Here it is almost October and we’re still swimming in the York River. An ambitious family from Raleigh NC took advantage of a lull in the wind to jump off the boat on a beautiful Indian summer afternoon. The water is still 80 degrees, so why not?
Also on board was a couple from Richmond celebrating her birthday with a romantic stay at a B&B near the water. Next week they’re going to the Kilmarnock Inn. We drifted through a bevy of boats out fishing for spot. Doug Floore deadpanned, “My dad taught me how to fish. You take a fishing pole down to the dock with a cooler of beer. You’re good.”
Doug lived for years in New Zealand. “I worked in Wellington and got to watch the America’s Cup in 2010 when we nearly won it. I think we were up 8-0 and lost 9 straight to lose 9-8.” I mentioned that Team Oracle cheated to win, and he was quite aware.
In the afternoon, Chris Sherman of Richmond took his gal Melissa Love out. He’s an executive with Luck Companies, including Luck Stone. We talked about rip rap along the coast, which he said costs $25 a ton. That seemed cheap to me until I processed how few rocks comprise a ton. “And then there’s the cost of delivery,” he added dryly.
The wind picked up and Melissa got to tack six times on the way out to Goodwin Island. From there, we turned upriver and flew the spinnaker in a straight line all the way back as they spent some private time on the bow. It was glorious.
Sunday brought a rare sighting of a Navy warship coming into Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. That suggests more saber rattling in the Middle East by the Trump administration. We were tipped off by the arrival of two huge Moran tugs, which usually arrive an hour beforehand to catch the ship as it transits the Coleman Bridge. Sure enough, here comes the USS Mahan, a guided missile cruiser dating to the 1980s and a frequent visitor to Yorktown. Our crew was mesmerized. As if that were not enough, they also got to see dolphins trailing our sailboat.
A couple from Lynchburg took the morning cruise to get the feel of a bigger boat. Jonathan Raper just bought a Catalina 27, which he keeps at the Virginia Inland Sailing Association on Smith Mountain Lake. “It’s the oldest sailing club of its type (inland), and it’s where the boat from ‘What About Bob’ is still berthed. “We have yachts up to 80 feet long and a sailboat that’s 57 feet.”
Jonathan was limping from a full knee replacement. “I was T-boned on my motorcycle as I tried to make a U-turn. It was another guy on a motorcycle doing 70 in a 35 zone. They had to set numerous bone breaks in my left leg during operations that took 20 hours. I’m lucky they saved the leg.” The couple had such a good time that they stayed for the afternoon sail, which was better because of the destroyer and earlier a few dolphins that showed up. Sea trials, above and below water.
A couple drove up from Norfolk to test the waters for a bigger boat. Leo Cappuccio said, “My wife and I operate a trucking company and work around the port. We’ve sailed before and are thinking of getting a bigger boat.” They both got a lesson in sailing and more. I explained the difference between tacking and jibing, to which Leo said, “Oh yeah, we know that. We almost flipped a Hobie Cat while sailing off Willoughby Spit. When we jibed, it broke the mast.” Karen held the wheel tightly as we tacked several times downriver, heeling past 20 degrees in 12 mph winds. “I love this!”
Around 1 pm I spotted a huge ship on the horizon, and it turned out to be the USS Arlington coming into the Naval Weapons Station after the prior day’s arrival of a guided missile cruiser. The Arlington is 684 feet long and operates as an amphibious transport dock for 800 Marines to land on shore with up to four giant helicopters. “From afar, it looks like the Titanic,” Karen Brent said.
The ship came in at an angle to stay within the lights that mark the York channel. Then it took a sharp right to head for the Coleman Bridge. At two miles out, I radioed the ship on Channel 13 that I was moving to the south side of the river to stand off near Riverwalk Landing, to give him plenty of leeway. The radio operator acknowledged me curtly.
We could see sailors on the aft section, and they looked very small. The couple looked on in wonderment. Karen said, “My dad was stationed on the USS Butte and I used to ride my bike down there at the Navy Yard to see the Butte and the Independence,” which was an aircraft carrier.
Later, a member of the Sunday crew happened by chance to be in Yorktown when he snapped a photo of us and the Arlington together. Jonathan Raper had stayed overnight and was leaving with his wife to go home to Lynchburg. The open door at the water level on the port side is for a pilot from one of the Moran tugs to board the ship and take the helm to guide into the dock. The ship slows from 10 knots to 5 once transiting the bridge so the pilot can jump on more safely. As the Arlington made it through, the bridge radioed a quick, “Thanks, Coleman,” to the bridge tender. We could see two Navy warships and three tugs converging.
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A family from Raleigh enjoyed a late summer swim in the York River, which was still 80 degrees.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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