A Richmond family celebrated Dad’s 50th birthday with an exciting sail on the York River that included up to a dozen dolphins. Kathleen Kirschman brought her daughters along, and Michael Kirschman brought his high-powered camera which came in handy. Everyone shot numerous pics as we picked up the dolphins outside Sarah Creek.
They ran behind us in relatively calm waters before we had to turn around in low water. Then they simply turned and followed us on the second leg, and again and again. Clearly they were swimming with the boat. You could hear them as well as they rose and fell in the York. We sailed back and forth for more than 20 minutes before they tired of us and sailed away.
So much for the Dolphin Cruise as they were nowhere to be found next morning. Three guys and a woman took off spontaneously from Virginia Beach. The men were military band members and the woman was one of their girlfriends. Ringleader John Runyon sailed half the time, having run through the ASA courses. We barreled out toward Goodwin Island on a close reach in a 15 mph northeasterly wind that was building as we neared the Chesapeake Bay. They were fearless as the boat heeled to 20 degrees.
His friend Tony Smouse said, “I’m in the US Navy band as part of Fleet Forces. In fact, we all are except John, who used to be. I play the French horn. Yes, it takes extensive auditions to qualify. John used to be in the Fleet Forces, now he’s in the Army Band. John said, “The Navy downsized me out in 2011, so I stayed out three years. Then I joined up with the Army. I play drums.”
Jim Watkins plays the trombone. “You can see the improved quality of the Navy Band because of its selectivity. I’ve been in ten years, and the professionalism of the members is better than ever.” They attributed this partly to the fact that a military band simply pays better than a typical symphony, and the work is consistent.
The benefits are pretty good too. Jim said, “Tony and I were in Italy when the Covid virus broke out. We were brought back to the United States for safety reasons. Can’t wait to get back.” John eventually passed the helm to Jim, who had worked through ASA 101, 103 and 104.
Jim recalled other high seas like today’s. “My buddy and I were sailing a Flying Scot out here on the York in a big wind. We trained for how to avoid capcizing by releasing the main at the last second. We watched as a father and son in another Flying Scot went over because they didn’t release the main. At first we didn’t see them in the water even though they had life preservers on. Then we saw the boat dragging the dad alongside.”
In the afternoon, the seas held up nicely in the 15 mph easterly but the Dolphin Cruise would not be repeated. Angel Rodriquez of suburban Richmond took his wife and children out on the York. Because they had no sailing experience, we headed for the lee shore on the other side of the Coleman Bridge to avoid the earlier extreme sailing. Angel ran the boat with deft ability, unusual for a first-timer. He turned out to be well trained in life experiences, which I discovered after gentle probing.
“I was in the Army and did my 20. Now I’m retired and enjoying every day. I started out as a private, and the Army said I did so well on the tests that I should apply for OCS. That was at Fort Benning. Around 30 men dropped out of OCS among a class of 240. That took six months. Then I went on to Ranger School and eventually Special Forces training. That took a year and a half of training. In a class of 270, 20 were left at the end. Overseas, I was the logistic and artillery officer for a Special Ops team of 12 men, as a major.”
I asked how long it would have taken to make lieutenant colonel. “Let’s see… five years. But I got hurt.” Hurt? “In combat,” he said matter-of-factly. I asked if he was shot. “No, car bomb in Iraq,” he said quietly. That ended the conversation, in deference to his family. “Like I said, I’m really enjoying retirement.” On this day, he and his family had a lot of fun together.
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Richmond dad celbrated his 50th by watching a dozen dolphins frolic in the York.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williasmburg Charter Sails / Let's Go Sail