By coincidence, three couples from Chesapeake, Williamsburg and Minneapolis celebrated by sailing the York River. They were followed by two college chums.
Rebekah and Jonathan Macalvey got married three years ago after meeting on duty in Afghanistan. She’s a physician’s assistant in the Navy and he’s a SEAL with 20 years in.
Rebekah said, “I’m on an orthopedic fellowship at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. I hope to take a three-year sabbatical to do more orthopedic study. I’ve been in the Navy for ten years and started out in the Coast Guard at the A School, right over there.”
She pointed to the US Coast Guard Training Center at Yorktown as we sailed past. Coast Guard trainees buzzed their Coasties about while practicing towing and man-overboard. All of us steered shy of a passing tugboat that was pushing a barge upriver.
At 6-feet-2 and lean, Jon was every bit the Seal. He gave us a brief on the current mission: “SEALS have moved more from amphibious landings to land-based operations because of so many land wars.”
His base at Lynnhaven Inlet near Virginia Beach is next to an amphibious landing unit. I asked him about the terrific noise made by hovercraft. “Well, they certainly don’t have any surprise capability, but they’re used to land tanks and heavy equipment ashore as well as troops.”
A south wind was howling to 15 mph, which everyone enjoyed as the boat heeled to 15 degrees. It reminded Rebekah of kite boarding.
“It was great in Bahrain because the water is so salty that you can float. The winds blow steady but one big house on shore tends to block the wind when you sail past. Kite boarding is the best sport. I grew up sailing. Later on I had an 18-1/2 boat that I sailed in Wilmington, North Carolina and then in Tampa. I just love sailing.”
She did an excellent job on the helm and talked about working with SEALS. “I grew up with six brothers, and we were all into sports. Being with the SEALS is like playing on a big sports team.”
She and Jon were taking a break from their newborn baby girl, born just seven weeks ago. “Hey, Capt. Bill, do you have any drinking cups on board?” Indeed I do. They took a bottle of champagne and made their way up to the bow to hang out for an hour to celebrate their anniversary.
Mary and Steve Means came to Williamsburg for their 30th anniversary. It was a chilly 70 degrees on the water but they were unfazed. “We have thousands of lakes,” Steve said, adding, “They freeze up to four feet thick in winter, but they’ve thawed now.” Mary added, “Remember, this is where ‘Grumpy Old Men’ was filmed.”
Steve recalled their early years together. “When we were married around five years, I called my mom to tell her we were going to get something. ‘What?’ she asked. It’s a four-letter word that begins with B. ‘A baby?’ she exclaimed. No, a boat. She was not pleased.”
Sasha and Kelli Digges of Williamsburg celebrated their 20th anniversary by sailing. He’s an avid fan of the America’s Cup and has sailed competitvely. He’s a personal trainer and physical therapist who had a lot in common with Rebekah’s work in orthopedics.
Sasha said, “I use the dry needle effect in deep tissue to relieve pain. Last year I trained the procedure with both physical trainers for the last Super Bowl, since one of them was a friend of mine. When it comes to pain, I tell people I require three things. I take Motrin, and then I take bourbon. Only then do I use the dry needle. I take the first two to cope with the pain of the third. I’m in the pain business, but I hate pain.”
He added, “People have their priorities confused. Let’s say you’re walking along and you trip on a curb and sprain your ankle, and your phone gets smashed as well. Which are you going to fix first, raise your hand. If you said the ankle, you’re lying. In fact, you get the phone fixed because you think you’re too busy to work on the ankle.”
I asked how the athletes’ no-pain, no-gain mantra works these days in the context of physical therapy. “I prefer to say no-strain, no-gain. In other words, just don’t make things worse.” Later Sasha and Kelli went up on the bow.
Kelli’s work fascinated me. “I do interior architecture. I’m currently working on a casino restaurant in Deadwood, South Dakota. They serve breakfast and lunch, of course. Then they have to transform the venue into a dinner nightclub. So the dance floor has to come up quickly and the tables have to fold down, and certain chairs get stacked. It’s a very challenging design.
“I got my start in San Francisco right out of architecture school, hired by a wealthy man to redesign his boutique hotel. He later acquired more hotels around the country and kept me busy. I’ve worked in Europe as well.” She has done all of that while based in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The winds died down in the afternoon as two college classmates from years ago went sailing for the first time in years. Pam Brogan and Gloria Clemente went to George Washington University back when traffic in Northern Virginia was more manageable.
Suddenly the winds piped up after quietly clocking around from south to southwest to northwest. Now blowing out of the east, from Chesapeake Bay, the winds jumped to 15-20 in a burst of activity that caught me off guard. As a result, the boat rocked briefly until I could reef the Genoa. Within a minute, we were laughing it off as an exciting event. Both ladies found the sail exhilarating.
Let’s Go Sail, coincidentally
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