Two cousins who’ve known each other for decades took a therapeutic sail on the York River with a family holding two dogs.
Ellie McCulloch arranged the cruise with Debbie Anderson, whose husband died a month ago. Debbie lives far up the York River, near West Point. She asked for a life preserver and held it.
Ellie is from New Orleans, where she races a 27-foot Cape Dory on Wednesday nights. “It’s heavy and slow, but I usually win on points. Different size and class boats show up, and they carry a handicap rating called PRPH. I’m leading the club on points.
“I fly a spinnaker that I just got, so I’m still learning. It’s a full symmetrical, requiring a guiding pole. I’ve been on the foredeck running it. It has no chute, but at least it’s folded to come out of the chute.”
I explained to Debbie that folding the spinnaker properly is analogous to folding a parachute. Her husband was in the 5th Special Forces Airborne Ranger in Vietnam. “In the Central Highlands,” she added. I shuddered to think what mayhem he encountered.
Ellie was a champ on the helm and stayed with it all day as we ventured downriver into 2-foot swells brought across the Bay on an east wind. We tacked and went downwind to get into the lee under the Coleman Bridge, where the winds and waves were lighter. She was game.
That racing club she leads? “We have 70 boats out there every Wednesday in one of the largest regattas on the Gulf.” More like an armada than a regatta.
Gail Opatut of Freehold, New Jersey, brought her husband Sid and grown daughter Genna along with two small dogs. One was a therapy dog and the other a service dog, but I didn’t get the distinction between the two. But they were precious.
When Gail went up to lie out on the bow, Martini the therapy dog tried to escape from Jenna’s arms but she held him. The dogs were so quiet as to be unnoticeable, and so cute that we couldn’t take our eyes off them. One spent the entire cruise tucked in his little carrying bag, peaking out. They’re 10 years old and each weigh around 7 lbs.
Debbie took a phone call. “This is from my contractor,” she said. “He’s finishing off our entire attic as a reformatory.” So her pets could go sailing upstairs.
She corrected me. “Dormitory—a girls’ dormitory for our five grandchildren, all of them girls and two of them identical twins. They range from 16 months to 6 years old. ” I asked if she could tell the twins apart and she said yes. Yet neither she nor I could tell the voices apart when our grown children call. “You have to wait for them to give you a clue, usually about the children. Then you know which one it is.”
On another day, Michelle and John Siebold of Florida took their tiny Morkie named Emma for her first sailboat ride. “Emma is a Maltese Yorkie mix,” Michelle said. She did just fine despite significant heeling in wonderful winds.
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