Sailing Past 2 Navy Ships
Monday is often arrival day for warships transiting from Norfolk Naval Base to Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. A family visiting Williamsburg from the Finger Lakes region of New York rode out on Sarah Creek in great anticipation.
Right away we ran into a pod of dolphins in the creek. Apparently the high seas churned up by Hurricane Jose sent them scurrying inland.
Marine radio reported gusts up to 40 mph and waves 10-15 feet some 20 miles off New Point Comfort. That’s 15 miles from us, so our seas rose only 2 feet. The dolphin viewing continued all the way out the creek, and then our attention turned to the river. Four or five pelicans showed up, when usually we see only one. They dove repeatedly for fish, but we couldn’t tell if they got any.
US Navy warship 67 churned along past the US Coast Guard Training Center on a curved path toward the Coleman Bridge. We motored over to the VIMS campus, tucked inside the bridge. I radioed the warship our position. The bridge opened, and the ship passed through effortlessly as two Moran tugs escorted it to the Navy pier. As the bridge closed, it hesitated as if stuck and then finally clanked shut. I mentioned that highway officials sometimes extend the opening by ten minutes out of respect to two “golden” ships with a tragic history. They are the USS Cole and USS Iowa.
Sure enough, 67 turned out to be the USS Cole, the guided missile cruiser that got blown up in Yemen in 2000.
We got close to the bridge to watch the spans swing back into place, and then we went sailing. Mary and Bill Stevens were taking their grown daughters Jane and Laurie out for an adventure. One of them said gleefully, back the marina, “That’s it. I’ve seen dolphins. We can go home now.”
The girls grew up sailing small boats on Skaneateles Lake, so they were fearless on the helm in winds blowing 10-12 mph. “We sat out there for hours in the hot sun, tipping the boat over out of boredom and to get wet.”
Mary said, “We have a cabin near Sodus Point, which is near Lake Ontario. When the waters flood, we find ourselves transforming from a peninsula to an island. Occasionally, the house floods.” Bill offered, “We’ve seen carp swimming inside the house.”
Mary said proudly that Bill once built an 18-foot sailboat. So he had no trouble on the helm, even as the winds were building to 15 mph.
Soon I spotted another Navy ship coming around the entrance to the York River. This time we sailed over to the Coast Guard dock to get the perspective from a different angle. I radioed the ship and he changed course slightly to head directly upriver instead off to our side.
Navy warship 103 had a brief conversation with the Tracy Moran before transiting the bridge. 103 is the USS Truxtun, sister ship to the Cole. When it was all over and the tug set out to return to Norfolk, I asked Tracy Moran if that was the first time this year when two cruisers came in on the same day. He radioed tersely, “No,” careful not to violate any national security.
Jane finished up the sail with a crescendo 15.5 mph speed, the new record for the year. Afterward Mary said, “Gee, we were so excited that we completely forgot to eat our lunch that we brought.”
Let’s Go Sail
Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. See reviews on Trip Advisor.