Here’s another horror story, recalled fondly by Faith Olen of Lynchburg. We were sailing past the Coast Guard Training Center dock, which triggered her memory.
“My father used to take me out on his old wooden boat along the Potomac River. It was a motorboat with two big honking diesels. We were downriver in Maryland and he was going back and forth to show me a sunken submarine that was used for target practice. This was somewhere near the Patuxent River, yes that’s the one. He was running back and forth right over it and he kept saying, ‘See that? See that?’
“Suddenly we ran into it, or a piece of it under water. Something ripped into the hull, and water was flooding into the boat. He was drunk at the time, by the way. We made it back to shore, to a Coast Guard dock just like this one. He was retired Coast Guard, so they were very accommodating to us. I was ten years old. They picked me up and took me for a tour on their boat. It was fun. I wasn’t afraid. I remember it as a wonderful time. But for some reason the Coast Guard dock scared me a little.”
I suggested that in today’s world her dad would have been taken off to jail, but she dismissed that. “He was very well liked by the Coast Guard.”
Flying Small Planes
Faith is an outdoors person who today enjoys kayaking. “I used to fly an Aeronca Champ. That’s the sister ship to the yellow cub that people are familiar with at air shows. It had a 90 horsepower engine.” I asked how fast it could fly and she said with lawyerly precision, “As fast as 90 horsepower will take you, depending on the wind.”
She got the hang of the helm in a light breeze. “I’m used to crabbing with the wind, but this is different because we’re going slower.” I showed her the range lights in the York River that demarcate eight miles of the channel. “Yes, they’re like landing lights on an airstrip,” she replied.
“I flew out of Gordonsville all the way to Luray and in the other direction, Farmville. I flew to entertain people and to see things differently from the air. It was a two-passenger plane, with me in the front flying and the passenger behind me.
“I was building an experimental plane with my late husband when he died. There were a lot of people doing that at our airport. I haven’t flown for a while.” It occurred to me that John Denver died flying an experimental plane, and I registered my surprise at the danger by saying, “That’s crazy.”
“No, that’s faith,” her beau Tim said. “That’s Faith!”