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September 6, 2015 Alaska, Sailing, York River

Flying to Sail

You would think airline pilots would be blasé about sailing since it’s not nearly so fast. But relatively speaking, it is.

That’s what Bob Woods of suburban Roanoke found as he took his wife Lisa and their son and his cousin sailing on the York River on a rare blustery day. The sails were reefed by one-third, the whitecaps were roiling, and we went flying out the river at 20 degrees heeling in 15-20 mph winds.

“My dad taught me how to fly,” Bob recalled. “He flew a PBY seaplane left over from World War II. He could land that think on the lake and back it up an entire mile to shore. He told me flying was like sailing.” Bob flew transport jets out of Alaska for 20 years before moving to Virginia, where he does the same for a Texas company.

Lisa was unfazed by the heeling of the boat in stiff winds as the boat plowed through three-foot waves. “I’ve flown solo in my lessons to fly and I’ve soared over glaciers in Alaska,” she said.

Lisa was a parole and probation officer in Alaska and now does the same in Virginia. “The state abolished parole, so I have very few cases. It’s very difficult to find work for probation felons because employers are scared of hiring anyone with drug and alcohol dependencies, not to mention they’re felons. It’s so hard. Why doesn’t the state hire more of them, as a role model? She agreed. “I get complaints from clients that their counselors don’t have the experience to really treat drug and alcohol cases.” It’s like Catholic priests giving marriage advice. “One of my counselors has been clean for seven years, and he relates well to clients.”

She and Bob were once stranded off Fairbanks when a friend’s fishing boat broke down because the rudder lost hydraulic fluid. “He didn’t even know it took hydraulic fluid,” Bob said. “A friend came and towed us in. We were 15 miles out in the Pacific. So by comparison, this was easy.” Lisa added, “And great fun!”

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