Sailing Back to the 1600s

My typical history cruise covers the battles of the Capes and Yorktown, but this one had us sailing back to the 1600s. Kate and John Jesberg drove up from Virginia Beach to take their friend Gayle Smith sailing on the York River. But instead of heading east, we motored northwest. Here’s why.

Sailing Back to the 1600s“I’m descended from the Page family of York County and Gloucester County,” John said. “I want to cruise upriver to find Carter Creek, where the family originated in the 1600s with John Page. He was in the General Assembly and he had six sons. They married six daughters of the Thomas Nelson family of Yorktown. The only Page daughter married a Nelson son, and that’s where I’m descended from. My ancestor Mann Page built Rosewell Plantation on Carter Creek.”

Once we cleared the Coleman Bridge, Gayle took the helm. We motored past the Naval Weapons Station and steered clear of two Navy warships in port. “I like this a lot,” Gayle said, gaining her confidence. “This is really easy. I thought it would be much harder.” We reached Cheatham Annex Navy pier and reduced speed to approach red buoy No. 8. From there we could see Blundering Point and beyond it Carter Creek. I pulled out the chart from below deck and found the site to show them.

John said, “From the Nelson House in Yorktown they could send smoke signals to Carter Creek for the Page family to respond.”

Looking at Boats

John and Kate are retiring soon as Federal government lawyers in Washington. They’re looking to buy a motorboat. “It has to be trailerable so we can move it around. We’re looking at a 27-foot cruiser to cruise Chesapeake Bay.”

I offered some advice, honed over the years.

  1. Rent several boats to find out which feels best.
  2. Buy as big as you can afford, and afford to keep.
  3. Have a cabin for two to sleep in, no more. And no children.
  4. Get an inboard or outboard but not the hybrid inboard/outboard.
  5. Start with small trips of two hours, expand incrementally.
  6. Go out in a storm with a captain to weather the experience.
  7. Learn all the systems: Engine, Electronics, Fluids, Water.
  8. Learn the Rules of the Road, but realize not everyone does.
  9. Enjoy every day on the water as a gift.
  10. Wear sunscreen.

Sailing Back to the 1600sTwo Extremes of Boats

The Jesbergs are originally from Arizona but won’t be trailering the boat there. “They have some nice lakes in Arizona. Lake Roosevelt and the Hoover Dam [Powell] lake are good.” Talk of boats and sizes led him to recall a trip to Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale. “Steven Spielberg’s yacht is 160 feet long, as big as one of those Navy ships. The harbor master said that docking Spielberg’s yacht costs $30,000 a month. We noticed there weren’t any American flags on the ship.” Kate added, “Spielberg has the boat registered in Honduras to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Can you imagine that, a man of his wealth?”

At the other end of the extreme, John recalled his time in the Air Force. “We were stationed in Egypt and thought it would be fun to go sailing up the Nile. Who gets to do that? It was an old wooden boat. We got out there and the wooden mast broke in half. We had to be towed back. That sucked. We passed a barge where boys no older than 12 or 14 were loading bricks. They had to carry them on their backs. The guy in charge had a whip and was hitting them to work harder. Slave laborers, that’s what they were.”

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Sailing Back to the 1600s

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