Sailing Good Winds

Question: Who should run the boat in brisk winds?

Answer: A former Navy jet pilot.

Moderate winds of 12 mph turned to a brisk 18-20 mph on a bright sunny day, leading to one reef in the genoa to make it more like a jib. The mainsail was full. Kathy Fanney brought her family sailing on the York River, and we quickly discovered that her husband Rich would take the helm.

Rich is a US Naval Academy graduate who served 27 years as a Navy pilot before retiring as a captain. The rocky waves were mildly reminiscent of his early years.

Sailing Good Winds“During summers at the Academy we would sail small boats and big boats, such as 44-foot yawls. They had a fleet of 12 yawls like that. We would take ours out for the summer and up to Boston and sail the Newport-to-Bermuda race. When you’re on a boat for four weeks you really get to know someone. The Academy had bigger boats as well, probably six of them ranging from 50 to 68 feet. They were seized by the Coast Guard as drug runners.

“I used to fly off the deck of aircraft carriers. It was hard to land at night, especially when they chose to be in the only thunderstorm for 200 miles. But you’re trained and trained and trained to get it right.”

Collision Course

Off to starboard I pointed out a sailboat that was inadvertently on a “constant bearing, decreasing range,” or collision course. I asked Rich if he had a millisecond to adjust to that while flying a jet. “Yes, a millisecond. But that’s good training because that’s what you do in a dogfight. You come around in turn to come up on the other guy. You’re good to go 2-1/2 miles out for that. Less than a mile, you can’t do it and will likely collide. In commercial flight, of course, you’re separated by layers of altitude to avoid that situation.

Sailing Good Winds“As I got older, my mind could handle jets but it took a toll on my body. Sitting on a hard injector seat for hours is difficult, and you’re all strapped into it as well. When I was younger I would fly four times a day off the carrier. I miss it sometimes.”

Kathy asked if I had anyone interesting on the boat this season. “Besides us,” she laughed. I told them about Dean Sheridan, an Air Force para-rescue fellow who made 692 jumps, including 18 combat jumps behind enemy lines to rescue injured soldiers and SEALS. He got seven Purple Hearts, among other distinguished awards.

Sailing Good WindsKathy responded, “Rich and I work for the Department of Defense at Fort Lee, where we help provide the equipment and provisions for brave men like that. We were at a conference in Washington this week where we saw a video about para-rescue operations. It melts your heart, and it made us proud to be a part of it. We’re with the Defense Contractor Management Agency, headquartered at Fort Lee and with a thousand offices scattered all over the world.”

We sailed and sailed and sailed, mindful of how we were all lucky to be out there on the York River.

Sailing Good Winds

Fishing Expedition

Later that day Ashlee MacDonald brought her husband and parents to sail in the afternoon. We moved from the high seas of the lower York to traverse the Coleman Bridge for calmer seas. A tug with a barge had the same idea, and we sailed past it to have a look-see.

Sailing Good WindsAshlee’s father Stan Bourne turned out to be an experience fisherman who wanted all the skinny about the York River. What little I know is from other people, as it’s not practical to fish on a moving sailboat. Besides, I don’t like fish.

“You don’t eat fish?” Stan exclaimed, bemused. “How can you be out here and not like fish?” As it happened a giant fish leapt out of the water 50 yards away. I saw it cleanly, but the others only saw the splash. We deducted that it must have been a big cobia.

Stan fishes with other guys off the coast of Panama City in the panhandle of Florida, where he and his wife Delaine live. The catch limits are severe, and enforced. “There are 110 miles of coast along Panama City, but only three inlets to access the Gulf of Mexico. So the Florida Fish & Wildlife agents just sit there and catch you as you come in from fishing that day. They can see you, and they have cameras too. Sometimes they board to check your boat as well to make sure it’s in good shape.

Sailing Good Winds“To avoid capture, some people will practice ‘fillet-and-release,’ a version of catch-and-release. If they have time out there all day, they can fillet the fish and try to hide it on ice somewhere in the boat. Another trick is cook-and-release, where they cook the fish right on the grill and eat it out there. Fish & Wildlife can’t prosecute that.

“When I was a boy in Georgia we’d catch 400 fish in a single day. We’d take them home and freeze them. Today the limit is two fish, snapper mostly but also grouper. Everyone loves grouper.

Florida Real Estate

Delaine Bourne (1)On another subject, Delaine is an experienced residential Realtor with Scott Ingraham Real Estate Group in Panama City. “I wrote 15 offers last month, but only two of them cleared as closed contracts. The market has tightened up considerably since the recession.” Stan added proudly, “She had 52 contracts last year, when the average for a Realtor is 12 to 14.”

Stan sells commercial real estate, which is a different market from residential. “We moved from Georgia, and I told a big Realtor woman that I intended to retire and sell real estate in Florida on the side. She took one look at me and said, ‘Stan, get in line!”

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