Some people have wonderful childhood sail memories, largely about their parents. While sailing the York with his wife Melissa, Ralph Leonard recalled his dad.
“We sailed a trimaran off the coast of Florida to the Bahamas. I guest it took maybe a day. We stayed overnight on the beach and sailed back the next day. It was very adventurous for my dad, who was a CPA behind a desk. His brother was also a sailor, very ambitious. I never saw him but once with a T-shirt on. It was always just a Speedo.
“Then he disappeared one night at sea in a small boat. We always wondered what became of him. He may have run out of money and went off. My dad thought he would turn up someday, but no. Perhaps he was trying to elude the authorities. My dad died last year. I think of him often.”
I sent them up to the bow for a little private time, and managed to take a photo with the Yorktown Beach Hotel in the background. That’s where they’re staying. Somehow, we got onto school shootings. Melissa said, “My sister taught at Marjorie Stoneham in Parkland, Florida,” where in 2018 a disgruntled student killed 17 and wounded 17 others. “My sister later taught the siblings of those killed. Other teachers left to get away from the trauma.”
To celebrate their touring Williamsburg, Jennifer Dryer and Brett Owens went sailing on the York on a warm day in a light breeze. They recently retired from a unique business niche.
“We used to sell used heavy-duty equipment,” Brett explained. “We bought and sold with dealers. A dealer would have a buyer for a new piece of equipment, and that person would be trading in the old equipment. We bought it from him and resold it to others. Yes, we were a middleman – not a broker but a buyer. We took the burden of the used vehicle, and the risk was that it was more defective than we were led to believe. You could lose a lot on a bad deal, but we made out okay. It put the kids through college.”
Suddenly we got distracted by a pod of dolphins swimming off of VIMS. It was breathtaking.
In advance of Hurricane Ophalia working her way up the coast, Stephanie and Tyler Nolan arrived from Virginia Beach to sail in mild winds on a warm September morning.
Stephanie was surprised that we were one of only two sailboats out on the expansive York. “I’m from San Diego, where the boating is crazy. I used to work as an EMT and once saw the Marine Police rescue a drunk woman out in the water. They used a helicopter and a hook and shone the bright spotlight down to rescue her. You think to yourself, That’s what we’re spending our tax dollars on? There’s all sorts of crazy stuff as we raced around, putting out fires.” By contrast, the York River was serene as could be, and then we spotted a few dolphins gliding off the bow.
Tyler is based with the Navy at Oceana Air Naval Station. “I’ve never been to sea, and not so sure I want to go out on deployment for six or nine months. I work on F-35 jets like you see in the Thunderbirds.” Stephanie interjected, “Hence the sweatshirt.” They got to see the Thunderbirds at the annual air show last week. I asked, Did they wave to you? “Sure,” Tyler said.
We chatted briefly about the F-35 that went down a few days earlier after the pilot ejected due to a malfunction. The jet flew another 5-10 minutes on autopilot before crashing 60 miles away. I suggested he had some explaining to do. Tyler was circumspect. “Yeah, craigslist already has jokey ads that read: $100 million Navy jet for sale, no questions asked.”
On a very brisk day of easterly winds from Ophalia, we went under the Coleman Bridge to get to the lee shore. There for the first time we saw the results of the $11 million shoreline stabalization along the Colonial Parkway. As for the $123 million rebuild of the entire parkway, the stretch is still open from the Revolutionary War Museum to Route 199. One can still see the mountains of stone and dirt in the staging area at King’s Creek for the shoreline project.
For the first time in six weeks, a US Navy warship sailed into Yorktown from the Norfolk Naval Base. The USS Porter is an older guided missile cruiser that has come and gone here over the years. A family and a couple got to see the ship come cruising up the river at noon on Sunday and proceed through the open Coleman Bridge. It is a sight to behold. I showed them the tubes (covered with blue sleeves) where the Tomahawk missiles emerge, mid-deck.
In the afternoon, another family combined a birthday and a wedding to enjoy brisk winds with cloud cover to avoid too much sun.
Georgeanna Neal took the helm without asking, having sailed a 26-foot TC Commodore out of Queens Lake Creek on the upper York. She had some challenges adapting from tiller to wheel but got it soon enough.
“I had an accident on the York with another couple. My older friend Holly was on the helm when I got a sudden premonition and looked up to see us hitting a daymark. I yelled, ‘Off the deck! Off the deck!’ and we managed to deflect it instead of hitting it bow-on. I dove into the cabin and hit my ribs on the entrance, bad enough to go to the doctor. Very painful, and I had nightmares for a week. Holly is 74 and is very frail after suffering a stroke. I think we need to sell the boat.”
I tried to talk her out of it and may have succeeded. Three days later, she wrote: “I spoke with Captain Hap and he is not going to sell Haiku II, the Commodore T-26, after all. We will not let one mishap frighten us off of the York River!”
Her beau David Hagginbottom brought along his daughter and her new husband. He’s a retired Air Force pilot of B-52s. We talked about the DBDR tactic to determine a collision course. “I nearly had an accident when I mistook the dot on the windshield to determine the collision course. It was actually a bug. My co-pilot caught my mistake, and we avoided a crash.”
David offered some sage advice for pilots in the air and on the water. “They say pilot error can be attributed to three factors: ignorance, arrogance, complacency.
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.
Let’s Go Sail
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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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