People ask, “Does sailing make a good birthday gift?” Every year, Chris and Marty McCurry of Spruce Pine NC try to do something special on their son’s birthday. This week John Caleb McCurry got an up-close look at US Navy submarine barreling up the York River to the Naval Weapons Station. We were sailing near the channel and had to hightail it north to the other side. Two Navy patrol boats escorted us with a brief siren wail and blue lights flashing. By marine radio, we could hear traffic from “Warship 52,” but no such submarine shows up in the Navy logs.
The boat had steam flowing from the conning tower, not exactly a stealthy profile. I later learned that the steam was “bleeding” from the con to ventilate it from the boat. The same nuclear powerhouse generates steam for cooking, heating, etc. My Navy source said they usually bleed the steam underwater or at night. The sub commander has the option of ordering the Coleman Bridge to open, but he just sailed under it instead. “Warship 52” was a nom-de-plume for the short trip from Norfolk, where it was likely docked at the Destroyer & Submarine Pier. Check out the video below of the Coleman Bridge.
It turned out to be a Los Angeles class attack sub. “They live to protect aircraft carriers, especially during the Soviet threat,” my source said. “Nowadays they work different missions, and they even built a platform on the stern for SEALs to deploy. They can fire Mark 48 missiles and Tomahawk missiles, now stored at the Naval Weapons Station. It’s very unusual for subs to come all the way up here, though.”
Marty runs a unique and environmentally progressive business in the North Carolina Highlands that produces wood products, notably Bark House brand shingles. He happened to mention that he was here observing the shipment of 15 tractor-trailer loads of split rail fence to Yorktown. I thought about that for a moment and realized he had won the contract to replace the fence that delineates Surrender Field at the Yorktown Battlefield. This historic path outlines where 7,000 British marched in their humiliating surrender as they passed between American and French forces standing tall. You can see the Brits lined up in the background of John Trumbull’s famous painting “Surrender,” which adorns the interior of the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. “Split rail is something we do in winter to keep the boys busy,” he said modestly. “It’s made of black locust.”
The osprey have started returning from South America to their roosts atop day markers along Sarah Creek. As we sailed the York River, Kathy Volk of Midland, Michigan, recalled an eccentric inventor friend who lived on a big island up near Lake Huron. “He was driving one day, maybe ten miles inland, when he saw SPLAT! A fish had landed from above on his windshield. He figured an osprey had accidentally dropped it on the way back to the nest.” We contemplated that scene for a while, and she added, “This sounds like the same guy who once pointed at bear rug on the floor of his cabin and said proudly, ‘Yeah, I got that one driving a V-6!’”
Let’s Go on a Happy Birthday Sail
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