Mark and Traci Lovelace on Willoughby Bay, Norfolk
A Portsmouth couple bought a 27 Seward to dock near their house. Then they set out to learn how to sail as a team by mastering a Capri 22 through ASA SailTime Virginia Beach. So began four outings in three days of sailing teamwork.
Days 1 and 2 were compounded by considerable Navy activity around Willoughby Bay. Numerous attack helicopters practiced taking off over water. We saw all manner of freighter going back and forth on the James, and watched an aircraft carrier come in from sea. Very big.
Mark Lovelace said, “It’s a special sailboat, and very few are available. We finally negotiated a price with one fellow. He set his price, we countered, he countered, we agreed. We were all set, and then he reneged by saying his broker didn’t like our price.”
Mark and Traci Lovelace.
“What broker?” Traci Lovelace chimed in. “He never said he had a broker and we never dealt with one.”
Mark added, “So we wound up buying it from someone in Oregon and had it shipped here by trailer.” He let that concept sink in, and I shuddered to ask what the cost was.
Regardless, they took most of their instruction on the water during the first day because winds were forecast to slowly diminish. Traci had a hard time on the tiller because it’s counter-intuitive to the wheel on their Seward. After two days on Willoughby Bay, I finally settled on a better way to instruct her. I suggested she think of turning the bow of the boat instead of the tiller of the rudder. That worked, and Mark concurred. They both passed the course as certified sailors.
Teamwork on the York
Back on the York River the next day, a family of three went sailing to see the Virginia Institute of Marine Science from the water. Lori Gomez is director of advancement there, having worked in media with regional newspapers as well as WHRO public television.
At VIMS, she said, “The big issue is growing and selling oyster spat that we have refined over the years. We’ve also accelerated the growth of eel grass under water, which was once nearly extinct in Chesapeake Bay. Over on the Eastern Shore they have managed to grow it from a few acres to 100,000 acres. That has led to the growth of sea scallops, which rely on the eel grass.”
Lori added, “We’re getting a new RV for the Bay. It’s bigger and will allow us to take benefactors and others out on the Bay.” I envisioned a floating RV when she clarified, “Research Vessel.”
Her husband Lou is a government contractor whose first career was in the US Navy. We puttered along on glassy waters as the wind slowly clocked around from the southwest to the east, picking up speed and raising modest waves. I asked if he experienced rough waters at sea.
“Oh yes, it comes with the job. The worst was on frigates because they’re so small and have flat botto
Lou is as US Naval Academy graduate. “I grew up on the high desert of California with no water anywhere. When I went to Annapolis, the first thing we did was learn to sail small boats. We had six to eight guys in a boat working as a team. I loved it all and have lived near water ever since.” Their home is near Jamestown and the James River. That enables Lori to commute to work on the entire length of the Colonial Parkway, perhaps the most beautiful road this side of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
By afternoon, the wind flew out of the east at 15 mph, so we opened the main sail and reefed the jib. The Matthias family of Mechanicsville took their twin sons and a fiancé on quite a ride. