People ask, “Is it hard to learn how to sail?” Here is a short video that conveys how easy it is to sail. Even a teenager can do it well the first time. This became the Tussing Family’s Magic of Sailing.
While visiting Williamsburg on vacation, the Tussings went sailing on the York River on a beautiful summer day. Dad is sitting in the catbird seat, encouraging his son.
You can see in the video that they are making swift time over water. What you can’t see is that he has the boat on a 10-15 degree list or “heel,” taking full advantage of a Close Reach just off the wind to achieve the highest speed.
Viewed from outside the boat, a novice might worry the thing is going to tip over. But on board, the feeling is one of excitement because of the correlation between heeling and speed. The more you tilt, the faster you go. To a point. Anything over 15 degrees is usually unnecessary because it doesn’t make the boat go faster, and it can be uncomfortable for the crew.
The power of the wind when harnessed for speed simply dazzles people. They fall in love with a boat that can leverage that wind with sensitive controls and seemingly no effort. It’s the magic of sailing.
Teen II Learns to Sail
Heshy Neuman of Flushing NY took his wife and family sailing on an overcast day in late August that was mercifully cooler than normal in August. Heshy and his wife Liba enjoyed hearing the historical narrative of the 1781 Battle of the Capes and Siege of Yorktown while their son Jordan took the helm.
Jordan didn’t have a lot to do in a light breeze, but he stayed with it nonetheless and steered the best anyone could. An hour into the sail, the wind picked up and we took off on a Close Reach and got up to 10 mph. He found that exhilarating as the boat heeled to 10 degrees and then 15 and then 20. Up on the bow, father and daughter hung on and cheered Jordan along.
Eventually Liba took their younger daughter Leah below to use the head, so I showed Jordan how to flatten out the boat on a beam reach without losing much momentum. He was astonished the wind could be used to change the boat’s tilt as well as direction and speed. Back on the close reach, he quickly discovered for himself the narrow window of 2-3 degrees between heeling too far and coming up into the wind. He did a fabulous job for his first time. Some people take weeks to learn “pinching” into the wind. And we got to see dolphins as well, around and under the boat.
Sailing Is Safer
Two couples from Buffalo and Detroit went out on a calm afternoon that barely registered any wind. They got to talking about other experiences and trips that were daunting,
Jennifer and Darren Moscato have a 25-foot Catalina on Lake Erie. I asked about the danger of Niagara Falls. Darren said, “The Niagara River flows from Lake Erie over the Falls into Lake Ontario. We have a friend whose small sailboat capsized in the river and she had to be rescued. The boat went over the Falls, actually. She’s very careful now how she goes out in a boat. Very traumatic experience.”
William and Lois Parker toured China, and he walked the Great Wall. “I would go back to China,” he said, “especially Hong Kong. Walking the Wall was difficult and took several hours.”
The Moscatos also toured the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Jen said, “Glad we did it when the kids were 11 and 12. Any younger than that and it’s just too dangerous. People get so close to ledge. We were hiking on a trail that was slanted downhill and very narrow. Darren went ahead to scout the rest of the trail and it got worse.”
No such dangers lurked as we eased about the York in gentle winds. Suddenly a pod of dolphins surfaced and played with the boat before moving on.
Sailing the Parkway
Shannon Kaufman brought her extended family from three states to sail the York on a balmy Saturday. Numerous boat showed up as well as people realized summer was ending. There wasn’t much wind at first, but we got to see a dozen dolphins charge the boat. Shannon’s family also brought two dogs, and it was almost impossible to capture them in one photo. Here they are with her sister Megan. You can barely see the cocker spaniel at her feet.
Rabih Ehouri and Leyna Downing joined two other couples for a return sailing lesson from earlier in the season. Rabih is an engineer working on the Colonial Parkway project, which is more extensive than I thought.
“They finished work on the Indian Fields Creek bridge, and now they’re doing the same at Felgate Creek. It will take three months, all of under the bridge in the way of reinforcement. This is all toward resurfacing the entire parkway. A lot of people are involved in the decision, including the National Park Service. But the Federal Highway Administration will make all the decisions. We’re getting blowback on the Williamsburg circle, which is in terrible shape. Tourism officials don’t want it torn up but what else can you do? We’re also working around the I-64 expansion, which runs right over the parkway. And then the Army Corps of Engineers is in the woods reinforcing redoubts from the Civil War. No, they won’t close the parkway. It will have at least one lane running while under reconstruction,
Last Sailing Swim
Sue and Mike Carruth took their daughter Carrie and three grandchildren sailing on Labor Day for the last sailing swim of the season. We sailed around the USCG Training Center dock in search of dolphins, but only saw the tip of one. So we sailed back to the edge of Sarah Creek for two of the kids to jump in.
Later, Bonnie joined me as a couple from Langley Air Force Base closed out the summer with an intimate cruise on the bow. The sun is getting lower on the horizon, and the anxiety of Hurricane Dorian was on many boaters’ minds as they got in the last big holiday on the water. When we went in, we shifted from G Dock to I Dock for a cozy slip on a floating dock in more protected waters.
Let’s Go Find the Magic of Sailing
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