People ask, “Do you do reunions?” Four guys who grew up together on Long Island went sailing on the York and took one of their nephews along. They had a great adventure on the water in rising winds as we headed out toward the Chesapeake Bay. They rotated on the helm and were quick studies on how to sail.
Tom Kolb said, “Mike and I are brothers. We all grew up in Levittown and lived around the block from each other. Every year we gather for a reunion. We’re in the same fantasy football league, and the season loser has to get a photo of him in a dress and then host the summer meeting.” That fell this year to Mike Kolb of Virginia Beach, who said later the duty rotates more on geography than fantasy football. They’ve been all over the country.
“Levittown has changed over the years,” Tom said. “The small Cape Cods have been added to up to second stories and out with wings. There are still a few original homes, but very few.”
We sailed briskly down the York and immediately fell into a CBDR with my competitor the Alliance schooner. Mike had been in the Navy so I referred the concept of a collision course to him. “Don’t ask me. I was a cook on a submarine.” Later he took questions about that. “It was big, with three levels of decks. The galley had a six-by-six foot grill, steamer, oven, sink. Everything we needed. We served 110 men four meals a day. They worked 6 hours, were off 12, worked 6, off 12.” Wasn’t the schedule disruptive to them? “They couldn’t tell, they were underwater. I worked a normal day.”
I mentioned that subs come up from Norfolk Naval Station rarely. “That’s because they load at the docks there. You could tell what was going on because of the security. When they had normal zingers, it was no big deal. But when they loaded the nuclear zingers, it was a very big security detail. Now they may come up here to load cruise missiles.”
Mike had a good run on the helm and cracked 12 mph under full said. “I ran the helm on the sub once,” he recalled. “The OD let me do it because cooks never get to do much on a sub. I kept yawing it up 400 feet and down 400 feet, not very good. The captain came along and noticed and said to get me off the helm.”
As we sailed on a beam reach to the Coast Guard Training Center dock, Joe Cassano said, “My daughter is at the Coast Guard Academy, where she will become an ensign. That will enable her as a 100-ton captain who as a civilian can deliver yachts up and down the Atlantic coast. Next summer she will join a 5-member crew on a Coast Guard sailboat to spend two weeks. They have to navigate from point to point and meet a schedule. There’s a captain on board, but he’s not supposed to do anything unless the shit hits the fan. They have to figure it out themselves. One crew went off in the wrong direction for six hours before figuring it out themselves.”
Their lively conversation was interrupted by rumbling thunder far off in the distance. After checking radar, we eased our way back to port. Mike said, “Tomorrow we’re going on the Rover in Norfolk and then the USS Wisconsin.” I’ll be the Wisconsin has a bigger galley.
Ashley and Bill Hall of Richmond took their three children sailing after winning the cruise in a charity auction for a private cruise. We were all disappointed that the wind was light, so we exploited that by flying the spinnaker for several miles. That plus a narration of the Battle of the Capes and the Siege of Yorktown salvaged the day.
Bill mentioned, “We were in Norfolk once for a big company dinner on the waterfront. We got to see a 142-foot sailing yacht up close. Everyone talked about that for a long time. Years later we saw a similar boat in Barbuda. We told the owner all about our experience in Norfolk, and he asked for the name of the boat. It was Georgia, the very same boat.
Later, a medical officer with the Langley AFB hospital reserved the entire boat for he and his gal, Robert Ellis was an experienced sailor. “I sailed an Oceans 41 in Barbados. They do an Adventure Cruise for 30 days, but I did just the 4-hour version. I’ve been to Barbados twice and always spend the time on the water. I sail, go parasailing and jet-ski.
“I once built a miniature submarine that was this big,” he spread his arms wide. “It had 700 or 800 parts and took years to put together. I ran it in the water, in the Potomac, but it got fouled in grasses or debris and got stuck. I found divers who said they could rescue it for $100 an hour, but they couldn’t say how long it would take.”
Windsurfing & Ski Rescue
August is turning into September, at least wind-wise. The hot, flat, airless pall of late summer is yielding to slightly cooler days that generate more wind. That was the case when a family from Mt. Airy MD took a spontaneous cruise after a morning spent touring Yorktown.
Doug Frome seemed a little dour at the idea, and for good reason. I put him on the helm and he joked, “I know port and starboard, and I know red-right-return. But that’s it.” Not quite.
“I used to wind-surf,” he added, so I figured that building winds of 4-6-8-10 mph were tame to him. “I usually went out in over-15. Once I was near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge outside Annapolis when a tropical storm came through. Winds were 25+ knots, which is good for me. This was at Sandy Bay State Park, and the rangers warned me not to go out.”
Are currents a factor? “Only if it’s a fast river, like the Gunpowder near Baltimore. Small boards have fins underneath to deal with the current. Big boards have keels attached.”
Doug and his wife Kitt are also accomplished skiers. “I just retired after 30 years with the Ski Patrol,” she said. “We work Liberty Mountain, near Gettysburg. We’ve seen all manner of broken bones, even a broken neck. That guy survived and is still walking around. We work day shifts of 6 to 12 hours. They have paid emergency staff as well, but not many of them and only minimum wage. Doug is still active in the patrol, but 30 years is long enough to volunteer anywhere.” (Levittown Reunion)
We tacked down river seven or eight times and then ran the spinnaker all the way back under Doug’s deft control. He wound up in the lee for a mile, but never let it faze him. After years of windsurfing and ski patrol, sailing came easy. It was his first time.
Up on the bow, Mary and Cullen Leitner were enjoying their second anniversary with a bottle of wine and quite intimacy. Cullen helped with the spinnaker. Earlier in the day, Dirk Weibel of Richmond drove down to take his son Jacob sailing for his first time. Jacob learned to turn the sheets and how to run the helm.
Let’s Go Sail on a Levittown Reunion
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Four guys and a nephew went sailing on the York River for their annual reunion. They grew up together in Levittown NY.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails