Sailing to find Saddam
Three couples with diverse backgrounds enjoyed a smooth day of sailing on the York River, and they drove a considerable way to do it.
Gerald Napper brought his gal Renita Marshall from Ft. Lee, south of Richmond. He’s a First Sergeant with 24 years in, and she’s a dental administrator. He drove more than a hour to get here, saying all along that it was a surprise for her 33rd birthday. Renita was guessing they were going to Norfolk to see the aquarium or the famed Norfolk Zoo. He told me kiddingly, “Aquarium or sailing, hmmm. Tough decision.”
He’s made a few tough decisions in the Army as a combat paratrooper. “I was in the 502nd Infantry, the unit that caught Saddam Hussein. For three days we were in a very difficult firefight north of Tikrit, and only later did we realize why the Iraqis were fighting so strong. We had been patrolling US Route 10 a hundred times, going back and forth. We almost caught Saddam in a roadblock where we were examining every vehicle closely. We had to break it up to let a Quartermaster convoy pass through, and somehow he sneaked past, according to an informant we had who told us that after we caught him.
“One of our guys found him in the hole, right there near Tikrit. Who would have thought he’d be there in the most obvious place, his home town?”
I asked what was in the hole. “Besides him, there was about a million dollars in cash, American money. There were onions hanging from the ceiling. Iraq is a vegetable-loving country, though you’d never suspect it. The hole was no bigger than this boat. It was quite a change from his Palaces. We had kicked in so many doors trying to find enemy soldiers; we never knew he’d be hiding in a hole. That was his town, and his people were very loyal.”
Gerald won the Bronze Star Award with Valor for the campaign. Earlier in his career he fought in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Pakistan. He did three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. After all that, he still has a magnificent sense or humor and a playful demeanor. Renita did better on the helm because she had good winds, but they had died down by the time he took over. He had fun with that, trying to find the wind until finally the speedometer showed 1.5 mph. He was thrilled with such progress. I pointed out that it was probably the current moving the speedometer paddle wheel. We laughed heartily.
Morgan and Andrew Miller drove three hours from Massanutten Resort to join us sailing on what turned out to be a calm day. They were on their honeymoon after getting married in Indiana. I had them inaugurate a new set-up of two cushions on the bow of the boat, where they sat for hours in a stunning romantic scene.
Earlier, Mark and Kathy Gahagen of Charlotte NC stopped off on their way to St. Michael’s MD to go sailing in light winds. They have a Hunter 28 which they sail on a lake, but they had never sailed under spinnaker before. I took Kathy up on the bow to raise the chute and attach three lines to fly a magnificent red and blue spinnaker. The how-to lesson was focused on keeping all the lines outside the boat to avoid fouling. Before long, the winds picked up to 10+ so we had to drop the spinnaker as a precaution.
We talked about how to convert the H28 to in-mast furling without replacing the mast. I later found a website for in-boom furling, which seems easier to build.
Let’s Go Sail
Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. See reviews on Trip Advisor from sailors like you.