
  4. Shut down DC & AC before leaving.
  5. Unplug shore power cord before leaving the dock. Seriously.
  6. Recharge overnight once a week, more so in winter.


  1. Look at nearby boats to see proper ties and lengths in the slip.
  2. Lessons Learned for Advanced SailorsResist the idea of guests fending off the piers. That’s how they fall in the water.
  3. Learn to back into a slip, in case of an emergency. Good practice and good discipline.
  4. Learn the “waterman’s wrap” to back in from a windy right angle.
  5. When docking, attach the spring line first so you don’t crash.
  6. Never let anyone jump off while boat is still moving.
  7. Never drape the dock lines over the life lines.


  1. Never walk backward on dock holding the hose. Really.
  2. Remove all car keys, cell phones and jewelry to the cabin.
  3. Don’t let the crew lean against the lifelines.
  4. Teach the Collision Course to avoid side-slipping to buoys.
  5. Never grab a mooring ball pennant by hand. Use a boathook, which is easier to replace if yanked than an arm.
  6. Lessons Learned for Advanced SailorsPractice MOB drill by tossing a cushion for hove-to.
  7. Learn the classic Figure 8 rescue of MOB.
  8. Cut excess length off lines to reduce the danger of tripping.
  9. When practical, pass port-to-port and hold your course.
  10. Raise tugboats on Channel 13 to report your heading.
  11. When sailing solo, always wear a PFD and harness/tether.
  12. Regularly test the batteries of hand-held electronics.
  13. Beware POOF when lighting propane stove or grill.
  14. Do not drive a boat drunk, or let anyone else.
  15. Don’t fall asleep while on autopilot.
  16. Learn to pull the thru-hulls quickly, without sinking the boat.
  17. Don’t go out in the fog. It’s for professionals only.
  18. Don’t pee over the side, but leeward if you must.


  1. Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors
    Strive for Close Reach 90% of the time. It’s faster.
  2. In the event of gust, turn quickly to Beam Reach. It’s safer.
  3. Reef early. If it’s already windy, reef at the dock.
  4. Use spinnaker sheets as a poor man’s whisker pole.
  5. Scrub slime on bottom monthly to restore hull speed.


  1. Record name of boat and owners of folks you meet. And their dogs.
  2. Wave politely to all neighbors and passing boats.
  3. Don’t give an air horn to drunk-wannabe-funny guy. Or the helm.
  4. Don’t stare at bikini girls who are in view of your wife.
  5. Always thank the crew for a job well done. Even if…


  1. Use camping mattresses for sleeping. They’re better for your back.
  2. Have plenty of water on board to keep the crew hydrated.
  3. When in doubt, buy a bigger and newer sailboat.


  1. Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors
    As a precaution, ask guests if they want ginger gum or therapeutic wrist bands.
  2. Avoid greasy foods, sweet drinks before and after.
  3. Offer ginger snap cookies and real ginger ale, not soda pop.
  4. Keep your eye on the horizon, which remains steady.
  5. Keep everyone up on deck and away from the salon. Gently guide the victim to leeward side, just in case…

Advanced Boater

Every now and then a motorboat devotee gets religion and comes over to the other side. “I’ve had seven or eight boats over the years,” said John Rager of Maidens VA, “but sailing seems like a real challenge.” I put him on the helm and later sent him a link to rent sailboats in Deltaville and Annapolis.
Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors“I worked at two marinas growing up, one wet and one dry. The dry marina was inland away from water, where we did extensive repairs and fiberglass. I learned how to lay up and just recently repaired a jet ski that was burned in a marina fire. The first marina where I worked, the guy interviewed eight people and hired them all to see who showed up the next day. Just me and another guy showed up. He worked us 12 hours a day. The job interview consisted of tying a bowline know behind my back while running down the dock to throw the line to an incoming boat.”
He’s seen his share of mishaps. “It was fun to watch people launch their boats on a ramp. The best was a guy who launched the boat with the trailer still attached. Once they realized that the trailer was supposed to stay on land, they fired up the boat and drove it forward up the ramp until they could reattach the tongue. 

Learning by Doing

Advanced sailors get that way by experience. New sailors typically take a shot at it to see what it’s like. Occasionally someone takes the time to study the dynamics of sailing before setting out.
Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors“I’ve always wanted to learn to sail,” said Sharon Phillippi of Bristol TN as she joined her daughter and granddaughter on the York. “I’ve watched a lot of training videos and learned the parts of the boat, so this is quite amazing.” Juanita and Jordan Davis went up on the bow to chat as we got to work.
Southwest winds were blowing
lightly, which was good for teaching. Sharon quickly adapted to the helm and caught the wind correctly to gain speed and momentum. “It’s like the boat is alive!” she said. She got the gist of the close reach vs. beam reach. We found as we neared Yorktown that the winds diminished because of the lee shore. “So that’s the lee shore, I never could figure it out.”
Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors“Now I see the wind,” she added later. “In Dallas the wind blows all the time. There are few trees. You get off the road at a wayside and see 30 bird nests in a little tree because it’s the only place they can find. Then the tree has branches on one side.” As she spoke, the wind began to rise from 5 mph to 10, making the boat heel to 15 degrees. Up front, Juanita wondered what was going on. Her mom laughed heartily with newfound confidence. 

Sailing Away

Sometimes people go sailing to get away from it all by leaving work behind. Kristy Kavey of Springboro OH took her family sailing on a serene afternoon with slightly rising winds. She accepted the helm and took command of the wind, suggesting this was not her biggest challenge in life. 
Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors“I teach children with special needs,” she said after an hour or so into the cruise. “Five or six to the class, and now I teach high school kids. The classroom is separate from the rest of the school, which can create problems. I was accosted last year by a student who tried to tear my clothes off and attack me. An assistant principal was nearby but did nothing. He tried to talk the guy down when he should have jumped him instead.”
Retention of academic content is tough. “They make significant progress over the year and then they forget it over summer vacation. Or in just a week they forget it.”
Lessons Learned for Advanced SailorsThe family used to live in Wisconsin but moved to Ohio instead. “We adopted Josceylyn from Ethiopia and people were awful about it. They would come up to me in a store and say, ‘Do you know that the father is black?’ and ‘Do you even know who the father is?’ And I would like to say ‘I don’t know who the father is, I adopted her.’ People in Ohio are much better about racism.”
Kristy transited the Coleman Bridge as if she were crossing the street. One tough lady.

Let’s Go Sail                                                                          

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Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors
Article Name
Lessons Learned for Advanced Sailors
Sailors need to know enough about engine and other systems to repair them out on the water. Here are several examples and tips.
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Williamsburg Charter Sails
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