Some men have their heart set on buying a sailboat as a life-long dream. No wonder, since sailing is a magnificent adventure that is too frequently interrupted by life.
Seldom do I encounter a woman who wants a boat for her husband. That was the case with LJ and Allen Offord, who drove up from Mississippi to Williamsburg for a special event. First, they took their family sailing on the York River, where Allen got to learn how to sail — and quickly. On the way out, I caught a rare photo of mother and father osprey with their fledgling before it learned to fly.
“I retired in 2014 as command sergeant major of the US Army Transportation Corps at Ft. Eustis,” Allen explained. “I spent three years with the 7th Transportation Brigade. Altogether we had 23 boats in the unit: Logistic Support Vessels, Light Crew Vessels and MIC boats. We train stevedores, movement controllers, truck drivers, boat operators and boat mechanics. All the boats are stored outside at 3rd Port on Skiffe’s Creek. The LSV can take 220 soldiers into combat. We did that for an operation in Haiti. Our motto is Sail Army.”
As a result of his background with boats, Allen was a skilled helmsman. In brisk but fluky winds, he finessed the art of pinching the bow to within one or two degrees of stalling in the wind while maintaining speed.
“We get kids from all over the world. Yes, some of them are scared of the water at first. We put them a drown-proofing exercise where they learn how to use their uniform to make a floatation device. Our vessel crews also do a lot of man-overboard drills. Every so often we hold a waterborne gunnery operation with M-16s and .50 caliber machine guns. They shoot at fixed objects in the water.”
I asked Allen where he learned to drive a boat and he said he doesn’t do that. So I asked him about his diesel repair work and he said again, “No, sir.” Well then, I asked, what they hell did you do in the Army? “I was in charge of the people who did all that,” he laughed.
He must have been pretty good, because at 29 Allen was the youngest command sergeant major ever to serve at Ft. Eustis. He and his wife and family were in town for his induction into the Transportation Corps Hall of Fame “for loyalty and dedication to the Corps in uniform and out.”
Allen aced the sailboat, and I tried to talk him and LJ out of buying one just yet. Instead, I found two boats on getmyboat.com in Gulfport MS for them to try out.
Sailing the Islands
Earlier, Mike and Cindy Bandy of suburban Richmond took their twin boys sailing. Cindy recalled a parental story, with a twist.
“I sailed with my father on a Sunfish, years ago when I was a little girl. I kept falling off because the boat kept tipping over. Eventually he said, ‘I’m done with this’ and gave it up.” Usually the dad forces the kid to buck up, but hers was frustrated with his own performance.
Cindy loves the water and enjoyed the warm breeze on this day. “We could live in the Cayman Islands or in St. Thomas. Mike is a CPA, so he can work anywhere, even offshore.” We talked about Grand Cayman, where hundreds of banks are headquartered or have offices. “I could always launder money,” he joked.
Let’s Go Sail
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