Sailing on High Seas
Two couples from Heritage Landing went sailing in building seas on a bright, sunny day alone the York River. Fortunately they are experienced sailors who had no trouble as the wind progressed from 7 mph to 10 to 15 to 18 –– plus gusts. We had to reef the genoa and the main several times to compensate for the powerful gusts.
“I love the heeling!” said Linda Kligman as the boat tipped to 15 degrees. “My husband and I had a 28-foot Hunter that we got in 1980. He loved that boat. He was below one day because he slipped going down the steps and hurt his back. My son was at the helm when I saw a squall approaching. I went up to the bow and managed to get the jib down just in time. The wind came up and the squall turned into a 45-minute ordeal. My husband, Alan, came up to run the boat and somehow worked through it. However, my daughter never sailed again with us.”
Linda thought of another episode. “We were trying to sail from Toms River to Cape May, but we ran into a big storm and had to duck into Atlantic City.”
There were happier times, of course. “This all started because Alan and I went to Long Island Beach to stay overnight with friends on the Jersey Shore. He was gazing out into the ocean and saw sailboats. All of a sudden, he said, ‘That’s always been a dream of mine, to own a sailboat.’ It was? I had no idea. So I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I was surprised at myself for being so spontaneous and so daring. We went down to the Hunter dealer and bought the boat. That was the best decision we ever made. It really brought the family together.”
Stockings to Rescue
Another time, they were on a 41-foot Mainship trawler when the engine conked out. “The captain’s son seemed pretty handy and went to work on the engine. It needed fanbelt and I remembered reading somewhere that you could use nylon stockings in an emergency as a substitute fanbelt. He would have nothing to do with that, so we sat around for another two hours while he tinkered. Finally I got my friend to surrender her stockings, and it worked! We limped back into port just fine.”
As the sun shone brightly and whitecaps built up, Linda asked her friend Linda Davis, “Isn’t this better than bridge?” They had forgone their community bridge session and were glad they did.
Linda and Gary Davis used to own a trawler, which they kept at various marinas in Hampton Roads. She recalled, “We took a sailing lesson in the Bahamas, and the instructor was showing us what to do after running aground. He pointed in the direction of a shoal and told me to hit it. I was apprehensive, but he told me to speed up the boat and really hit it hard. So I did. I ran that sucker right into a sandbar. It took us a long time to get off because besides grounding it hard, the tide was running out.” All of laughed, but I could tell they were wondering if any shoals lurked nearby on the York.
One problem with running aground is poking a hole in the boat, especially if there are rocks abounding as there are along the New Jersey coast. My fear isn’t hitting rocks, since there are few along our sandy shore. My fear is having a thru-hull break off, for which I have wooden bungs and a big rubber plug. Water can also get into the boat while removing the speedometer thru-hull for cleaning. One has to screw a dummy plug in temporarily and then re-screw the speedometer plug. It’s easy to botch the job by “cross-threading” the cap, which can lead to mechanical failure and, well, sinking.
Paul Try ran the helm admirably all day. He’s retired Air Force and worked with NASA and NOAA. He told a fascinating story about cross-threading. “While working with robotics in space, we found it nearly impossible to get the robots to tighten a pipe fitting.” He twisted his hands to demonstrate. “The robot has a hard time lining up the two pieces evenly; something a human can do intuitively. The robot may get traction on the threads, but it doesn’t know the exact torque required to tighten the pieces. Worse, it may be slightly off and cross-threaded, which is entirely wrong as a fitting.”
His work with NOAA gave Paul some insight on hurricanes. He was on the Outer Banks when Hurricane Isabel struck in 2003. It hit Yorktown and Gloucester at 74 mph after the Outer Banks winds of 112 mph were knocked down. “I was fortunate in that I had two single-car garages instead of a double-car garage. The atmospheric pressure and the winds make the garage doors the most vulnerable part of a house in a hurricane. North Carolina now requires vertical braces installed between double doors in new homes.”
Everyone had a good time, but Paul remembered something better. “We were in New York on the west side at the marina along the Hudson River. We walked up to a yacht that was 154 feet long. The owner asked us to come aboard, so we did. He had nine staff dressed in white and lined up to greet us. He was about 65 and his wife was more like 25. He kidded us by saying we could stay as long we liked since they were departing to fly to Ft. Lauderdale. The crew would follow with the yacht. That was really something. Sometime later we saw yachts in St. Maarten that made 154 feet look small by comparison.”
Let’s Go Sail
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