While getting ready at the dock to host an AARP video crew, I heard the Navy announced over marine radio, “Attention all boats in the vicinity of the Coleman Bridge, this is the United States Navy announcing a submarine transiting the vicinity. All vessels are to stay 500 yards away in all directions. Repeat, 500 yards.”
That was unusual for two reasons. We rarely see subs at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station because they are super-secret and they train extensively to reload at sea. Of course, it boggles the mind to think they would need to reload at sea, given that they have a 154 Tomahawk missiles on board.
The second oddity was the announcement itself. It violated the stealthy behavior that subs maintain. A few minutes later came the announcement a second time. This was going to get exciting today.
Three members of a freelance photo/video team out of New York arrived to board for a short trip to Yorktown. Our neighbors Sue and Mike Carruth joined Bonnie and me for the shoot. As we motored across the river, we could see the sub in the dock and two Moran tugboats departing back to Norfolk. Dustin Cohen, Matt Clegg and Austin Daniels took video and stills from all over the boat, all day long.
At Riverwalk Landing, dockmaster and USCG Capt. Sue Ripley caught the boat at perfect high tide. I try to avoid Yorktown because of the wicked mid-tide currents that can buffet the boat badly. As luck would have it, we took a rolling wake from the tugboats as they chugged past Yorktown. Two smaller Navy patrol boats left as well, with their .30 caliber guns on the bow.
At Yorktown, we did two shots of the Carruths boarding the boat for an afternoon sail. We motored under the bridge and passed the sub snug on the Navy pier. You had to look carefully to see the con, or the sail as they call it in the Navy. By proceeding upriver just past the sub, we caught the sunlight bouncing off the hull. It was magnificent to see.
Meanwhile another Navy patrol boat ran interference between us and the sub. Mike asked if we knew the name, and I didn’t even know the class—either Los Angeles or Virginia. Mike knew about the Tomahawks.
We turned 180 degrees and flew the spinnaker all the way back to the bridge and under it. Eventually the wind shifted to the east and everyone got to sail the boat on multiple short tacks. Downriver we turned again and hoisted the spinnaker for the ride home. Never before have I run the spin twice in the same day.
Back at the dock, the video crew collected their formidable equipment. Matt said he had to double check his lenses because a few months ago he misplaced the case holding them. I asked Dustin what the lenses were worth, and he said $50,000.
The AARP piece is part of a 22-part series of second careers by retired people. They show how, in my case, a defrocked newspaper publisher can turn on a dime and change course.
Jane and Al Annunziata retired from New Jersey to greater Greensboro NC, and were in Williamsburg en route to a family reunion. “We expect 23 altogether, mostly cousins,” Al said. “The cousins get along better than the siblings do,” he joked. We motored several miles in very light winds. Once the wind picked up, Jane discovered at the helm how fast the boat could sail.
Al recalled his brother. “He’s a captain on a yacht for a man who hires him full-time. He’s worked two of his yachts and is now in Italy sizing up a third one that’s 125 feet. It’s quite the career, six months in Annapolis and six months in Naples. He ran the previous two boats by himself, but this next one will require that he hire a crew of three. He’s not wild about that, telling me, ‘I don’t want to get into HR [issues].'”
We got to talking about the weddings, burials and engagements at sea that I have hosted, and they wanted to see the fake ring I give the fellow who’s about to propose on the bow. I do it so he’s not preoccupied with dropping the ring overboard. They wanted to see the ring, so I gave it to Al and naturally he proposed to Jane on the spot.
Sailing with Twins
Lynda Brice drove from Richmond to take her twins sailing on the York. They live at the headwaters of the Chicakhominy River, where it is narrow unless flooded. “Our dog Cody fell into the river and tried to swim with a dog paddle,” Lynda said. Her son Willie said, “He once ate my mom’s license plate. We call him a goat.”
Lynda goes way back in Virginia. “My grandfather was the first pediatrician in Richmond.” As we neared Yorktown Beach, she added, “He was arrested at Yorktown Beach for failing to wear a top. This was around the turn of the century. He was a small guy, very mean.” The last time she was on a sailboat, she said, “I used to sail a Sailfish. At least I could say that I could right it when it flipped.”
The twins were attractive, alert, and great to their mom. Lizzie is at the University of Virginia, where she plans to major in sustainability or global development. She speaks fluent Spanish. Willie is at Virginia Tech and planning to major in aerospace or aeronautical engineering. They kid each other about sports, including the infamous 20-point blowout by UMBC over UVA in the 2018 NCAA bracket. “My number to her is 15,” he said. “That’s how many years Tech has beaten Virginia in football–15 years straight.”
Lynda asked about the depth of the York, since she is familiar with the Chickahominy and grew up near the Rappahannock. I showed them the York Range Light as we crossed the range and thus crossed the channel. Willie said, “It’s like the green light in ‘The Great Gatsby.’” In this case, the metaphor is that of depth.
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Sailing Past a Sub with AARP
A video crew from AARP came aboard to shoot Let's Go Sail. As luck would have it, we encountered a rare sighting of a Navy submarine in the York River.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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