Sailing past Warship
A couple from Williamsburg took their extended family sailing along the York on a breezy summer afternoon. Hannah Gibbons’ dad Patrick was an experienced skipper who last helmed a 52-footer in Puget Sound. He had no trouble with winds of 10 mph gusting to 15.
We got to see the USS John Finn exit the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station on the way back to Norfolk Naval Base. It was a sight to behold as the Coleman Bridge swung open for clear transit, with two Moran tugs as escorts.
Hannah’s husband J.T. serves in the US Air Force where he teaches SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training here and overseas. “I just got back from a deployment. Airmen tend not to take the training seriously until they get jammed up and have to recall it,” he said.
I asked how to escape being handcuffed by zip ties. “It’s plastic, so understand first that yes it can break. Hold your wrists close to your chest and snap them down hard. It will break the skin and may draw blood, but it works. Other ties are subject to breakage from getting wet – with urine, spit or even tears. The worst is clear packing tape. Even though the moisture breaks down the sticky part of the tape, it starts to roll and thus create a stronger rope effect. It’s even more difficult if the packing tape is reinforced with wire.” He said airmen are issued cordite shoelaces to use as a saw if held capture.
Is there a future after retiring from the Air Force? “Yes, as a contractor at Ft. Bragg, where they teach Special Forces. It pays $120,000.”
Women enjoy sailing today more than ever, and particularly a romantic cruise. Couples get to enjoy a romantic getaway as they sit up on the bow for privacy, and Let’s Go Sail provides professional photos for free. First-time or skilled mariners are welcome to sail a modern-32-foot sailboat in a unique setting of wildlife and Fall foliage or Spring bloom. It makes for an extraordinary anniversary idea.
A young PA and her ex-Army husband learned to sail on a light day that turned into brisk winds – all the elements for perfect learning and sailing.
John Matthews used to sail Hunter 25s rented out by the Navy base. “This is a lot smoother than Gitmo,” he said casually. What? “I served at Guantanamo in the Army and would sail the Bay. It’s really more of a bowl surrounded by mountains. The wind keeps changing as a result. This is better.”
As for Gitmo, “The Army controls the prison, the Air Force has the landing strip, the Coast Guard guards the perimeter, the Navy controls the entire base. So, we’re all there, all the military forces. When I was there, they had maybe 42 to 47 prisoners. Today it’s more like two dozen. They don’t want to get shipped out to a federal prison on the mainland because their lives would be much more difficult.”
He summed up the Taliban nicely from the U.S. perspective. “Twenty years ago they were considered freedom fighters, and then they became terrorists. Today they’re a political entity that we have to deal with. Perspectives change over time.” Time rolled on as we sailed quietly downriver with his wife Jerimie on the helm.
Jennifer Wentovich and husband Larry of the Pennsylvania Poconos took their grown daughters sailing in a light breeze, accompanied by their small dog Charlie. He kept trying to jump overboard but was tethered securely.
Larry is a self-taught chef who has since retired. He’s worked all over the world in every possible genre including ice carving.
“You start with a big block about so high,” he said referring to a 4 x 6 box. You let it temper outside briefly so it doesn’t crack. I’ve carved everything from baby carriages to hearts. I once made an elaborate sculpture out of carrots and was quite proud of it. When I showed it to Jennifer’s dad, he promptly ate into it. I made a swan another time but because the ice wasn’t tempered it cracked and the head fell off. You can use salt and CO2 to repair the neck, but it’s never the same.” I suggested an attractive scarf, and he laughed at that image.
A family of three and a couple married 44 years enjoyed the History Cruise during Fourth of July Week. Wendy Oesterling and Jim Greene particularly enjoyed the lecture because she grew up in India, where Lord Cornwallis wound up after Yorktown as Director General. Jim hailed from Belfast and knew well the tortures of the British government. They also knew about burials at sea, which in America have to be performed at least 3 miles offshore. I did two in one week during last month.
“We scattered our dad’s ashes off Prince Edward Island in Canada, where he sailed. Tkept the coordinates and 12 years later scattered my mom’s ashes there precisely. We save some in the urn to scatter in London.” All this while we sailed serenely along the York in a steady but gentle breeze.
On a breezy summer morning, a grandmother from Georgia took her two adorable granddaughters sailing with one other lady. We got to talking about boat names, and Beth Aveta said, “I used to be a midwife and I had a married couple who also worked as midwives. When they retired, they bought a catamaran to cruise around the world. They named it Home Berth.” That compared nicely to the name of a big blue sailboat at York River Yacht Haven that used to belong to two retired math teachers: After Math.
A party of six with deep roots in Washington sailed on a brisk summer afternoon in winds of 15 mph that kept them alert and energized.
March Bell used to work in the Department of Justice investigating civil rights cases in the South, including the murder of Emmett Till. “That was in Clarksville, Alabama, and it’s where the actor Morgan Freeman is from. He invested $5 million in the community there. They let him play golf at the local country club but they wouldn’t let him join as a member.”
He continued from the helm. “I investigated hate crimes and organized crime in the South in the 1980s and onward. An interesting study of statistics about small-town police found that among the bad ones 98% lacked a college degree or any studies in criminal justice.”
Nearing 80, March and his wife Mariam had contacts in the Nixon Administration to include the presidential aide Chuck Colston. He told the story of how Nixon called up Colston one night determined to drive across town.
“Chuck,” he implored while imitating Nixon’s growly voice. “I want to go to the Kennedy Center tonight.”
“No, no, no,” Colston responded. “You can’t do that because the travel detail for the Secret Service is gone for the night.”
“Then I want to go with you,” he implored. “You can drive me.”
“No, no, no, Mr. President.”
He insisted and so they drove across town. Nixon slumped down in the front seat to avoid being seen. “When we got there, the doors were locked because they do that once the show has begun. I banged on the door and shouted that the President wanted in. The guards misunderstood and drew their weapons. Eventually we sorted it out and got him up to the presidential box. The Marine Corps Band was the evening entertainment, and they were playing the last song. “I sent a note backstage to have the conductor keep going, so they played The Battle Hymn of the Republic four times. It was very strange.”
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The best Williamsburg boat tour offers safe “social distance sailing” daily for up to 6 people. It’s an extraordinary experience for couples. Leave your worries behind. Enjoy the thrill of moving with the wind without a care in the world. Put life back on an even keel with a romantic experience for a birthday or anniversary. 3-hour sailboat cruise as a semi-private yachting charter lets you exhale and relax as you enjoy comfort, stability and speed.
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