Sailing into USCG Smoke
While sailing the York River with Kevin and Jennifer Brown and their children, we spotted a rare exercise by the US Coast Guard of deploying flares and smoke simultaneously. It was very dramatic and colorful and lasted all of a minute.
The exercise is rare on the York River because the very sight of the bright lights and grey and orange smoke implies an emergency requiring all boats in the visual vicinity to drop everything and respond. Flares and smoke are reserved for fire and other life-threatening emergencies. As it happened, we were sailing directly toward R24 so we could have easily helped had there been a real emergency.
To avert public reaction, the Coast Guard typically announces the exercise on marine radio. But in this case they didn’t. The only announcement was on Channels 16 and 22 after the fact. We happened to be sailing toward buoy R24 in sight of two Coast Guard boats. Because we were under spinnaker, our maneuverability was minimal and we cruised right past. I waved and one fellow waved back, a bit chagrined I suspect for failing to warn us of the exercise.
Kevin has had big boat experience and is looking to buy a boat in retirement. “We’d like to retire to someplace warm, like the Virgin Islands,” admittedly warmer than Northern Virginia where they live now.
“I have a friend with a 50-foot Downeaster sailboat that I sailed in Galveston Bay, Texas. It was so big that it had a crow’s nest at the top and I went up there. Texas is crazy with weather because the storms come up so rapidly. I be up there in the crow’s nest and hurry down on the ladder.”
Jennifer is an Emergency Room nurse who’s leaving Inova Hospital for the adventure of becoming a sole nurse practitioner. She enjoyed the smooth and quiet sailing diagonally downriver on the spinnaker run.
“It’s so peaceful. It reminds me of the boat trip I went on in Brazil with a medical mission by our church. We were on the Amazon River and went from place to place at night by ship so we could work at different places during the day.” Kevin added, “The Amazon breaks into two rivers, the White and Black, which are white and black.”
Let’s Go Sail, not the Amazon
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