Learning experience

The final WALT class of the season was a learning experience as the ultimate how-to of sailing. We covered radio transmission, safety considerations and especially the four reaches. All of us wore PFDs, five of them US Coast Guard Class I vests. They’re big and boxy but they have a head rest that will save you in the water if you’re unconscious.

A stiff west wind enabled us to go up the York River on long legs of the close reach, under only the mainsail. Class members became increasingly confident and experienced as they took the helm and learned for themselves. A few guests participated as well. We pushed the envelope to 15 degrees list all day long. 

Learning experienceAt one point I assigned Ugo Boggio on helm to tack to El Galeon, the Spanish tall ship visiting Yorktown. The task was compounded by a 4 knot current running downriver with the outgoing tide. He made it with ease on two tacks.

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned was the man-overboard drill, or MOB. It was hard to do in choppy seas, so we came back downriver and under the Coleman Bridge for more room to maneuver in the lee of the wind. Once someone falls in the water, the drill is to fall off to a beam reach, then a broach reach, and then tack back to a point 100 feet below the man. By turning left or right directly at a right angle to the wind, the boat should luff and stall out. Thus we reach the man without hitting him, and then pull him aboard. There’s the rub.

Learning experienceIn real life, on the way home after an exhausting day, we lost a seat cushion. We applied the MOB drill but had to make several passes to pick up the cushion because the straps were trimmed away. Finally we took in the sails and motored around to circle the spot. I used the boat pole to guide the cushion back to the aft swim platform, where Corinna Caldwell pulled it in. Hooray!

Learning experience on land

Conversation flowed easily all day long as everyone became comfortable with the wind and the heeling. Lorraine Price brought up an interesting idea, which was given to her by Ugo Boccio.

Learning experience“Ugo told me that as a senior citizen at age 60, we can audit classes at William & Mary for free. You have to take it seriously, and you interview briefly with the professor. I told him I won’t be one of those retirees who waves my hand all the time as if to say ‘I know the answer! I know that!’ Actually I’m good for the professor because I can help start the conversation if the students are dead that day. You have to go to the classes, but you’re not required to take the exams. I’ve been studying architecture.” Lorraine is an interior designer.

Ugo said, “I took an art class and it improved my painting a great deal. The professor told me it was good to have a senior in the class because it made the students take it more seriously instead of oogling the girls.”

Learning experienceBy the end of the day, everyone was pretty whipped. Sam Scovill teaches meditation for the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists (also the sponsor of WALT). “You get a certain Tai chi form of exercise sailing. You’re moving all the parts of the body in unison and with enough force to improve circulation.” After 46 miles at sea, the crew was glad to back on shore.

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Learning experience



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