Danger Sails

Danger Sails

A couple from metro Richmond returned for another sail and brought friends with them. Donna Ludwig recalled the last time she and Buddy went sailing.

“It was with my brother-in-law on his sailboat, slightly smaller than this, say 27 feet. It was a day like today and we had a wonderful time. But when we docked, well you tell the rest of the story, Buddy.”

“He got it into the slip and then disappeared. Evidently, he jumped onto the dock and fell in the water. Amazingly, he pulled himself up over the side of the boat and flopped onto the deck, bleeding profusely.

Danger Sails

“He had cut the web of his hand on something near the boom and was bleeding everywhere. Then he told me to apply a tourniquet on his arm near the shoulder, but I thought that was too high. He kept pressure on the wound but it still bled badly. When we got to the hospital, the doctor asked whose idea it was to apply a tourniquet that high.”

Donna resumed. “We don’t know what happened. He had just broken up with his girlfriend and was upset. But he shouldn’t have jumped off the boat.” Buddy added, “He panicked.”

Danger SailsTheir friend Russell Walsh had his own horror story. “I took a cruise ship from Florida to the Grand Bahamas. It was supposed to be two ships, but one of them broke so they packed everyone into the other ship. Even though it was tight, they made up for it by offering us a big meal the first night. Then the storm hit. It was the same Blizzard of ’93 that we were trying to escape back in Ohio. Everyone was throwing up all over each other. The trip back was bad, too. I was sitting up in the dining room near the bow and could see the side of the ship bobbing up and down in a storm. It was terrible.”

Sailing by VIMSThe winds were light, so we drifted downriver and around the stern of a tugboat holding a fuel barge tight. Off in the distance, we saw the R/V Virginia approaching. The Research Vessel Virginia belongs to VIMS, but here it was approaching Riverwalk Landing to dock for lunch, apparently.

Danger Sails

War Footing

The USS Truxtun cleared the Coleman Bridge toward NWS Yorktown, where it joined the USS The Sullivans for munitions loading/unloading. Navy activity has picked up quickly this month after the Hamas invasion of Israel.

The captain was evidently nervous about the condition of the bridge because he called for the opening while 600 yards off the USCG Training Center dock. The Navy usually waits until turning at the dock before requesting the opening. He also asked how long it would take to open, to which the bridge replied seven minutes.

I radioed my intentions to the Truxtan, and the fellow seem confused. He repeated that I would remain on the north side of the river to allow plenty of leeway, and added, “Okay.”

Sure enough and as anticipated, the bridge got stuck but only after the Truxtan transited. It got snagged at the very end where it spent ten minutes trying to close. That plus the premature opening must have backed up traffic several miles in both directions.

War Footing

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.

Anniversary Sail

Mary and Keith Stout of Myrtle Beach SC spent their 47th anniversary sailing on a crisp fall afternoon. Mary took the helm as first-time sailor and hung on tight for 16 miles, steering on a close reach with impeccable accuracy.

Part of her precision derived from having once been a teacher. “I used to teach day care and pre-school. It was a lot of fun, but you have to be careful. At that age, they believe everything you say. And they depend on you.”

Anniversary SailHer most vivid memory on a boat was fishing with her brother-in-law. “We were out there one night at the reservoir when he suddenly shouted, ‘Mary, get up here! I need to lie down. Head for that light over there.” I did just that and as we got close, I hollered for him to find out what to do next. He woke up. ‘Holy shit! We’re going to go over the dam!’ He managed to stop short.”

Later, we got to talking about newspapers. “My sister worked for a paper and got laid off. So she went to a smaller paper and has done well ever since. She was at a funeral when she walked up to Andy Griffith to introduce herself. He was very rude and said he wasn’t going to do an interview at a funeral.

“She had no intention of that, just trying to be polite. She also got to interview Jimmy Carter, while sitting on his porch. They talked extensively; he was very down-home. And you remember George C. Scott, how tough he was? She interviewed him on a movie set and found him very kind and friendly. You just never know.”

Anniversary SailThe topic shifted to Navy ships that have become retired and now serve as museums. Keith said, “We were on the USS North Carolina in a group tour. There was a 15-year-old with an older fellow who must have been his grandfather. We could overhear him telling stories about serving onboard.

“We stayed as close as possible to hear him. At one point, we were up on deck looking down a hold as big as this boat. The guy said, ‘My buddy was drunk and he fell down there, all the way.’ The boy asked, ‘Did he die?’ ‘Nah.’”

Navy Sail

A Maryland couple drove in from Andrews Joint Air Base to spend the afternoon sailing. It has hardly Chris Kirby’s first time on the water.

“I worked once on a Viking replica ship out of Annapolis,” he said. “We could take 12 people at a time sailing. But when the wind died, they had to row — just like in the old days.

Navy Sail

“I also served 13 years in the Navy, much of it on the USS Blue Ridge based in Japan. As a machinist mate, I worked on engines.” I asked about the speed. “40 to 50 knots. It could run that fast because it was large enough for big engines to turn two props. And it was one of the last steamships in the Navy.” It’s the flagship of the 7th Fleet and extends more than 600 feet. “We used to ferry admirals out to sea as a glorified taxi, but usually they would just helicopter in and out instead of stay onboard.”

Navy Sail

“We had about 1,000 crew. I slept in a berth with 200 or 300 other guys.” And storms? “Oh yeah. It was extremely rough but amazingly comfortable to sleep in because the rolling ship rocks you to sleep. On your feet working, though, not so much.” I asked how long the storm last. “Three days,” he said casually.

Chris was that rare passenger who asked if we had ever lost anyone overboard, to which I answered no. How about you, I asked. “No, the only thing overboard was the test dummy. It takes about an hour to recover it because you have to turn around. They told us it was a futile exercise because if any of us went over they wouldn’t be able to find us. The dummy has an electronic homing device, which helped recovery.”

Navy SailHe did joint training at one point with all the services. “It was funny because when the Navy stood to sing their service song the Marines had to stand and sing it as well. But when the Marines stood up to sing their song, the Navy didn’t have to. The best was a Coast Guard guy who didn’t even recognize his own song and suddenly stood up to join in.

“You know what MARINE stands for? Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Even.” Chris’s lady Angela Marchman reluctantly took the helm and came to enjoy it thoroughly. We sailed briskly into the afternoon sun with balmy temperatures for June. Later, his gal Angela Marchman wrote that they had a great time. Go Navy!


FinallyFinallyAt season’s end on Thanksgiving, I got an email from Kyle Robinson whose wife Madison was pregnant when we sailed over the summer.

He proudly sent a photo of their new son Grey and asked for advice whether to buy a 27-foot Catalina dating to 1973. The photos looked good and everything seemed shipshape despite the boat being 50 years old. I suggested new sails but otherwise gave a thumbs-up.

The season closed out with over 200 trips and 850 people. After 11 years at sea on the York River, I reckon some 7,000 people got to sail. Some, like the Robinsons, went on to sail their own boat.

Let’s Go Sail

Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. Scroll down reviews on Trip Advisor. Go back to the home page of Williamsburg Charter Sails.   

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