To wind up their honeymoon week in Williamsburg, Jennifer Griffith and Bob Moran went sailing on a serene York River. A morning rain blew past and we motored out to a glassy sea that barely rippled from light winds. An incoming tide slowly drifted us upriver toward the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Jennifer is an RN who controls the home health care branch of a big Fairfax hospital. “We have around 180 people out in the field in the form of physical therapists, occupational therapists,
speech therapy, nursing care and more.” I pressed her for details about the medical rates and nearly fell off the boat. “$900 a day, and that’s not even a full day sometimes. Medicare will pick that up because it’s much better than paying for an in-patient hospital stay.”
I asked how much that was. “$9,000 a day. They want to get you out in a day or two.”
Bob is education director for the US Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander. We talked extensively about issues and policy, and he added a wonderful tale. I had been complaining about the two biggest challenges on the boat: 10-year-old boys and red wine, as they both stain.
“Back in the 1890s it was permissible for reporters to get onto the floor of the House, where they could interview congressmen. One reporter got into with a retired congressman from Texas who was on the floor as a lobbyist. The reporter had exposed an affair the congressman had, and he lost his election and was now reduced to a lobbyist. They started to wrestle and wound up fighting on the landing of the steps of the east wing of the House. The congressman was carrying a gun and tried to use it, but he wound up shooting himself instead. Or maybe the reporter did it.
“The blood of the dead congressman was all over the marble, and they couldn’t get it out. It’s still there today. A fellow who works in my office said that protesters sometimes throw blood, but it can be removed. The congressman’s blood stain is so pervasive that reporters would trip on the stairs trying to avoid it. To this day, reporters don’t use the east wing stairs.”
The next day, May Wells returned for a second cruise, this time with her son and daughter. It was a very different day from last summer when the York River was hot and flat. This day was overcast and breezy. Andrew and Maddie took the helm separately and handled it well by spilling wind at the appropriate millisecond to avoid excessive heeling. They had never sailed before.
We saw a tall ship standing off from VIMS, stationary but not anchored. Perhaps it was waiting for the northeast wind to die down so it could lay up at Riverwalk Landing, Yorktown.
I radioed with a question of length, which the respondent said was 200 feet. Then I wondered if they were fixing to go under the Coleman Bridge, which would require a swing-span opening. “We are not,” the respondent said, with an edgy attitude of “as if.”
The ship is called the Oliver Hazard Perry, named for the famous US Navy admiral from the War of 1812. The modern version is billed as the largest civilian sailing school vessel in America. It’s also the first ocean-going full-rigged ship to be built in the US in more than 100 years. It has 20 sails and a professional crew of 32 people. The Perry is a frequent participant in parades of tall ships along the East Coast. It also participated in the Battle of Lake Erie commemoration from the War of 1812, which is a considerable trip by water from the home port of Newport RI
The clipped responses to my two questions and the apprehension about landing at Yorktown may derive from an accident six months ago. While in Newport, the ship set out in a 30 knot wind and promptly got a dock line snared on the prop. The video below recounts the event, which fortunately resulted in no injuries or serious damages to the Perry or the four boats it hit while flailing about.
The visit to Yorktown appears to be a surprise since it doesn’t show up on any of the York County event calendars. Presumably the public will get to tour the boat below decks and perhaps take a spin in the river as well. Stay tuned. UPDATE: The ship ducked into Yorktown to avoid high head winds on the way back to Annapolis. It was gone early the next morning.
After only a week in part at Cheatham Annex, the USNS Zeus went churning down the York River and out to sea. Heavy smoke billowing from the ship suggested the need for a valve job. As the Zeus approached the Coleman Bridge, you could see from above the contours of the sheaves fore and aft that make quick work of laying 1,000 miles of intelligence cable in the Atlantic Ocean.
A fellow standing nearby nodded at the rust all over the side and said, “That ship needs a lot of maintenance. They have four or five like that in Baltimore, and they’re painted gray.” The Zeus chugged down river and the bridge closed so we could all go to work.
Read It and Weep
Sometimes fixing a boat is no honeymoon, especially when parts get expensive. For several weeks after I replaced the impeller on my water pump, the thing leaked small drops of water. It’s called “weeping,” and eventually the pump needed replacing because it was weeping inconsolably. The price for a part no bigger than a man’s fist was $550 including freight.
A beautiful young couple originally from Kenya went sailing on the York on a beautiful spring afternoon with the wind blowing out of the east.
Tony Kipkemboi and Beverlyne Chepkorir got married two years ago, but she just recently joined him at Ft. Eustis, where he is a hospital lab tech for the US Army. I marveled at their American accents.
“The hospital beds have been eliminated in the past few years,” Tony said. “In-patients are split between Langley Air Force Base and Portsmouth Naval Hospital.”
They did not find the York River particularly big. “We are at the end of the Nile,” he said. “And we are on the Indian Ocean,” she added.
Tony came to America by way of Grambling State, where he had a track scholarship. “I was recruited by the Army because I spoke Swahili. They also have a need for Punjab, Pashto and Urdu. I expect to be assigned to Africa. I tried for the Special Forces twice but didn’t make it. The Army has me for five years, which is a good deal.”
As for the track scholarship, Tony ran the 100-yard dash, mile, relay and marathon. I asked him for his best mile time. “04:10, though I couldn’t run that now,” he laughed. I asked if he could feel it. “Yes, you feel it in the chest as it aches, but more so in the legs. They tend to give out first.”
Tony sailed with aplomb even though he had never done it before. He got the boat listing to 15 degrees and tacked wonderfully. Eventually I sent them up to the bow to enjoy some privacy. It was beautiful.
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Newly married couple from Northern Virginia have fascinating careers in medicine and government. Read about the congressman shot while tussling with a reporter.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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