No one had to remind us about the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. By coincidence we encountered a young couple from Charlottesville engaged in our national security. They joined Jeanne Kushabar and Corinna Caldwell for a quiet early day cruise on soft west winds.
Tracy Musil and Joe Wawro are working on separate Army contracts for the Department of Defense. Joe is helping develop software for the Army and Air Force that will detect incoming ordnance in a millisecond by type and load, followed by an appropriate response or evasion.
He’s well suited to the task, having served in Intelligence in the US Navy. “I was stationed in Pearl Harbor with a team that deployed for 60 to 90 days on submarines. We would ferry out by boat to the sub and board through the sail offshore. Our mission was to accompany the crew into new waters that they were unfamiliar with. Of course, they had a team of navigators to chart the waters. Our job was to show them the routes of potential enemy subs out there.”
I wondered what it was like on a sub. “You take a battery of psychological tests to make sure you can handle it. I rode 11 different subs and spent all those 60 to 90 days underwater. I never saw a problem with the crew. Occasionally you were allowed to go topside through the sail to get some fresh air and look around. You’d be surprised what the human body and mind can respond to and adapt.”
What about claustrophobia? “No, but I got close. We slept in racks that were no bigger than a coffin. Sometimes I’d wake up at night and see the rows of wires a few inches above my face. I turned my head toward the aisle, and that helped.”
‘Not for me’
Jeanne piped up, “I knew I wasn’t cut out for submarines when I went on the one at Disneyland. It was on a track and in only five feet of water. When it went down and I could see the water through the portal, I knew this was not for me.” I pondered how many thousands of potential Navy submariners inadvertently got pre-screened out of the program thanks to the Disney ride.
Joe was adept on the wheel after watching the ladies tack several times. He needed no instruction on sailing off the wind. I asked if he ever steered a submarine. “No, but I did get to dive once. I got an immediate response when I blew the water out of the ballast to go down. You feel it right away, the sense of descending. It was a complete change of orientation.”
Did he miss the Navy? “The crews and commanders are excellent, very professional. I miss the camaraderie.” We tacked near Naval Weapons Station and turned around to fly the spinnaker back.
The second trip differed completely. The winds died down, clouds filled the air, and rain threatened off in the southeast.
Mallory Beard took her friends and teammates from Hampton University out for her 20th birthday. Their volleyball team travels the country and plays 30 games over the course of the pre-season, season and post-season. The girls are all scholarship players from volleyball bastions of California and Texas.
“This is wonderful way to celebrate a birthday,” Mallory told me. All five of them spent the entire time on the bow as they talked, played music and took pictures. I hovered close to the entrance of Sarah Creek in case the rain broke out, but it held. The girls ignored the weather and had a great time. No one dropped her cell phone off the bow, either. All systems secured.
Let’s Go Sail