Two experienced sailors from Boston blew into Tidewater for a government contract job and chose to go Bay sailing with SailTime of Virginia Beach as a fun thing to do. That worked out well because Paul Metzger is a SailTime member who also has his 33-foot Hunter in charter with the Boston franchise. “They assign eight members to a boat, and I held back two memberships so that I can use the boat for myself and my family. Only rarely have I had to regret missing out a beautiful day on the harbor because a member was out on the boat instead.”
This was no beautiful day on the lower Chesapeake. We headed out of Bay Point Marina under cloudy skies and slight fog. A half-dozen Navy SEALS gun boats passed us with their machine guns at the ready. They included a .50 caliber gun mounted on the bow. We passed the USCGB Eagle, the training flagship of the US Coast Guard, which was docked at Little Creek among larger Navy ships. Out in Chesapeake Bay, we could barely make out the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. It was behind Navy hovercrafts that were running into Little Creek on maneuvers. It was easy to lose sight of the beach because of the fog and drizzle.
Paul and his colleague Jeff Allen unfurled the main and the jib and effortlessly sailed up the coast. Paul has sailed bigger boats than this 36-footer. “The biggest was a 43,” he said. “I had my daughter with me on a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West as part of her certification training. Another guy on the boat was a hot shot, but he wound up vomiting from the rolling waves. My daughter just grinned.”
Rocks pose a perilous problem around Boston, exacerbated by a wicked current from a tide that runs 5 feet (vs. 3 feet in Virginia). Jeff said, “I was running a small motorboat through a channel with only 15 feet clearance of the rocks on either side. I was caught in the current and tried to make way over ground, but it was difficult. The slightest turn of the engine direction would have let the current throw the boat onto the rocks.”
On a lighter note, “I sailed from Miami to Cuba one time, back in the 1980s when President Carter imposed fewer restrictions on Cuba. The captain turned out to be a drunk and stayed below the entire time. I wound up sailing the boat and showing nine other people how to do it. I was hoping to learn how to run a sextant, but that didn’t happen.”
Paul said, “Besides the rocks, there are lots of underwater hazards that you can see at low tide but remain two feet below the surface at high tide. You really need to know your charts around Boston Harbor and the islands.” By contrast, Virginia’s coastal waters are sandy and muddy, with few underwater hazards jutting out to catch a keel or a prop. The only hazards we face in that regard are crab pots, and there were dozens on this trip, extending offshore by a mile or more instead of close to shore as they are in the York River. Paul said, “Dodging the pots is like running a skiing slalom, a good challenge.”
The fog persisted, but lightly. Paul spoke of leaving Boston Harbor and running into a wall of fog. “We could hear the freighters and other commercial ships. I was never so glad to have AIS because at least I knew they could see me even if I couldn’t see them.”
Both men concluded the sailing in three-foot swells and 12 mph whitecaps resembled Boston on a bleak day, but they had a good run and a good time. They were good sports.
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