Learning to Sail

Virginia reopened for sailing and fishing charters May 15. Let’s Go Sail adheress to an approved regimen for COVID-19 protocols.

While opening Let’s Go Sail one morning, a fellow stopped by the dock to hail me. “Capt. Bill!” said James Owen. “Remember me? Around a year ago my wife and I sailed with you. We got to see a Navy submarine come in, and you let us sail on your helm. I wanted to tell you that we just bought a boat! A Bayfield 36. It’s in Deltaville now and we’re going to sail it south. Today we’re going out on my cousin’s sailboat, over there. Just wanted to thank you for getting us into sailing.” I thanked him and paused to consider what a wonderful thing it is to sail.

Family Sailing

Six folks from three states converged on Williamsburg for a mini-reunion, and then they went sailing on the York River. Bryan and Kelly Kruize sail an O’Day 20 out of Erie PA, where they are quite aware of a fickle Lake Erie. Bryan said, “The water can turn on you very quickly as the fronts pop up.” Kelly added, “Sometimes we get out there on a beautiful day and it just comes up on you. The seas rise to 3 or 4 feet just like that. Then we have to haul ass to get home.” Then they bought a boat.

Learning to SailKelly did a good job on the helm once she realized the difference from a tiller. She also had to navigate during the history lecture, which took numerous turns. Someone asked if they fish off the boat. She replied, “We don’t fish, period. If we had to fish, we’d starve.”

Learning to SailOn a lighter note, she said, “We bought the O’Day from a pastor who acquired it during a dark period in his life. He called it For Gone, which had a religious meaning. At one time he used to sail across the lake to marry people on the other side.” I put her 10-year-old nephew Jack to work turning the Genoa sheets after he cast off from the dock. Then he ran the helm and heeled us to 20 degrees as he hit 9.4 mph. He said to call him Science Boy, but I prefer Capt. Jack. He bought a boat too.

Learning to Sail
Tall ship Niagra.

Kelly talked about tall ships on Lake Erie. They come in on different schedules, sometimes once every other year, sometimes more frequently. “We had to pass the Niagara in a narrow channel once, and it was dicey. The outboard died and we almost hit him, it was so close.” I asked Bryan how close. “15 feet.” Bryan said they love to sail at odd hours. “We’ll go out at 4 in the afternoon when people are coming in. It’s nice to see the sun set over the water. In the early morning, it’s also good to sail.”

Nearby Sailors Bought a Boat

A couple from Chesapeake celebrated their anniversary with a long weekend in Irvington, capped by a sail on the York River. Earlier in the day a Navy guided missile cruiser came in to the Naval Weapons Station. They didn’t need to have bought a boat.

Bought a Boat!Sharon Byrd said from the helm, “This is perfect. The wind isn’t too much but enough to get moving.” Indeed, it was piping up to 10 mph as we shot out toward the Yorktown oil terminal. 

Dave Byrd spent years researching the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and he found them better than ever. “The Bay is certainly cleaner. Virginia has done a good job, Maryland too. Pennsylvania still has problems with nutrients and silt runoff.” He was being kind to the farmers of the Susquehanna watershed, who are notorious for flaunting the Bay rules. “Of course, when it rains heavily, that affects all the streams and rivers.”

Bought a Boat!Dave was also familiar with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, on  the shores of the York. “We went to ODU and have a friend who studied at VIMS. He was a competitive swimmer for Ball State and one day the bridge was stuck open. So he swam across to VIMS from Yorktown while holding his clothes over his head in a plastic bag. He probably dried himself off with his shirt. He got to class and noticed very few students. The professor said the bridge got stuck, so he canceled the class.”

San Francisco Winds

Bought a Boat!Rob and Diane Topping brought another couple from Governor’s Land to sail the day after a nor’easter front blew through. “This reminds me of San Francisco Bay,” Rob said as we tried to get in the lee of a 15-18 mph northerly wind. “I used to work out there for a boss who impressed three of our office staff to help sail his 29 Newport. It was pretty rough. But it was quite something to sail under the Oakland-Bay Bridge, an awesome experience.”

Bought a Boat!I noticed a sizable ship out near Goodwin Island, and it looked far enough out of the York Channel that it might be grounded. I made contact with a brave catamaran sailing that way, a NOAA research vessel doing work in Bay waters. A-ha.

As the wind picked up, I put out one-third of the Genoa for stability to our one-third main. So we headed in within an hour and called it a rain check. The NOAA ship turned back as well and docked at the Yorktown Oil Terminal. It was certainly the most exciting hour that any of us had experienced this month.

Let’s Go Sail to say: Bought a Boat!

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