A junior sailor from suburban Buffalo got a chance to run a giant spinnaker on warmer waters than she’s used to.
Matt Meincke brought his children Madison and Zak to Williamsburg on vacation, and they set sail on the York River on a magnificently breezy afternoon with another family.
Madison took the wheel with aplomb. “I sail 420s and Lasers in an eight-week junior program on a lake near Buffalo. It’s a short season. In the Junior Olympics, I sailed Optimas. I could run the spinnaker if I used my foot to hold the tiller.”
We tacked down river five or six times before turning downwind. Once the spinnaker went up, Madison held the helm in perfect symmetry to the wind. That’s tricky because the wind inevitably shifts or falls, and she got it right all the way back on a three-mile run. She’s the youngest guest to sail under my spinnaker, and clearly the best at it. Madison is 14.
Matt Meincke wore a T-shirt declaiming, “Support The Troops.” He served in the Army in Iraq in 2004 and now is in the Air Force Reserves. Is there a difference between the two branches, I asked. “Like night and day. The Air Force is a country club by comparison to the Army. It operates more like a corporation, and much more informal. Officers routinely chat with enlisted. I’ve seen colonels and privates use first names with each other. Not in the Army.” Matt’s full-time job today is as a New York state trooper.
Earlier, the Lucas family enjoyed chatting during comparatively mild winds. Jan Lucas teaches at the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute in Pennsylvania.
“We take care of ten high schools throughout Lehigh County. We have 25 programs cover carpentry, cabinet making, welding, commercial baking, auto body, heavy machinery, masonry, electronics, plumbing and more. I teach pastry arts in two classes that start out with 34 students and finish with around 29.
“We get the students who are not great academically, but they still have to complete their core courses in math and science. Often we make a lot of custom cakes, wedding cakes and such. Sometimes we get a hotel job, and I have to remind the students not to get too complicated about the work.
“This is all at the high school level. By the time they graduate, the students have a pretty good knowledge of the trade they’ve trained for. It’s good to see girls enrolled in the traditional male trades of masonry, carpentry and plumbing.
“We just finished a $55 million expansion, making our program the biggest in Pennsylvania. Teachers and school officials come from the South and Texas to see our program at work. Even from Japan. It’s great to go down the hall and get expertise on a subject I don’t know about. And we have everything we need to teach the courses.”
The one thing they don’t teach is how to fly a spinnaker.
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Author: Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Retired newspaper publisher is now in his sixth season as a sailing charter captain. Visitors and locals enjoy the scenery and the sailing on the historic York River.
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