Big Winds Return
On a whim, Daniel Katekovich took his bride Connie sailing along the York River on their 30th anniversary. She had never been on a sailboat before, “if you don’t count a small catamaran.” She did great as we zoomed across the river in 10 mph winds and building seas. Then we tacked to go under the bridge and view the two destroyers.
Daniel was more of a motorboat fellow. “More of a bass boat, actually,” he said.
“I’ve fished in the local tournaments. It’s all catch-and-release. You get prizes for weight and size. Eight to ten pounds is a big bass. The pros know how to strike in muddy water as well as clear water, cold water vs. warm, deep water vs. shallow, and time of season. My boat has a 175 horsepower outboard. It can do 65 mph, but I don’t run that fast.”
Connie held her own for an hour or more. “I haven’t concentrated this hard since I was in that Richard Petty car.” I probed for details. “It was Daytona, and I was with my son in another car. I wasn’t driving, only riding as a passenger. We got up to 197 miles an hour in the straightaway, and it felt every bit of 197. The hardest part was getting in and out of the car, through the passenger window. I think we did five laps.” Daniel gently reminded her, “It was two, actually.”
Couples Celebrate by Sailing
A young couple from Hampton joined another young couple from Mechanicsville to celebrate two occasions. Lauren and Matt Stroud were vacationing on their 10th anniversary, staying at the officer guest housing upriver at Cheatham Annex. Erica Ryan took her husband Milton out on his birthday. The winds started out at 5 mph and then piddled around until settling in at 10 mph. The Ryans spent considerable time up on the bow and then relaxing down below in the salon. They were replaced on the bow by the Strouds.
“I’m in the claims department of Dominion Energy,” Matt said after I asked. Immediately I brought up the outage from Hurricane Michael and mentioned our lost meats from the freezer during the outage. He laughed, “Denied.” Then he added, “Most of our claims are denied.” I shuddered to think of the arguments. “That’s not the toughest job. I worked a year and a half in customer relations, handling all kinds of complaints. I applied a lot of what I learned in sales from other jobs to help resolve things. ‘So, if we did this would that help? Then if we did that would it help too?’ You bring them around slowly, incrementally.”
Lauren gently steered the subject to his other job. “I’m a weather forecaster for the Virginia Air National Guard. I’ve been working there since high school and really enjoy it.” I told them about the downdraft I ran into last month, and he suggested a phone app to read the squall line. “It’s called Weather Tap. You can set the parameters for the wind line and see it coming.”
We sailed over to Yorktown to show them the restaurants and stores, since the Strouds were headed to the Yorktown Pub for dinner. Suddenly a radio call came from the Riverwalk dock master to a fishing boat near the bridge. The boat didn’t respond, so I did instead. He said, “I’m calling for assistance to a pelican that’s caught in the water near the Yorktown Pub. He has fishing line filament coming out of his mouth and appears to have taken the hook. He’s about five feet from the rocks, and I’m trying to get a shallow boat to assist.” I told him I couldn’t help because my draft is four feet and I can’t get that close to the rocks. I could see the dock master on the radio, but felt helpless.
Big Winds Return
Two hardy families from Chicago and Myrtle Beach went sailing on the York River in exciting weather. Air Force 2nd LT Emily Wollney (RN) took her folks and siblings on a ride that was wet from the rain but warm enough to sail. As it happens, the winds chilled things to the point that our fingers were getting numb. I asked her mom Cindy, who’s an anesthesiologist, “Does it matter in your work if your fingers are numb?” Indeed it does. Cindy took the helm from her husband Frank and proceeded under the Coleman Bridge so they could say they did it. Everyone handled the cruise with great humor and family bonding.
In the afternoon, the skies began to clear as Keith Deubell took his family sailing for the first time. The clouds began to break, the sun came out, and with it the winds. Keith has 15 years in with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department. I asked the age-old question: Why do fire trucks accompany EMS runs?
“We’re all cross-trained between fire and rescue, so the fire truck offers extra hands if the emergency is more than expected.” But why send a fire truck when they could take a car instead? “Because during the EMS call we may get a fire call that requires that truck. Fire spreads exponentially, so we want to be able to go immediately from the EMS scene to the fire without going back to the firehouse.”
Off in the distance, we saw a US Coast Guard cutter lumbering up the river toward the Coast Guard Training Center. Inexplicably, the boat turned bow in to the side of the dock instead of port side to the front of the dock. With the winds blowing out of the west onto the stern quarter, the boat was asked for severe punishment to the bow. Maybe it was a docking test. If so, the helmsman failed.
Sail Class Graduates
Day 3 of the fall term of the WALT sailing class went off with a bang. After two Sundays of light winds, the endured howling winds of 20 mph. We reefed the main and let the jib out only once (reefed). Anne Stevens drove for 90 minutes straight. She and her husband Clay Blanton, along with long-time alumnus Ulku Nori, joined the 30/30 Club by occasionally reaching 30 degrees heeling in gusts of 30 mph.
The radio drills became enhanced by an alert from US Coast Guard Hampton Roads that a 33-foot sailboat named Boomerang lost its steering at the opening of the York Channel at Red No. 6. I radioed back, asking if the Coast Guard asked if Boomerang had an emergency tiller. Some people don’t realize they have a portable steel stick on board as an emergency tiller. The radio operator became confused and said his superior would call me on the phone instead. She called and said, “Did you ask if they have emergency towing?” No, I said, emergency tiller. Then she asked if I could assist. I told her I was 10 miles away and incapable of towing a larger boat. They needed to reach Tow Boat US. She agreed and said they would handle it.
In the afternoon, the winds settled down to 15 mph as a lovely couple from northern Virginia went sailing after a wedding in Williamsburg. Lindsey DiLiberio said, “Tom and I live and work in Arlington.” He added, “We actually work in office buildings across the street from each other.” She said, “We can walk to work in 25 minutes. Sometimes if I have to go into Washington I can book an Uber with others headed that way. It takes five minutes longer but puts the Uber cost as low as $2. That sure beats the Metro.” Not to mention driving in DC traffic. I marveled at their good fortune and said that people’s commute to work is a constant complaint I get on the boat.
Let’s Go Sail as Big Winds Return
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Retired couple on a private sailboat charter got to compare two classes of Navy warship at Yorktown Naval Weapons Station.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails