Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise

Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise
We returned to Grand Cayman after an earlier vacation, looking for relaxation and the Caribbean sunsets. Every day is sunny, warm and breezy, comparable to perhaps 30 days all year in Tidewater Virginia. No wonder people flock here from Ohio, Canada, Germany, Poland, you name it. There are no panhandlers, no crime, no police sirens, no flies, no mosquitoes and no hassles. 
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseBonnie and I were there for ten days, which fell toward the end of Spring Break and before Easter Break. College kids were everywhere, and then they’d disappear for days. They are very big drinkers. Numerous families were on vacation as well. 
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseThe island lies in the Caribbean  Sea 150 miles due south of Cuba, so it’s easy to get to. In our case, it was a 2-hour flight from Charlotte. I got the best quick guide to Cayman Paradise by a mariner who’s seen it all in the Caribbean.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseAn industrialist name Ken Dart is developing part of the island into a commercial/residential multiplex. He’s paying for an entire highway and underpass, all of this at a sort of new town by Dart Enterprises called Camana Bay, billed as a “one-of-a-kind master-planned community.”
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseOne intriguing feature: The hurricane shutters are louvered instead of solid. In addition to looking better, the rain and wind can penetrate the windows enough to reduce interior pressure but still hold up. The last big hurricane was Ivan in 2004, which damaged or destroyed 95% of the buildings throughout the island.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseWe saw a family help a severely disabled young man out of a limo at Camana Bay, and it occurred to me that one sees very few handicapped space designated on the streets. The other notable feature is that everyone coming and going to work is so thin. It’s pervasive and remarkable, almost like a job requirement.
George Town is cleaned up and expansive, the natives quite friendly. Fodor’s Guide claims the island as the best in the Caribbean for personal safety, so that makes it appealing to cruise ship companies.

Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise

Boats, Ritz, Chicks

Up to six, seven and eight mammoth liners blow in overnight and are gone by dusk the next day. Poof. A passing mega-yacht worth millions looks tiny between two cruse ships.
A walking trail conveys historical points along the way, and the national museum in George Town describes the long history since 1503. That makes Jamestown’s founding date of 1607 look quaint.
Quick Guide to Best Cayman ParadiseGrand Cayman offers 192 things to do under Outdoor Activities in Trip Advisor. Buried within those are 67 boat cruises. Within them lie 10 sailboat cruises that parallel Let’s Go Sail. The boats here are bigger and the cruises an hour longer at four hours, but the prices are exorbitant: $750 and $800 minimum vs. my $150. I found an old catamaran for $450 a half day, but the sails looked ragged. Finally another catamaran turned up for $65 per person, but we took it last time. It motors out to a sandbar where people can jump in the North Sound to pet stingrays. On the way back, the boat is under sail but motoring quietly as well. 
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseMuch of the action is downtown and along Seven Mile Beach where all the hotels lie. As a country club rat growing up, I insinuated myself into the Ritz Carlton, where every guest room has a view of the beach. Later we had drinks and appetizers while sitting on a seaside sofa watching the sun set. Service was exquisite and we got out for a hundred bucks, without having to be a registered guest.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseIt occurred to us that Kingsmill Resort’s new owners could learn from the Ritz model. Instead of discriminating against the Great Unwashed, they could welcome nonmember residents with a markup on meals and services. That would still make membership worthwhile to both sides. What’s ironic is that owning a home in pretentious gated community doesn’t qualify for eating in the resort restaurants. 

Why High Prices

“Of course they’re high,” said a fellow named Joe, a charter captain himself who jumped off a three-masted pirate ship named the Jolly Roger to chat.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise“This is the Cayman Islands, where money is unlimited. There is no corporate tax or income tax, and no property tax either. No wonder banks and businesses flock here. I run a 65-foot schooner charter out of the BVIs, where the population is 27,000 but the number of businesses is 700,000.”
That sounds absurd, but similar ratios apply in Grand Cayman, with 40 of the world’s 50 largest banks registered. Cayman is in the BWI, or British West Indies. “Of course, these business people don’t work here and may not even know where the islands are.”
Best Quick Guide to Cayman PardiseMany of those banks occupy only a small office or a post office box. Ironically, the retail side of banking is still pretty primitive. I stood in line for 20 minutes waiting for a teller to change out $20 US to CI. Turns out it was also the only bank on the island with an ATM machine.
Joe said, “The only tax is an import tax, basically on tourists. That’s why a basic burger at a restaurant costs $15 CI. I went on Airbnb to get a room here in Grand Cayman and it cost $150 a night, for a single room. There’s not a hotel on the island less than $300 a night.” I postulated $1,000 at the Ritz-Carlton and Mike said, “or higher.”
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseThe import tax is vital because obviously everything except water comes from someplace else. When you look out at the cruise ships anchored offshore, it’s hard to fathom how many goods have to be stored on board for a ten-day cruise. Now multiply that fact exponentially to gather all the goods to sustain an entire economy. 

Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseImportance of Barges

Tucked between the cruise ships lies an unattractive barge with a weird ramp. It looked like a dredge parked there permanently. “No,” explained a beach attendant named Jason. He gave me a short tutorial on how to sustain an island economy.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise“The barge is for offloading containers to take to the other two Cayman islands. Here at Grand Cayman we have room in port for the big ships to offload, but not so at the little smaller islands. At any given time, one barge is traveling to an island while the other remains to take on cargo. The empty barge goes to the George Town port for loading. When it arrives at the islands by tugboat, the ramp drops down so they can offload the containers. You rarely see them together, except maybe when they pass each other at sea.” A few days later I caught a photo of both barges offshore. 
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseAlbeit unsightly next to the sleek cruise ships, the barges are thus the most valuable boats out there. The situation would be vastly improved by building berthing facilities for the cruise ships, as Charlotte Amalie has done in St. Thomas. That has been controversial for some years, leading the government to spend $500,000 on consultants alone. One critic described the consultancy contracts as akin to giving the consultants “our wristwatch” for them to “tell us the time” for a fee.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseJoe showed me a tourist guide with a crude nautical chart that disclosed the elusive reef surrounding Grand Cayman, which makes it so dangerous for sailboats. We saw precious few sailboats, most of them catamarans and only two or three sloops.
“I have to be careful with this boat,” he said of the pirate ship, “since it draws 9 feet. Catamarans do all right because they draw only a foot or so. There are some openings on the north side of the island where you can get in, but you need GPS and chart-plotter for sure. Don’t try to use paper charts because you won’t remember exactly where you are when you look at them.”

Cruising the Caribbean

Joe spent 21 years in Canada’s Navy and was once on loan to the US Navy at Indian Head, Maryland. “I lived in Woodbridge in Northern Virginia and would kayak across the Potomac to get to work in the morning. People asked me what I did when the river froze over, but it was just a skim of ice. I’m from Canada, so I’d just put on a sweat top.”
Joe now keeps his schooner in St. Martin where he will charter out of the south side after fitting out in a few months. Here he finds the Caymans delightful, like everyone else. “The cruise ship companies love it here because it’s safe and secure. No panhandlers or crime when four or six ships blow in and disgorge 10,000 passengers a day.” I’ve seen it at rush hour, and it’s a ballet of movement among a dozen tenders at a time.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise“The Turtle Farm is the most popular attraction for visitors, but it’s run by the government and they continue to lose $500,000 a year on it. Can you imagine that? If you or I took a crack at it as businessmen I’m sure we’d be able to turn a profit shortly.” I suggested we might have to lay off a few turtles, and he laughed.
It was good to talk to a fellow mariner who also knew his way around Grand Cayman. He deadpanned, “I’ve been here a week.” 

Lizards and Laissez Faire

Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseAll over the island we found mother hens with her baby chicks in tow. Some were just a few days old. It must be an Easter thing.
Equally populous, one finds lizards of all sizes and colors. They’re very fast and harmless, but they get might big when they evidently morph into small iguanas. A couple walked past us while watching a big one eat leaves. She said, “You know, they have a bounty of $2 on them. Bring one in and collect $2. It’s because they’re overrunning the island. In Florida they die off in the cold but here there’s nothing to kill them.” I shuddered to think of how to catch a big one.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseI pointed out the aluminum cuffs on the palm trees, which are supposed to prevent lizards from reaching the top. The man said, “We were at the George Town Yacht Club where two couples were sitting at an outdoor table having lunch. Suddenly one of these creatures dropped from the top of a palm tree right onto their table. SPLAT! They were astonished.”
We saw only two dogs in ten days, and zero cats in ten days.
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseI went to the hotel hot tub to work on my shoulder and got into a conversation with a guy in his 40s named Brett. “I live next door at the resort there but I like to come over for the hot tub. This is one of the finest beaches in the world and the safest for children. There are no waves over six inches, no riptides, no sharks or jellyfish. We love it here.”

Brett was on a conference call using head phones. “I’m just listening. Our company is in Australia. My friends and I invented the carbon car wheel. The new Mustang and Mustang GT have them, and a car company in Great Britain signed on. The wheel is lighter and stronger than steel, providing a 4% to 6% improvement in fuel efficiency. For racing cars, it can pick up one second per lap. That’s a lot.”
Best Quick Guide to Cayman ParadiseBrett reiterated how expensive it is to live in the Caymans. “But it keeps out some of the Spring Break people and those looking for cheap vacations like Cancun or Costa Rica. The politicians resist the idea of ex-pats like me living here. I’m from Canada, and with my work can live anywhere. One guy called us driftwood. Can you imagine? For all the work we do to support the island economy, and he called us driftwood.”

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Best Quick Guide to Cayman Paradise

Sailing home to Virginia

Sailing home to VirginiaIs it possible to lose a southern accent? Carolyn and Steven Wrench retired from their respective jobs in Minneapolis this summer and immediately went traveling. She grew up in Front Royal in Northern Virginia, and they have lived in Minnesota for 35 years. She had a discernible Midwestern accent, but not too flat.

Carolyn took the helm hesitantly in brisk northeast winds that took us straight out the York River. She was reluctant to learn the points of sail. “A very old friend of ours says that in order to learn anything nowadays you have to push something else out of the brain to make room for the new stuff.” She did great on the wheel and relaxed somewhat as we went flying.

Sailing home to Virginia“We had the privilege of sailing on one of the oldest sailing vessels in the world when we went on a vintage ship in Annapolis.” That was no small irony since we got to sail past the 17th century replica ship El Galeon, docked for a week at Yorktown. “We saw the tall ships come into Minneapolis once, and they were magnificent.”

“The sail that I remember well was with my Dad. He had a Sunfish and would take it out on Smith Mountain Lake. For some reason he kept losing a sneaker while sailing. He wanted Steve and I to experience the thrill, so we went out with him one day and sat there. It was dead calm. Steve and I finally jumped off and swam as we pulled the boat to shore with Dad on it. At least he didn’t lose a sneaker.”

A glorious day

Sailing home to Virginia“Years later he got out of sailing and restored a motorboat, like a small Chris Craft. He didn’t get to run it, but he ran the outboard in a 55-gallon drum filled with water. He did that to keep the engine operating. My brother drove up with a trailer and we came in from Minnesota. We trailered that boat to Smith Mountain Lake and finally he got to go out on it for the first time. That was a glorious day.”

The Wrenches have traveled the world, especially Europe. “We did the barge cruise on the Seine River from Paris to Normandy, and then the Rhone River cruise to the south of France. We did the Danube, and that took ten days. We love the water, being out on it. We live a mile from the Mississippi.”

Sailing home to VirginiaThey make it a point to travel in January and February when winters in Minnesota are brutal. “They have direct flights to the Caribbean and Cancun, so that makes it easier.” Next they’re off to Orlando to see friends and then Hawaii for a month. “But it’s always good to get home, to be home,” Carolyn added. To shovel snow? I asked. “Oh, no. I never learned how to run the snow blower. I’d have to push something else out of my brain to learn that.”

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Sailing home to Virginia

Sailing from history

Sailing from history

Three couples from Maryland, Utah and Tennessee enjoyed a light afternoon wind on the York River as they took in a narrative of the Battle of the Capes and Siege of Yorktown.

History suddenly came to life when a giant replica galleon came into view at the entrance of the York River, way out on the horizon. The replica 17th century El Galeon Andalucia is the first tall ship of its kind to call on modern Yorktown. The ship motored up the river under bare poles. Since the winds were so light, the sails were furled up into the yardarms.

Sailing from historyAs the ship past us, Jim Christopher observed that its sole cannon on the port side was aimed straight at us. I had talked at length about how cannons were deployed in sea battles. A tugboat working on a project nearby was making his daily commute home across the river when he paused to let Andalucia pass. Surprisingly, the ship pulled into the docks of Riverwalk Landing without any tugboat assistance.

Free tours are set Nov. 3, 4 and 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Paid tours are offered Nov. 5 and 6 at $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets are available at the dock or from the ship’s website,


  • Andalucia epitomizes large 17th century ships used for trade.
  • She weighs 500 tons and extends 164 feet long and 33 feet wide.
  • It’s the biggest replica ship to visit restored Yorktown.
  • Three masts furl seven sails comprising nearly 10,000 square feet.
  • Under the Nao Victoria Foundation, the ship has covered 35,000 miles.
  • She has visited ports in four of the five world continents.

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Sailing from history

Scouting the Carolinas for sailing

Scouting the Carolinas for sailing

Hurricane Matthew was unusual for how the damage occurred. Typically a hurricane batters the coast and diminishes as it heads inland. In this case, the outer bands of rain pummeled central North and South Carolina with up to 9 inches of rain, cutting off roads with high water that crested to 28 feet above normal in some places. Those same bands of rain took days to reach swollen rivers, but the coast was clear from the effect of the tides pulling out the water. That’s where we were, on the coast. 


Scouting the Carolinas for sailingOur first stop was Edenton, where the Albemarle Sound rolled into the town with three-foot waves. The lower end of the town lies three feet above sea level, just enough to keep nearly every store and restaurant high and drive. A few days after the storm, we blew into town and started at the famed 1886 lighthouse. Nearby I found a charter captain with a small electric tug that he takes tourists out on.

He said, “I couldn’t do this with a gasoline or diesel engine because there isn’t enough traffic to warrant that. We operate mainly in the summer. There’s a sailboat charter captain in town who includes it with his B&B. You take a room and he takes you sailing the next day. He has two sailboats actually. But he’s been doing it less and less because his wife took ill and he’s looking after her.”

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingWe found two beautiful homes on the water street that were perilously close to flooding. The sound crept up to two sides of each house, within 50 feet each. It looked harrowing if another storm was imminent. A few miles down the sound we found a marina with derelict sailboats and motorboats. It was sad.

The one bright spot was the town itself, friendly and beautiful. The Granville Queen Inn where we stayed is elegant and comfortable. It dates to 1907.

New Bern

Scouting the Carolinas for sailing

Farther down the coast lies the dynamic town of New Bern, where of all places a Federal Circuit Court lies. This is perhaps owing to New Bern’s history as an early settlement and town in the 1700s. The place was crawling with lawyers and yard signs for judges. The water community is based at the Neuse River.

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingThe main marina is close to town, behind a Doubletree hotel and the New Bern Grand Marina Yacht Club. I went inside and introduced myself as a charter captain scouting the territory, but that didn’t help me get the combinations to the dock from the lovely woman in charge. I went down anyway and soon discovered it was 1-2-3-4. Imagine that.

It was clear that New Bern was used as a hurricane hole during Matthew. While many boats were double-lined for safety, many more were big enough to single-line. I came across a fell from Virginia Beach on a Hunter 370, playing his guitar.

Florida damage

“I was on my way south to Jacksonville when I ducked in here for the storm. I heard that Conch Marina at St. Augustine was hit hard. Nine boats sunk and 20 others broke their moorings and wound up on the rocks. I tied mine up here and went back to Virginia Beach. From my computer I could access the CCTV cameras to watch the storm’s effects. I couldn’t see my particular boat but I could tell from the rocking that everyone was going to be okay.

“They say the Intercoastal Waterway is silted in worse in Georgia than normal, with more sandbars. I may be here for a month because I’m not going to sail outside [the ICW]. We’re fine here, but the question is what’s in the water.” It looked black, just as it did in Edenton.

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingNew Bern looks like a happening place, but no one could tell me the number of visitors who arrive each season. Two large marinas lie behind a highway, requiring an elaborate ballet of the drawbridge numerous times a day. Only small motorboats can transit otherwise. The good part, though, is that the causeway and surrounding buildings form an excellent breakwater against any storm and from the east and north.

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingAt the smaller Bridge Pointe Marina, dock manager Jesse Schumacher said the bulkheads were never breached, because of the tidal effect. I found a small green boat that resembled our 16-foot Newport/Gloucester. We got it when our girls were young and called it Wendin, for Wendy and Robin. Today that’s the name of the charter company. 

The comparable sailing charter I found was on the Bolero, a two-masted ship that sails in the afternoon and at sunset for $20 each. It looked like it could handle 25 people easily. The competitor is the 41-foot Two Peas, part of Palm Coast Tours & Sailing.


Here was our first real encounter with the impact of Matthew. The Tar River runs through Washington. It looked fine to me except for a wicked current. I asked a local about it and he pointed, “See that blue sailboat out there, moored in the river? Yesterday the current was creating as a wake.”

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingHaving never seen the river before, I was surprised to learn it was five feet over normal—and rising. Three days after the hurricane, the drenching water was still draining well inland. The only thing that saved Washington from major flooding was the tide. One fellow told me, “It doesn’t matter how much rain we get. The water will spread out into the sound,” whose height is driven by the Atlantic tides.

The only visible charter was the Jeanne B., a two-masted, 72-foot ketch billed as a schooner. It offers a three-hour tour for $25 per person. Paul and his three crew members all hold captain’s licenses. Guests are allowed to take them helm, just as they are on my boat. They offer sunset cruises as well, though no one was around perhaps because of the aftermath of the storm.


Farther south we found BOW-fert as part of the Crystal Coast of Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Carrot Island and Beaufort. Everything is spread out in what resembles Myrtle Beach for massive size. Yet no one could tell me how many visitors they get or what the season is except “summer.”

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingI found several charter boats of varying sizes. The most promising was a sloop, but it wasn’t at the dock. Two boats down, a young woman said her big catamaran Lookout makes three trips a day with 30 people including a sunset cruise. “The first two are captain’s choice, depending on the wind direction.” I liked that term, a big improvement over the golf connotation. She said of the sloop, “Captain Ron is an asshole. Please buy his boat. He’s never here and he can’t be reached by phone.”

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingElsewhere big fishing boats abound for offshore charters. A giant Navy ship called Matamoros was docked at a commercial dock, but I couldn’t find any research on it.

We crossed inland to South Carolina, and along the way we passed through many flooded areas of the Great Pee Dee River basin. Nearly a week after the storm there were still houses and churches with water standing halfway up the first story. No one was around, having long been evacuated. Inexplicably herds of deer were dead on the side of the road, three or more at a time.

The Washington Post reported that the preponderance of the communities hit hard were lowlands owned or occupied by poor farmers and families. “In some flooded communities, like Lumberton, the disaster also struck along racial lines: A white area of town was preserved, while a lower-lying African-American part now stood with several feet of water.”

Beaufort too

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingThen in South Carolina we arrived at BUE-fert at high tide, a seven-foot rise that went two feet higher in the storm before receding. We were told that several boats broke their moorings and wound up in the rushes. The dock was a floating type, and judging from the deck it may have been the first one built 25 years ago. The wood was torn and dangerous. One sailor said he came through just fine. Others were unbinding their boats.

That evening, our friends Maxine and Benton Lutz described how friends of theirs moved both cars to avoid getting hit by a big tree. They parked next to each other around the corner in a parking lot. “Another big tree fell across both of them, destroying both cars,” Benton said. “The lesson learned is to park the cars away from each other so that if the tree falls it can’t ruin both of them.”

As a venue for sailing charters, it seemed shy on critical mass for tourists. The seven-foot tides would play havoc with a 32-foot Hunter.


Scouting the Carolinas for sailingHere was the largest assembly of boats on the entire trip. People were busy unpacking their boats from Matthew. The rapid current of the Ashley River ensured a hasty exit of upriver downpours. A few signs were evident of the storm. One dock line looked severely chafed, though that could have predated Matthew.

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingAnother sailboat had a fresh gash from hitting the dock.

Nearby, one fellow said, “Charleston wasn’t hit as bad as Hilton Head. Harbor Town not so much, but Palmetto Bay had three boats destroyed.” Nearby, a fellow was dragging a line next to his dock. “It’s a grappling hook,” he said grimly. “I’m trying to find a bicycle.”

Scouting the Carolinas for sailing


Gigantic mega-yachts were tied on a half-mile dock. People were storing their bicycles and moving smaller boats around. One threesome was playing poker on the deck.

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingNext, a magnificent Hinckley yacht from Fayetteville was tied up behind a houseboat. The guy on the back of the houseboat said the Hinckley came in from somewhere else to use Charleston as a hurricane hole. “The marina near the Hinckley plant was destroyed, so I’m not sure if they brought this boat here. Hinckley isn’t a very practical boat, but it’s lovely.” I responded, “Yes, like a second wife.” He laughed.

Scouting the Carolinas for sailingThen a regatta of small boats came sailing up the Ashley with the current, zipping past all the yachts as if there had never been a storm.

Going home

On the way home, we found I-95 newly open from the state line past Fayetteville after having been closed for a week. We crossed the ominous Lumber River and Tar River, which were still plenty high but below their banks.

My business conclusion is that it will take more scouting to find a venue as good as Williamsburg and Gloucester Point. We have ready access to the water at the excellent York River Yacht Haven. We have a built-in marketing dynamo by Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg that brings in 2-3 million people year-round. Those are compelling factors. It’s good to be home.

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Scouting the Carolinas for sailing

Sailing from Annapolis to Florida

I picked up a hitchhiker named John who was headed to an auto parts store.

