We got the sail of a lifetime on a brisk morning breeze coming out of the northeast. Luis and Spring Aponte came from Ft. Eustis to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary.

Sailing for speedSpring took the wheel once Luis and I set the mainsail. Before long we got up to 10 mph, and then we rolled out half the genoa, reefed to withstand winds rising to 15 mph. The waves built to two feet and we cut through them all the way past two empty scows toward the far range lights. As we approached Chesapeake Bay, things got more exciting with the sight of numerous birds–seagulls, pelicans and an eagle. We too were flying.

“This is fantastic,” Spring said as she held the helm straight for an hour without any need to tack. “It’s the best anniversary ever. Oh, how I love the water.”

Family counseling

Spring is working on her Ph.D. in behavior psychology. “My thesis is on using your brain to overcome a physical disability, paralysis. We’re proving that brain waves can be directed through robotics to move the limbs. I hope to open a private practice someday in family counseling.”

Sailing for speedI told them about the family counseling I do on the boat, notably urging wimpy teenagers to pull harder on the lines. “We took our daughter to Hallow Scream, and her boyfriend complained that his feet hurt. I said, ‘I’ve been walking all day in stiff cowboy boots and my feet are killing me. But I’m not complaining. At least you’re wearing sneakers.’ You know what he said? ‘Yeah, but these sneakers weren’t made for standing.’ Standing!

Luis and Spring were taking their kids next to the Colonial Williamsburg events for Halloween. I explained how a gift from Forrest Mars provided the candy for thousands of children at the event. “Do you know how M&Ms got their name?” Luis asked. “During World War II the Army issued chocolate in the MREs, or meals ready to eat. They found the chocolate kept melting, so Mars developed the M&M with a hard shell. That’s where the slogan ‘Melts in your mouth, not in your hand’ came from.

Startled by spinnaker

Sailing for speedLuis is a sergeant in the Army and will deploying shortly to South Korea. On the return leg upriver, Spring kept the helm and we went up to the foredeck to raise the spinnaker chute. Once we hoisted it 30 feet on the mast, we went to attach the tack line and clew line.

A gust of wind yanked the collar and the chute went flying off the boat, dangling out over the river just out of reach. It looked like one of those Gumby characters you see at gas stations blowing in the wind. I fetched a boat pole and barely snagged the line to pull it back in. I thanked Luis, who was unfazed. “I’m sure you’ve seen worse situations in the Army,” I said. “Yes, in Iraq.”

Sailing for speedWe properly unfurled and sheeted the spinnaker and ran for miles back to Yorktown. It was glorious. I sent them up to the bow to spend an hour sitting on the cushions and taking in the view alone. Spring set the season record of 15.8 mph over a course of 34.4 miles. Happy anniversary.

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Sailing for speed

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