Sail Time’s operating waters in Willoughby Bay are surrounded by the US Navy, so it feels like we’re sailing with the Navy. A fleet of attack helicopters and smaller search-and-rescue helicopter ring the bay. Just to the north is Fifth Fleet, capped by aircraft carriers jutting into the skies of Hampton Roads.
Meet Navy Lt. Shirley Duarte, one of the ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing class, who took the course with her husband Andrew and two other high achievers. Shirley is a medical doctor on active duty who has served on all manner of ships, including the USS Eisenhower. We sailed repeatedly past the Ike during two days of rigorous training on the helm of a Capri 22.
“I got lost on that one because the ship is so big and it doesn’t have the same configuration that you’d expect from a previous carrier. Where’s that door that should be here, you ask yourself.”
I asked if the infirmary is mid-ship to ensure stability for surgery. “No, it’s toward the aft, way back. There are 20 beds, two ICUs, a triage area and a surgery suite. The medical staff consists of two flight surgeons, one surgeon, a family doctor, two or three flight nurses, a psychiatrist and a nurse anesthesiologist.”
I asked the difference between a flight surgeon, Shirley’s specialty, and a general surgeon. “We’re regular doctors, they’re surgeons. It’s a title.”
Andrew is an endocrinologist at NIH in Bethesda, so I was curious about his rank. “He’s a civilian,” she laughed. Andrew piped up, “I’m a general, as in general pain in the ass.”
Later a search helicopter buzzed us and hovered nearby to simulate a rescue. The spray of the bay from the helicopter wash drifted across the water.
Other members of the class were a VA hospital psyche nurse and a hospital pharmacist. All four had big medical jobs but hadn’t met before, except of course for Andrew and Shirley. They enjoyed the cathartic healing of sailing.