A couple from Charlottesville and a family from Pittsburgh went sailing on the York River to relearn their skills. Sebastian Kukla and Erik Fernandez hadn’t sailed since their college days, but they got the hang of it quickly in winds of 10 mph rising to 15. Once you’ve done it, sailing is like riding a bicycle.
Sebastian talked proudly about his son. “Sigmond just completed seventh grade, where he finished Advance Chemistry. Next year he’ll be able to take AP Chemistry and finish it before he gets to high school. We live in Mount Lebanon, which has excellent schools.”
Erik thought a while and said, “You might want to find other chemistry courses as he proceeds, so he doesn’t lose momentum or interest in the subject.” Erik should know. He’s retired from the University of Virginia as a chemical engineering professor.
Sebastian is big reader of Patrick O’Brien. “I think he’s written 20 novels about 18th century seafaring. It’s hard to imagine the captain of a warship standing tall in his perch watching everything going on. He’s wearing a red coat, which makes him that much more of a target. But as the sea bobs and weaves in the waves of battle, he’s moving sharply in the perch and makes a difficult target.
I was finishing up the narrative about the Battle of the Capes and Siege of Yorktown by describing how French artillery gunners plunked the 44-gun Charon with red-hot cannonballs that blew up the ship. Sure enough, off to our starboard side was a dive team from a new project, over the Charon burial ground. This is a revival of an underwater archaeological dig from the early 1970s. National Geographic is covering it as the dig proceeds all summer. I tried unsuccessfully to reach them on marine radio.
Relearning the Spinnaker
For the first time this season, the York River was glass as we headed out with a Pennsylvania family of six. Tom Herbein took all the adults out on a whim and we organized quickly for a 2:30 run. We floated around for a while with no wind and then motored downriver to the oil terminal docks. On the way, we saw two or three dolphins way out in the distance. Soon the water began to ripple as an easterly breeze came up slowly.
With that, we deployed the spinnaker for the first time in two months as everyone pitched in on the lines. The wind picked up and we churned at 5 mph straight upriver on a rum line. They were fascinated.
Someone admired the cleanliness of the river. Bill Leedy said, “It’s a lot better than the Schuylkill River, where they just picked up two legs of a girl cut off at the knees. They know it was a girl because her toenails were painted pink.”
Jim Halye, the family patriarch, admired the elegance of the spinnaker. “This all reminds me of John Candy in ‘Summer Rental.’ He was an air traffic controller who could read the wind but couldn’t sail the boat.” Everything goes wrong, and the main character Jack has to race a local yachtsman to preserve the family’s integrity.
On the way back to the marina, I got a good photo of a proud osprey lording over her nest now that her fledgling is born. We could hear the chirping but couldn’t quite see the baby.
A Chicago man reserved a cruise for his parents and then forgot to pay for it. Eileen and Mike Reilly are unusual for having lived in the urban planned development New Town–twice. Eileen said, “We lived there for a few years before moving to Cape Cod. Lived there for two years and decided to come back to Williamsburg and live in New Town again. We love it there. Good neighbors, walk to everything.”
But I couldn’t imagine leaving the Cape. Mike said, “We have a social worker friend who told us that Falmouth, where we lived, has one of the worst heroin problems in the country. She knew of four children in separate families whose parents had died of an overdose. Then there are the winters, which are terrible.”
On a brighter note, they were very proud of their two grown sons. The Chicago son is an economist who works with litigators of a big law firm. “We’re talking lawsuits in the $250 million range,” Mike said. “Our other son used to be with the FBI. We picked him up in Washington once and jumped in the car to say, ‘I just had my best day ever! I was at a meeting with Robert Mueller and he held up a report I wrote and asked who wrote it. I ducked down, thinking I was in trouble. The other guys all pointed at me as if to deflect the blame. “This is good work,” he said.'”
Mike steered a difficult course in gusty winds of 15 mph under two reefs. He recalled his days as a youngster on the Cape. “I worked on the ferry that ran to Martha’s Vineyard, where I ran the concession stand. Every day the pilot would come down and order an orange juice on the house. He went through a lot of orange juice to go along with a fifth of vodka every day. I still don’t know how he could do that and run the ferry.” On the way back, I got a money shot of the fledgling osprey on Red 8 day mark. Mom stood proudly by her side.
Sailing with Bachelorettes
Winds of 20 mph on a bright sunny day required a hard reef in the main as we took out a group of ladies from Delaware on a bachelorette party cruise for Shannon Anderson. She had always wanted a sailboat. “So I asked Scott to go sailing to learn about it, and he said sure. We got out there on this little boat on a windy day like this. I wound up pulling on all the ropes and doing all the work. It was exhausting. Afterward he asked if I still wanted a sailboat. Nope.” Naturally I put Shannon on the helm first, and she did very well handling the gusts. They didn’t like heeling past 15 degrees, so we stayed near the lee shore by navigating Sarah Creek.
In the afternoon, the Drane family of Woolbridge CT enjoyed sailing after a grueling 14-hour drive along the I-95 corridor. Daughter Samantha had completed a sailing course but wisely demurred on the helm in the big winds. Her mother Melanie explained, “Samantha’s sailing course was in a small bay in Hartford, where they had to dodge moving barges and freighters.” Samantha added, “Then we capsized and turtled the boat, with the mast stuck in the mud. It took an hour to right the boat.”
Later we got to talking about the movie “Jaws” and how contemporary it still feels 40 years later. Stuart Egan said of Steven Spielberg, “He wanted to make the movie more gory, but the studio wouldn’t let him. As it turned out, the movie was more scary without the gore because of the suspense,” Melanie added, “And the music.”
Melanie continued, “We were in Cape Cod Bay last year when a great white shark killed a man. The great whites are controversial because they kill seals, which is fine with the fishermen because they think seals are eating too many of their fish. Conservationists say that’s not true. Regardless, what can they do about the sharks?”
Three Couples Sail
By coincidence, three couples who never met but lived within 10 miles of Richmond went sailing along the York on a bright summer day. The wind picked up from 5 mph to 10 and then 12 as we sailed under the bridge and upriver.
Les Baker is retired from Dominion Power, having worked 37 years at the Surry Nuclear Plant. I asked him about the future. “Nuclear is safe and it will become less expensive to build. The next generation will appreciate it more. Self-contained nuclear units will be plugged in to run the reactor instead of spending millions to build a free-standing unit.
Renee Mayo took her beau Sam Lloyd sailing because he had expressed interest to revive the days when he used to sail with his uncle. He ran the helm in stiff winds and was eager to learn about boat rentals in Deltaville and Annapolis through Get My Boat. B.J. and Elizabeth Marshall enjoyed a romantic time on the bow. The others got to go up separately as well.
In the afternoon, I took my bride Bonnie out with friends. Spence Marcus hadn’t sailed in 20 years, but got right back into it. He was entranced on the helm as we tacked upriver and turned to fly the spinnaker downwind. I’ve never seen anyone so intense on the wheel.
Sailing a New Boat
A young couple from metro Richmond just bought a new (to them) sailboat and wanted to get the hang of it on a different boat, under supervision. “It’s a ComPac 19 that we bought for only $750,” said Conner Springer. “I used to sail a MacGregor 26 with my dad, but it was tippy without a centerboard. The water ballast helped only so much. We’ll trailer-sailor the ComPac by starting out on the James River near Hopewell. Jordan Point. There’s plenty of water there.”
Later he said, “We looked at a Cal 34 in Norfolk but it was nasty. All he did was race it, so the interior was a wreck. The boat was stripped down for speed and had lots of sails, but his own wife wouldn’t go on it. So he had to buy a newer 38 for her. It was only $6,900 but it seemed too big to start out with.”
Conner’s family goes way back on the water. “My dad used to sail with my great-grandfather. They went out of Deltaville once and sailed all the way to the middle of the Chesapeake Bay when the wind died. They got the motor going, but it was under-powered and took forever to get back. He was in the Merchant Marine.”
Stairway to Heavin’
This has nothing to do with sailing, but it’s still interesting. We spent a week on the Outer Banks in a condo at Kill Devil Hills. The trash bins had a wood slat fence around three sides, which I suppose is fine for screening. But what’s with the steps? And not just one set but two? A small child could easily toss a trash bag in either open container, and the steps don’t really improve the toss since you still have to get it over the fence. I posted a picture on Facebook with the headline above.
By the way, we took our daughter and granddaughter out on a dolphin-viewing cruise in the sound near Manteo. It was a good 20-minute ride out there to the viewing grounds. Pickings were few and far between, which made me feel better about my own dolphin experience on the York. They are very elusive.
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Relearning How to Sail
A family and a couple went cruising on the York River to relearn how to sail. The did great.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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