Those two USCG buoy tenders were still there at the Yorktown Training Center, and today the classroom work had moved outside. As we sailed past, we got to watch them pick up a red buoy off the deck and extend it over the gunwale for deployment. Hard to think that each one weighs 11 tons—and floats!*
On board were couples from Columbia SC and Milford NJ. Nancy and Tim Wilson live on the “west coast” of New Jersey, which is to say the Delaware River. “It’s not much of a coast,” she allowed, “only a couple of hundred yards, but it sounds elegant.”
They have sailed the past 15 years on a Precision 21 and they love it. “The boat is trailerable,” Tim said, “although we leave it at a nearby lake and sail there mostly. The lake is small and the winds are fluky, but it’s still great. And it’s only 12 miles away.”
It was in honor of Tim that we set the spinnaker for the first time in a month. It was a grand adventure for all. A rising easterly wind allowed us to tack out to the entrance of the Severn River, from which we ran downwind on a long diagonal upriver. It was the ultimate how-to lesson for Tim, who soaked up all the details of a hands-on lesson. While the other three sat on the bow, we talked about how cathartic sailing is no matter what the weather or other condition. Out here, all is well.
Kristen and Rick Inman were celebrating their first anniversary. He was sporting a Clemson hat, so I congratulated him on the big upset over Alabama for the national football championship. “We were there,” he said proudly. “My family has season tickets and we managed to score them for the big game.” What fun.
Rick is a Lutheran minister with a small congregation. “I’m also a two-time kidney transplant. The first time was when I was three years old, and I got it from my dad. Back in the 1980s they didn’t know the shelf life of a kidney transplant, which turns out to be around 25 years. So in 2012 I got my second transplant, at USC-Charleston Hospital. I’m under no restrictions as long as I take my meds. I’ve had a chance to do ministries abroad, but with my condition I wouldn’t want to go to a third world country.”
The Wilsons are into RVing and were staying at Thousand Trails campground on the Piankatank River, nearby. Nancy said, “For $35 a month membership we can stay for 30 days at any member park. It’s better than the National Park system. Of course, some are better than others but you can’t beat the price. We’ve been on a big loop from the Outer Banks to the Eastern Shore and then here.”
They moved gracefully to the bow to hang out for privacy. Nancy recalled the rule of keeping one hand free and one for the boat. “We had a friend named Big Jim who paid no attention and went from the dock to the boat free-handed,” she said. “Next thing you know, he was splayed out across the bow. Didn’t listen. He was no spring chicken, either.”
She saw the cormorants and drew a distinction. “Remember the movie On Golden Pond? Those were fresh-water loons that were black and white. These are all black and must be for salt water.” You learn something new every day out here.
Her sisters and friends flew in from Seoul, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York to take Hailey Park sailing on the York River the day before her wedding. Hailey is a William & Mary alumna and sailing team graduate. She did great on the Genoa by switching sheets adroitly as we sailed out of the channel, quickly pulling the lines and moving out of the way of the sight line.
The wedding is set for the Williamsburg Winery, and while we were out there they got an upgrade to their hotel rooms in town because of the wedding. Hailey is an actuary in Atlanta. Her groom is a new Army second lieutenant who’s returning to Fort Benning for Airborne and Ranger training. After champagne toasts and toward the end of a magnificent adventure, we stopped the boat so they could jump in the water to cool off.
Small World, Sailing
Two couples from Portsmouth and Richmond went sailing to celebrate each fellow’s birthdays. Fred Schriever said, “The last time I sailed around here was out of Portsmouth with a friend on his Cape Dory 27. We went all the way to the Eastern Shore. That was years ago.” He retired from health care risk management with Sentara. By coincidence, Lisa Meyer works in health care risk management with an insurance company. They talked about mutual friends and associates, regaling each other from years past. What are the odds.
Lisa’s husband Bruce had been watching You Tube videos on sailing before venturing out on the York River. He let her sail rather than take the wheel, and she did a good job handling fluky winds and an occasional gust. “I’ve been following a guy on patrion.com, the arts website. He was a commercial pilot who had to give up his license because of a stroke. He recovered enough to take up sailing, and once sailed from Canada to Thailand.” For a guy who learned sailing via videos, Bruce did an excellent job turning the Genoa sheets in stiff winds. I told him it takes hours to learn what he knew. He shrugged.
Bruce’s passion isn’t boats, but tractors. “I restore old John Deeres. I’ve done nine so far, plus two red Case tractors which I sold. I take mine to John Deere shows in Ohio and other states. You can still get parts for some of these. I can fashion my own parts, too. The oldest tractor is 1941.”
Later, Vinton and Doris Land of Williamsburg joined Debbie Black and Bernard Thomas, who were returning from a sail two years ago. Vinton said, “I’m thinking of buying an old Flying Scot that’s just sitting in a guy’s yard over in Mathews County. It has new sails and a new trailer, though the boat itself needs work. It even has a spinnaker, which I would love to fly.” So we did just that.
(*Note: The USCG cutters departed this afternoon, and I couldn’t help calling on marine radio to verify the buoys weigh 22,000 pounds. The fellow who answered paused and said, “No, that’s not right. More like 12,000 pounds.” It’s still amazing that they float.)
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Couples Enjoy Sailing
Two couples who had never met enjoyed sailing under spinnaker on the York River.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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