Sailing from Annapolis to Florida“I’m looking to fashion a gasket for my fuel pump. I found a leak in the line and have pumped the manual pump to death. It’s for an Atomic Four gasoline engine in my Catalina 27 that I sailed down from Annapolis last week. The first day, we made it to Solomons Island with a big north wind pushing us. The next day we crossed the Potomac and holed up at Reedville. The third day we anchored off Deltaville and then came down the coast to New Point Comfort. Bad weather forced us to throw out three anchors. NOAA didn’t bother to warn us about that until two hours into the storm.

“Finally we made it here [York River Yacht Haven]. We were on the way to Hampton to pick up a buddy, but that will have to wait. We were hoping to get down to the James River today and then the Inland Waterway to North Carolina. The plan is to get to Florida for the winter. Next summer I’ll return to Alaska where I work maintenance on the oil lines of the North Slope. The price of oil rises and falls, but they always need people who know the maintenance of the lines and machinery.

“I used to have a trawler in Florida but I always wanted to learn to sail and have a sailboat. The owner had a wonderful user’s manual that he wrote himself. It’s been very helpful. Still, I think it will take time to learn to sail well.”

He thanked me for the ride and jumped out of the car into a wonderful future of adventure on the water.

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Sailing with Sturgeon

Sailing with Sturgeon

The Hasz family was fully aware of the need for lifejackets because the waters of the York River are still cold. Tamara and Eric Hasz were in Williamsburg from Northern Wisconsin, where they live near Lake Winnebago. “It’s 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, but only 15 feet deep,” Eric said. They took their three sons sailing while visiting Williamsburg en route to Washington.

“Do you remember the movie ‘Grumpy Old Men’?” Tamara asked. “It was based in Minnesota but it was filmed at Lake Winnebago. For ice fishing, they cut out a four-foot hold with a chainsaw and spear sturgeon from the edge of the ice.” Eric stood up and demonstrated. “They stand there and throw the spear from above to get them.” Tamara said, “Some of the sturgeon are as big as you are.”

“People drive their cars out onto the ice, and they drag a shanty out to use for shelter while fishing. You can even get a pizza home delivered, since the shanties have address numbers. People drop old Christmas trees to mark the route and to alert others to ruts and holes. The ice is anywhere from eight inches to two feet thick.”

“It’s crazy,” Eric added. “I wouldn’t go out on it.”

Come Spring, the ice warms up and creates the Ice Shove. “As it breaks up, the ice expands and moves onto the coastline,” she said. “It encroaches on peoples’ yard as much as 30 feet or more. Local ordinances require that houses are at least 75 feet back from the shore to allow for the Ice Shove.”

Just then, we sailed past the Naval Weapons Station, where we saw a partially visible submarine and next to it a large transport ship. It turned out to be the USS Whidbey Island, a dock transport that can deploy an entire battalion of Marines with all their gear and armaments.

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Sailing Secure

Commemorative Sail

Every summer I take Nanci Bond and Ellen Janoncyzk out on a commemorative sail on the mutual day of their late husbands’ birthday. They were both named Bob.

Commemorative SailOn a virtually still day with the York River like glass, we motored over to the other side of the river and all the way out to Tue Marsh. We covered myriad subjects: art, history, politics, family, children, grandchildren, weather, Colonial Williamsburg, sports, South Dakota, California, birds, movies, comedy, gardening, football, women, high school reunions, philosophy, clouds and more.

It was like a scene out of “My Dinner with Andre,” only better because it was on a sailboat. Curiously and fortunately, we did not discuss drugs, crime, war, work or Donald Trump. The waters remained placid.

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Sailing to Coincidence

Here’s a cruise that came close to six degrees of separation. Or at the very least it was an afternoon spent sailing by coincidence.

  • We had a couple from Arlington, Virginia and a family from Arlington, Texas. Cima Khosravi and Sam Sepatti commute to Washington, where she’s with a start-up tech company.” It’s only five years old and already has 125 employees. It’s at the corner of 13th and G, downtown. At lunch I get to walk near the White House. I can eat my lunch across the street in Lafayette Park.”
  • Sailing by CoincidenceSusan and Gary Knott were on vacation with their two boys, Brock and Preston. Somehow we got to talking about dental problems, and Susan had a doozy. “I have to go through a procedure in which they remove tissue from the roof of my mouth and graft it onto my upper gums. I’m an inveterate tooth brusher and grind my teeth. The combination has made the gums recede, exposing the nerves so that I’m super sensitive to hot and cold. When they do the bottom set of teeth, they’ll take tissue from an animal. It’s all super gross, I know.” She was talking about it in a bemused way, not the least complaining. Here’s the coincidence: Sam Sepatti is a practicing dentist.

Stockholm connection

“I’m from Stockhom,” he said. “Unlike in the United States, you don’t have to go to college before going to dental school. Yet dental school is harder than medical school. I did my post-graduate work at U-Conn School of Dentistry and then I fell in love with Florida and worked in Ft. Lauderdale. Now I’ve been practicing with my uncle for the past five years.

Sailing by Coincidence

  • Cimi interjected, “Next week he’s going out to Wise, Virginia, to help treat rural patients, 1,400 of them.” Sam explained, “I started Dentists Without Borders” in Sweden and am trying to help out here. We have a team that sets up a tent. We may see as many as 2,500 patients.” I have some familiarity with dentists, having edited my daughter’s marketing guide for dentists. I wrote down the name for Sam.
  • Sam and Cimi were staying at Kingsmill Resort, and I live on the grounds of Kingsmill.
  • “I always wanted to learn to play golf,” she said. Much later in the sail I realized she could learn a lot from Gary Knott. I asked him about his handicap. “Seven. It used to be four or five, but back then I was playing as many as 150 rounds a year.”
  • Cimi grew up in San Francisco and became a Giants fan when they took on the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series. “That was so amazing, how it pulled the entire community together for one common goal.” Gary was there too. “I flew to San Francisco on the owner’s jet and attended two games with him.” Gary is a construction executive in Arlington.
  • Susan grew up in Iowa and Sam spent time there too. Gary observed that it was a pretty boring place and no one disagreed.

Team Texas

Their younger son Prescott wore a “Team Texas” baseball hat for Little League. He plays second base for a travel team that is working its way up through the state regionals. The older son Brock is hoping to go to the University of Southern California, which Cimi knew well from her travels to Los Angeles.

Sailing by CoincidenceBrock is looking at other colleges and admits to having middle grades. “I’m going to brag on you,” his mom said. “Colleges look at extra-curricular work by high school students, and Brock volunteers at his church to help mentally challenged children. He also established a Key Club at his school.” I knew about that since I was in Kiwanis for years, which sponsors Key Clubs at high schools and Circle K at colleges. “Their projects to establish the club come in three levels, and he chose the hardest level. He’s very high-achieving.”

  • San Francisco and Sam’s background reminded me of the Stockholm Syndrome. “Yes,” he said, “where the hostage takes on the point of view of the kidnappers and identifies with them” The most famous example is Patty Hearst, who was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army during the 1970s and helped them rob a bank. But the origin was a Swedish bank robbery in 1973 where some of the bank employees empathacised with the robbers. “Bank robbery used to be very big in Sweden,” Sam said, “because security was lax and money was there for the taking.”
  • Both couples have vacationed in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja California peninsula of Mexico. They loved it, and they’ve been to Canun as well.
  • We covered the Siege of Yorktown, whose roots were the Battle of Green Springs when the Marquis de Lafayette challenged Lord Cornwallis’s expeditionary force. As it happened, the Knots were staying at nearby Green Springs Plantation.

The breeze was light and variable but no one was complaining. Afterward Gary said, “We had such an enjoyable conversation that we forgot to eat.”

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Sailing by Coincidence

Sailing with Heroes

On a dark and dreary afternoon, a couple from Portsmouth drove up to the Peninsula to go sailing on the York River, only to find the skies clearing after two days of rain. They are both retired military, having served in extraordinary ways.

Sailing with HeroesJoy Morris was a combat medic in the Army and was quick to qualify her work. “I did a lot of training of other medics, mostly stationed in Germany. Now I’m a licensed practical nurse, working on my degree to become a registered nurse.” She had never sailed before, but she handled the wheel as if it was one more challenge to seize.

Dean Sheridan was a pararescue medic, or PJ for pararescue jumper. He was in the Air Force but worked with all branches. “You can look it up. We jump behind enemy lines to rescue injured and wounded Americans. I worked three tours in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. We operate on the ground, in the air and on the sea.” He said this with pride but without the least tone of bragging, like an accountant explaining a balance sheet.

Sailing with Heroes“The idea started in the 1940s in Burma to rescue downed pilots during World War II. By the 1980s it morphed into ground rescue operations during combat.” A Navy helicopter flew overhead and he described its features. I asked how many jumps he made and he said 692. I was floored. Joy interjected with a smile, “He’s still mad that he didn’t get to 700.” Dean qualified the number by saying, “Only 18 were combat jumps. I jumped in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. One time we had to jump at night behind the lines to rescue two SEALS wounded in combat. We landed within 500 meters, but it turned out to be in an active land mine site. We had to pick our way carefully through the mines to get them.”

