Cruising along the York River on a lazy summer day inspires people to recall their best and worst sails.
On vacation to Williamsburg, Baron Hall of Martinsville brought his wife Allison with their son Brandon and his pal Adam Reed. I turned the helm over to Baron and found little need to explain things.
“I used to sail with my uncle on Smith Mountain Lake. It was an old Hunter 25, with a tiller. It doesn’t sound like much, but he had it stripped down for racing. He stripped everything out of the cabin to lighten the boat and make it faster. He even took out the little stove. The guy was the only sailor on the lake to install a boat lift to raise it out of the water, dry. He would wax the bottom to make it faster. He was out there every day waxing. It had no bottom paint, just wax. The name of the boat was Chortle, as in laughing. All the racers hated it because when he passed them they had to see that name and know that he was laughing.”
Baron surrendered the wheel to stretch his legs. He was standing up on the deck with his arms stretched between the shrouds, and Allison asked if he was okay. “I sure am. Standing here like this won’t let that hit me if it comes across,” he said, nodding toward the boom. He had shrewdly calculated the reach of the boom as it swings through a tack, and he was well out of harm’s way. There was no need to worry, but sailors prefer precaution.
Brandon and Adam played well together and eventually fell asleep on the bow. Brandon was a tad seasick. “They had too much dessert last night,” Allison explained. I issued ginger gum and later let them jump in the water, since that always works. They were tethered to the aft with dock lines, and the swim cured the malaise. Then we resumed sailing as the wind picked up. We tacked upriver and heeled past 15 degrees a few times. Everyone loved it for the thrill of speed and adventure.
Lynn Lundmark joined the boys in the water. She and her husband Jamee came to Williamsburg from Drexel Hill, a suburb west of Philadelphia. Hers was the grim story.
“My son went out with others on a Chaparral 23, and the gasoline fumes apparently built up below. The owner didn’t take the time to purge the bilge. They zoomed out on the water, and he stopped the boat and turned it off. When he went to restart the engine, it went click, click, BOOM!
“My son came to and thought his legs had been blown off. Instead, he suffered second degree burns over 27 percent of his body. He told me, ‘I knew there were sharks in the water, but I had to jump in to escape the fire. I didn’t care.’ They were off Provincetown [Cape Cod] and they had to fly him by rescue helicopter to a hospital. He was in medical school at Penn and had to take a year off. He planned on becoming an orthopedic surgeon but now he’s thinking of hand surgery instead. Today he suffers from PTSD.”
The Lundmarks have owned a lot of boats over the years, most recently a 22-foot Regal. “That was really fast,” Lynn recalled, “up to 55 mph because of the configuration of the hull. It ran on a Volvo Penta IO.” She took in the quiet of the sailboat scene. “I really like this, it’s nice out here.”