Big Sail

On a sunny, warm and breezy morning, we encountered the trifecta of boats on the York River. I hailed on marine radio the cruise ship USS American Constitution as it headed into Yorktown. I gave the captain my heading and my intention to avoid him.

Big Sail

Within an hour we heard a strange buzzing noise as a seaplane flew up the river to land near the cruise ship at Riverwalk Landing. Radio traffic suggested the plane was intended to go to the dock ahead of the cruise ship. Meanwhile, the tourist ketch Alliance was attempting to get back to the dock. On top of that, an $8 million mega-yacht was already docked inside the T-head.

Big Sail

Big SailOur skipper was Ben Williams, whose wife Marissa got him the sailing venture. He’s an engineer with Nucor Steel and did just fine on the helm. “We transferred to West Virginia from Louisville KY where they have another plant. The new one has around 225 teammates, along with 35,000 around the country. Nucor was a game-changer in the 1980s when they figured out how to build smaller plants that could work in cold steel as well as hot steel.”

How does cold steel work, I asked. “With a lot of pressure and a lot of lubrication. The hot steel gets up to 1200 or 1400 degrees F. to roll it into bundles. We use scrap as well. The idea of the smaller plant is to minimize transportation of raw goods as well as finished product. The Chinese have caught up to us there, so it’s more of a challenge today.”

Big SailMarissa and Ben brought along their dog Snitch, and it was his first boat ride of any kind. He adjusted nicely but got antsy when Marissa left him briefly to go sit on the bow. They used to live on the Ohio River. She said, “It’s no wider than your narrowest point at the bridge over there, but people sail on it. This is cleaner water than the Ohio, for sure.”

Big SailA gust of wind heeled us to 30 degrees briefly, but Ben recovered just as quickly to even out the boat. “That’s steeper than our driveway back home, which is 28 degrees,” she said. Ben added, “In our first ice storm, I skidded down the hill with the brakes locked, and it felt like 100 mph.”

History Sail

History SailA couple from downstate New Jersey and another from upstate New York sailed together on a warm, breezy afternoon along the York. Lou and Nicole DeMarco are temporarily living in Williamsburg while he’s on assignment. They travel widely by camper and have been abroad as well.

“I was intrigued when we went to France to see Normandy from the French perspective,” Nicole said. “I have a master’s in American History, so I was amazed to learn from our French guide that France won the Battle of D-Day. Not so much, I thought to myself, since there’s only eight French graves at the cemetery.” And I suggested half of them were Vichy French.

History SailHer husband Lou proved an excellent helmsman, and for good reason. “I’m taking flying lessons, with about 20 hours in. Taking off and flying steady are comparatively easy. It’s landing that’s tricky. I fly a Cessna 172 and it has great gliding properties. You could land without the engine.

“In fact, the plane flies around 60 mph and when you encounter a 60-mph headwind, it just hovers in place – like a bird. The ground isn’t moving below.” This was his first sailing experience, and he was terrific.

History SailKaren and Jim Cowley had sailed before but preferred to ride. I asked what their last boat was. “The America’s Cup boat in Newport,” Jim said proudly. “We didn’t actually sail it, just went out on a sunset cruise with champagne.” Karen said, “it was wonderful.”

We talked briefly about the Coleman Bridge and how it gets stuck from time to time. “The bridge in Belmar NJ got stuck last month and will be closed for four months,” Jim said. “It’s a mechanical failure.” Karen said, “They have to manufacture new gears for it, and it’s leaving residents and businesses stranded.”

History Sail

Women enjoy sailing today more than ever, and particularly a romantic cruise. Couples get to enjoy a romantic getaway as they sit up on the bow for privacy, and Let’s Go Sail provides professional photos for free. First-time or skilled mariners are welcome to sail a modern-32-foot sailboat in a unique setting of wildlife and Fall foliage or Spring bloom. It makes for an extraordinary anniversary idea.

Iowa Sailors

Iowa SailorsA couple from rural Iowa went sailing for the first time, progressing from a glassy York River to 20-degree heeling in 12 mph winds. They loved it.

Iowa SailorsFor no reason, two Navy attack helicopters spent 20 minutes buzzing us overhead. I asked Brian, “Are there any criminal warrants out on you?”

Melissa Cox-Dustin and her husband Brian have boated extensively on a 14-mile-long reservoir, and they were surprised how spacious yet vacant the York was. “Usually, we have to watch out for jet skis and fishing boats,” Melissa said.

Iowa SailorsThey’ve had their share of weather too. “We got stuck in a snowstorm last winter when it was 8 below zero,” Brian said. “As I turned my vehicle, it got hung up on a snow drift that was hard-packed. We teetered on the running boards and called a neighbor for help. He said, ‘My car’s running, but the snow is blocking the garage door.’ So we tried another neighbor, and he picked us up and took us to within 100 yards of our house and we walked the rest of the way.” They looked around at the tranquil Virginia river and sighed.

Then there are the tornadoes. “We don’t get as many as those in Tornado Alley, but still,” Melissa said and went to her phone. “Let me show you a video someone sent of two guys sitting in the engine of a train, watching a tornado come right at them. They just sat there. It took out the double pane window and shattered another one.” The video and audio are haunting. See it here. She added, “I looked it up. We’ve had 41 tornadoes this year.”

Iowa Sailors

Brian added, “Sometimes we just get sheer wind lines coming through. A big wind blew our heavy doghouse 40 feet down the driveway, with him in it. It took both of us to right it. The dog must have been wondering what happened.”

Dogs Sail

Dogs sailingSpeaking of dogs, we had two in the morning and two more in the afternoon. The owners originally agreed to mix them together in the afternoon sail, but wiser heads prevailed. With the winds and seas rising, the last thing we needed was a dog fight.

Dogs SailAs it happened, the two RNs on the morning sail encountered an accident with one of their French bulldogs, but they quickly cleaned it up. Not my first bedpan incident on board, I assured them.

Let’s Go Sail

Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. Scroll down reviews on Trip Advisor. Go back to the home page of Williamsburg Charter Sails.   

The best Williamsburg boat tour offers safe “social distance sailing” daily for up to 6 people. It’s an extraordinary experience for couples. Leave your worries behind. Enjoy the thrill of moving with the wind without a care in the world. Put life back on an even keel with a romantic experience for a birthday or anniversary. 3-hour sailboat cruise as a semi-private yachting charter lets you exhale and relax as you enjoy comfort, stability and speed.

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