We sailed past the Yorktown fuel dock, where four pumps used to take gas and diesel from ships to the Virginia Fuel Farm behind the USCG Training Center. “Those fuel pumps remind me of going into Basra,” Dean said softly. “I went in with a SEAL team to clear the dock of explosive charges that Iraqis had planted to blow up the fuel operation.”We sailed past the Yorktown fuel dock, where four pumps used to take gas and diesel from ships to the Virginia Fuel Farm behind the USCG Training Center. “Those fuel pumps remind me of going into Basra,” Dean said softly. “I went in with a SEAL team to clear the dock of explosive charges that Iraqis had planted to blow up the fuel operation.”

“Beginning in the Eighties, I missed Grenada but if American fireworks went off anywhere in the world, I was there. I was lucky. My leg got injured and now I need to care for it. I had the last bit of shrapnel removed from my hip. They wouldn’t let me keep it since shrapnel is considered a biological hazard.” He walks with the use of cane.

His luck nearly ran out on his 17th combat jump. “This was a static jump, where the chute opens automatically after you jump out of the plane. I looked up and instead of seeing the canopy I saw only the streamer. I got ready to pull my reserve chute but then the main chute finally opened.”

How much time did you have? “This was at 3,500 feet, so I’d say six seconds.” How much time did you have to pull the reserve chute? “Another two seconds.” Then what? “I made it, I landed without injury. But as I gathered up my chute I felt something was wrong. I had urinated in my pants.”

I was showing Joy the CDBG “collision course” concept that was used in 18th century sea battles to shoot from one warship to another. Today it’s used to avoid hitting modern boats. I realized Dean knew all about that from flying, but his timeframe was severely compressed. I asked if ever experienced a close call in the air. “Yes, we were flying level when another plan came up to our elevation on a collision course. It came within 150 meters before we both broke off.” How much leeway did you have? He thought for a moment. “1 to 1-1/2 seconds.”

Sailing with HeroesAfter a prolonged silence, he asked brightly, “Do you remember Jessica Lynch?” I had to think about it and remembered that she was the first American POW rescued from Iraq. “I led the PJ operation to rescue her and three others.” She was controversial for accidentally (or stupidly) crossing enemy lines, but Dean was diplomatic. “She went one way when she should have gone the other way.”

An hour later, with Joy doing magnificently in choppy seas, I mentioned to Dean that Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that serving on the front lines of the Civil War was the highlight of his famous life, “the top.” Did he ever get bored now? “Yes,” he said simply. “There’s no adrenaline rush like dealing with someone who’s trying to kill you.”

We got to talking about children. “I have a son who’s 32 and lives in Chile with his wife. I can’t wait to have grandchildren.” Someday they will discover that their grandfather earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star for Valor, and seven Purple Hearts.
“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Sailing to Modernity

Sailing to Modernity

Two things we take for granted in Tidewater Virginia are weather and bridges.

I was explaining to two couples from Norfolk that I get people from all over the country for whom the weather is not a big news story but a big tragedy. You name it: floods, tornadoes, forest fires, drought, earthquakes. None of these plague us, and even when the weather is bad in Virginia it’s better in Tidewater.

Sailing to ModernityJack Fitzgerald explained why. “The Weather Service will tell you that Zone 8 is simply better. It extends through eastern-most Virginia right up to Williamsburg. The snow line is at Williamsburg, and we won’t get any snow in Norfolk or Virginia Beach.
Jack and his pal Dale Murray grew up in Norfolk in the 1950s. Dale said, “You had to take the ferry everywhere to cross the water. We used to go hunting at A.P. Hill,” an Army base above Richmond. “It would take eight or nine hours by ferry and now it’s a couple of hours.”

They would take the ferry across the lower end of Chesapeake Bay to go to Cape Charles. Jack said, “The rail ferry brought trains across to Little Creek and from there on to Norfolk. All that dried up until the bridge tunnel was built, and even then Cape Charles isn’t much today.”

Sailing to ModernityDale is a developer. “I built 78 condos at Bay Creek Resort, and we couldn’t find local help to work on them. So I had to hire men from Norfolk and pay their tolls every day for the 17-mile bridge tunnel. We added $3,000 per unit just to cover their tolls.”

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Sailing to Modernity