To avoid a rainout, Bentley Streat of nearby Hayes went a day early to take her family sailing on the York.
Her sister Linda Shaffron works at nearby VIMS, or Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “Ours is the largest facility in America focused on estuarine research,” said said proudly. Estuarine as in estuary, as Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary system in America mixing saltwater with freshwater. It’s eight times bigger than San Francisco Bay, if you can imagine that.
I asked Linda why the tide is one hour later on the Yorktown side than the Gloucester Point side. She wasn’t sure but offered, “The flow of water on one sade may be impeded by underwater formations that affect the tide.” What about the tideline? “That means the tide is going out. You only see it then because it’s been picking up debris from the inland shores upriver.”
VIMS is one of five schools of the College of William & Mary and notoriously hard to get in.
“We have 400 people there,” she pointed to the campus, “of whom 100 are students,” all of whom are pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. “Our yield on applications is 30 percent,” meaning only 3 in 10 get in. “But that is deceptive, because just to apply you have to get letters of recommendation from at least two faculty to be preapproved. You also need to have completed a research project in marine science.”
I asked about their thesis requirements and she said they have to actually publish anywhere from one to five papers in peer-reviewed journals.
VIMS offers significant incentives to attract the brightest minds. “We offer a $30,000 stipend and free tuition as well. It’s hard to attract the best scientific minds in this economy because science doesn’t pay that well. I’ve been there a long time, and my son who’s a lawyer already makes more than I do.”
We drifted past the campus and Bentley sailed under the bridge so we could get a look at the submarine docked upriver. On the way back, we heard the cruise ship American Constitution sound its horn as it readied to weigh anchor at Yorktown. Then we put up the spinnaker, to everyone’s delight.
Women enjoy sailing today more than ever, and particularly a romantic cruise. Couples get to enjoy a romantic getaway as they sit up on the bow for privacy, and Let’s Go Sail provides professional photos for free. First-time or skilled mariners are welcome to sail a modern-32-foot sailboat in a unique setting of wildlife and Fall foliage or Spring bloom. It makes for an extraordinary anniversary idea.
Tori Morr took her dad Tom sailing on his birthday in brisk winds approaching 20 mph. Their experience dates back to sailing on San Franciso Bay when Tori was a little girl. Today she teaches fourth grade at Hornsby Elementary School.
Tom said, “My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Williamsburg and came back years later to consider relocating. We stayed at the Hornsby House, next to the Yorktown Monument.” We sailed past to get a photo. They eventually retired to Governor’s Land and now Patriot’s Colony. Mrs. Morr is not the sailor in the family, so she stayed behind.
Tori helmed the entire three hours, slicing through waves of 2 feet with great enthusiasm. “I love this!”
Two couples got to see a US Navy submarine (Virginia class) depart the Naval Weapons Station at Yorktown, bound for sea. It snuck up on us after transiting the Coleman Bridge. You could barely make out the numbers on the aft fin. Earlier as I drove by the sub along the Colonial Parkway, I could see steam coming from the conn, suggesting it was getting ready to weight anchor.
Steven Fletcher took the helm most of the afternoon. As a former USCG search-and-rescue mate, he handled winds of 15-18 mph with great aplomb.
The cruise took him back to his boyhood. “I grew up in New Jersey, where my uncles took me fishing for perch. They let me drink all the root beers I wanted, but then I wound up with my head over the portable toilet. Those were the days.”
Steven Williams took his wife Sharon sailing for her birthday, and the sub make it all the more memorable. She helmed with great ease despite the rising seas. Some people are natural sailors. Sailing was part of a three-tier vacation package. “He took me for a helicopter ride this morning over Williamsburg, where we could see the ships at Jamestown and the battlefield at Yorktown. It lasted an hour. The pilot was so young, maybe 21 or 22.” I asked what Part 3 was, skydiving? “Part three is a tour of Colonial Williamsburg,” her husband John said. “It’s a tour of black history called ‘We Shall Overcome.'”
Kevin O’Connor always wanted to sail a boat, and he got his chance from his wife Rose as they visited Williamsburg from New Jersey. He served 4-1/2 years on the USS Kennedy when he out of college and was proud to be officer of the deck running the carrier from time to time.
“We took some pretty good storms, with waves crashing 60 feet up the bow. The officer quarters were up front under the flight deck and we could feel the waves bumping.” He took to sailing and made the analogy to the planes on deck. “We had to have 25 knots total wind, which could be 10 knots of wind and 15 of power. Or if there was no wind, we would run 25 knots to get them flying.” He enjoyed the flexibility of the sailboat. “It would take eight minutes to turn the Kennedy, about a mile to turn around.”
Next up, Gary Garrison of Williamsburg took his daughter sailing in brisk winds and seas of 1-2 feet. He’s a pilot of fixed-wing aircraft who has dabbled in helicopters as well. He knew the 91-year-old fellow from Fredericksburg who crashed into Gary’s neighborhood some five years ago, killing himself and a woman, 93. “I knew Henry. He was shopping doctors to get a better diagnosis because he had Parkinson’s. He was probably flying on DBS, a drug that helps stabilize the tremors.” Gary enjoyed the heeling and good wind. “This is safer than a helicopter. It consists of thousands of pieces of sharp metal trying to crash into the ground.”
Let’s Go Sailing by VIMS
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The best Williamsburg boat tour offers safe “social distance sailing” daily for up to 6 people. It’s an extraordinary experience for couples. Leave your worries behind. Enjoy the thrill of moving with the wind without a care in the world. Put life back on an even keel with a romantic experience for a birthday or anniversary. 3-hour sailboat cruise as a semi-private yachting charter lets you exhale and relax as you enjoy comfort, stability & speed.
Sailing by VIMS
A longtime faculty member at VIMS described the work and rigor of the W&M graduate school.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
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