There are two kinds of boating that are mutually discrete: Sailing & Fishing. I refer people all the time to my colleagues at York River Yacht Haven who offer fishing charters. But occasionally someone will ask if they can try fishing off the back of the boat. It’s tricky because we run the risk of a cast line catching on the sail, which would be difficult to remove. Or worse, the line catching on the prop and stalling the engine.
On this day we had not one but two fishing enthusiasts, one of them during a lessons cruise. The first was Carter Ivy, who brought two poles for he and his wife and son Jackson. Carter was meticulous about setting the line off the back of the boat as we trolled looking for wind. At first, we were zipping along in 5 mph westerlies that compelled us to fly the spinnaker.
The winds died off and we eventually motored. He was adroit at pulling in the line as we tacked. When he took the wheel, she held his rod off the stern. When we came back and disembarked to the dock. The pole that was standing on the stern had an exposed fishhook that caught Jackson’s lifejacket. Dad had to cut the line and would remove the hook later. Thus, Jackson was the only catch of the day.
In the afternoon, a family of five women from Deltaville commandeered the boat. The organizer, Sheena Harris, brought along a fishing pole and tackle box. The wind picked up and we never got to fish. Late in the day, storm clouds looked gloomy so we came in early and just beat the rain. They had a wonderful time chatting and carrying on. Sailing & fishing was confined to the former.
While talking about family, Tiffany Miller said, “I told my daddy that if Momma dies before him, I’m putting him in a home.” I let that sink in and asked his response. “He just turned up the TV.” Everyone howled. “But I wouldn’t really do it,” she smiled. An hour later Tiffancy read a text on her phone. “It’s Daddy. He said to tell Momma it’s time for his dinner.” More laughter.
Learning to Sail
Michael Simmons of Williamsburg took his sister Joanne on a lessons cruise to get ready for a bigger adventure. He sat back and watched as she learned how to tack in fluky winds on a hot summer day. Joanne got the gist of it quickly and maintained course quite well as we zoomed out past R-24 and tacked to go across the York diagonally to Yorktown. This was a boat-buying cruise as well as a lesson cruise.
I thought he was experienced and was trying to show her the ropes. “Nope. First time,” he replied. “We went to the Annapolis boat show last fall and got to liking the Lagoon series of sailing catamarans. We hope to buy a 50-footer and sail the Caribbean. I’ll raise the money by selling my mother’s 95 acres in Richmond. Do you know where Brandermill is? Near there.” Very pricey land, for sure.
With us were two ladies who travel America together and out to enjoy a girls’ day sail. Both were experienced boaters on Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico.
Another girls’ day out arrived in the afternoon in the form of six women who live in Washington and New York but travel together. They started out years ago on a softball team and have stayed friends ever since.
We talked about the Great Lockdown and how it affected New York commerce. They said that upstate NY was more upset with Gov. Cuomo than downstate because the rural counties resented the lockdown restrictions. They said, “A lot of restaurants have moved outdoors with seating on the sidewalk. That has distressed the sidewalk traffic, and some places in Brooklyn have even extended their tables out into the street. That has neighbors upset because it’s using up their parking spaces.” Toward late afternoon, we glimpsed two dolphins playing with us by bobbing and weaving.
Another round of New Yorkers showed up to sail on a serene summer day, this time from upstate. Nicole Morgante-Wallis brought her daughter and four strapping grandsons for a day of learning and history. The youngest, Reice Griffin, proved adorable and competent on the helm even though he was only 10 years old.
We talked about the adroit sensitivities that blink people bring to sailing, and Kerri Griffin concurred. “I teach special ed, which was especially difficult during the Lockdown. One of my students has autism, and she’s always talking about how much she enjoys sailing with her parents on Lake Ontario.”
We scrutinized the big houses on the bluffs overlooking the York River, and Nicole said, “You should see the mansions along the shoreline. Wegman the supermarket mogul has a house whose entry foyer is the size of a ballroom.”
Nicole has had her challenges with the water. “I was with family once in the Caribbean. We went swimming and I got covered in jellyfish. After I got treated on shore my husband and daughter here convinced me to go back in. This time more jellyfish came at me. It was excrutiating. I was going insance with pain.” She would have been better off sailing & fishing.
In the afternoon, a Pennsylvania family living near Gettysburg went sailing under threatening skies as a storm moved slowly behind us to the southeast. Dale Tyler recalled a similar boat trip. “We were on a cruise liner, largest in the world, only the length of three football fields. The storm rocked the water in the pool so it was sloshing over the sides. But you couldn’t tell it from the ship. It hardly swayed, it was so big.” The storm passed and we passed under the bridge to look at Navy warship 58, the USS Laboon.
A couple from Chesapeake celebrated her surprise birthday by taking their son and his wife sailing on the York for a big adventure. Things started slow on glassy water, so we motored for a while until the wind built. Eventually we were heeling. A very peculiar craft came lumbering up the river. In the distance, I thought it was a Moran tug going to NWS ahead of a Navy ship. On radio, they said, “We’re going to the Naval Research pier,” which sounded weird since there isn’t one. When it passed, it looked like a washtub designed by Rubik’s Cube. Judging by the gear on the aft, they were ready for sailing & fishing.
Gordon and Cathy Kirsch had a big summer planned, beyond sailing & fishing. She said, “In May we were going to do Florida and then California in June and a wedding in New England timed for the Lobster Festival. But Covid shut all that down.” Gordon picked up the theme. “We’ve been exploring the country to see presidential museums. We’ve done Kennedy in Boston, Johnson in Austin, Hoover in Iowa, Truman in Independence. Now we were going to do Nixon in Yorba Linda and Reagan in Simi Valley. My wife didn’t like history much because she had to read it.” She continued, “But now I get to see it, which is much better.” We were quiet for a few minutes, contemplating a Trump Museum. Earlier they enjoyed the lecture on the Revolutionary War conclusion.
A family of four and a couple refreshing their ASA work went out in the afternoon, by which time the winds crested the water to whitecaps. I radioed an oncoming tug-with-barge to weigh his intentions. He agreed to a stern pass. A series of cells loomed off to the northwest, so I continually checked the radar. Eventually the storm closed in and we headed back to shore, where we beat the rain and postponed until another day.
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Sailing & Fishing
A couple went sailing to see if they could fish off the stern. That worked.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails / Let's Go Sail
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