Sailing into History
A young man from Prescott AZ (grew up in Baltimore) brought his wife to Williamsburg for an annual trip they’ve done for years. They wanted the History Cruise, so I dove deeply in the 1781 Battle of the Capes and the Siege of Yorktown that effectively ended the Revolutionary War.
They had some history of their own. Matt and Melinda White have been pursuing the genealogy of the White family going back to the Revolutionary Era. “I’ve done 10,000 to 12,000 hours of research over the years, and I’m stuck around 1800,” he said as he took the wheel. “When we tour Colonial Williamsburg, we hear about Washington and Bland, and I know my family went back to them. The problem is that some of the ancestors were the only son of an only son who was the son of an only son, and the last is an alcoholic who fell off the timeline. There are daughters mixed in as well, but they married and changed their names.”
Matt handled stiff and gusty winds with aplomb, partly because he’s used to powerboats. He continued, “We’ve met with historians over the years here, yesterday with Colonial Williamsburg and today at William & Mary. They’re all very helpful. We’ve exhausted the resources of Mathews County, where my family originated. Next, we have an appointment in Gloucester County. I get back to 1800 and get stuck again. Over the years I have encountered other families, and by now I feel like I know them.”
We finished up Yorktown and headed back to Sarah Creek, where I showed them Little England and explained how Lord Cornwallis stayed there one night during the Siege. Matt said, “One of my relatives was Ken White, who fought for the French over on this side in Gloucester and killed a British soldier.” Next they were off the new American Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown for a new venture of Sailing into History.
Appropos nothing, Matt had some insight on the Fourth of July fireworks at Yorktown. “We happened to be here that weekend and I knew the family that did the fireworks, so I helped them set up. The barge actually loads at Naval Weapons Station and floats down the river under the Coleman Bridge.” That made sense, since you’d want Navy Security in on anything explosive. “The truck with the fireworks winds through the base out to the pier where it drives right up to the barge. It takes all day to load them up, very very carefully.”
Cable Layer Returns
The US Navy support ship Global Sentinel returned to Cheatham Annex after several months at sea laying communication cable. The ship is stark white and 479 feet long. It looks like they’re loading more intel cable in the bow. Close-ip photo at left shows the double sheaves on the bow to lay the cable; another set is off the stern. The ship carries 1,000 miles of cable and lays it on the ocean bottom 9,000 feet deep. Note the blue and yellow stripes on the two funnels, denoting the colors of the Military Sealift Command. No orange lifeboats on a US Navy ship, as they remain disguised.
50th Sailing into History
It took numerous schedulings because of family problems before a couple from Standardsville VA took their first sail on the occasion of her 50th birthday. “This was always on my bucket list,” said Lisa Donnell, and I appreciate your patience as we worked through my mother’s illness.” On a chilly but sunny afternoon, we headed across the York River with Lisa on the helm and her husband Lysle observing quietly. His experience had ranged with motorboats. We all wore lifejackets in case anyone fell over into 60-degree water.
“We specialize in remodeling bathrooms and replacing/refinishing floors,” Lisa said as she gained confidence behind the wheel. I asked about Lowe’s since I get a 10% military discount. “Don’t go there,” she said flatly. “We used to sub for them and now we restore properties that their subs got wrong. Our bathrooms typically run $7,800 to $10,000. The Lowe’s discount isn’t worth it because they’ll charge you $20,000. Then they’ll pay someone else $5,000 to do the job.” She was exaggerting for effect. “We actually think they’re pretty good on floors.”
Their closest body of water in central Virginia is Lake Anna, but they also boat on Smith Mountain Lake. “Smith Mountain Lake has 512 miles of shoreline and lots of boats,” Lisa said. “Even houseboats,” Lysle added. “It blew my mind that they give you only 15 minutes of training to take out a 52-foot houseboat. People run it from creek to creek and camp out overnight. They check up to make sure you’re not out on the lake at night.”
We went under the Coleman Bridge and up to a US Navy warship that turned out to be the guided missile cruiser Laboon. We got close enough to get a photo of the ship and the accompanying patrol boat. Then we turned about and sailed back under spinnaker in light winds. By the end, Lisa had learned the Close Reach and the Broad Reach downwind. Not bad for her first day of a new adventure.
Watch the video below of the USS John McCain as it goes sailing into history.
Let’s Go Sailing into History
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Sailing into History
Young couple knows their history, with 10,000 hours of genealogy behind them.
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails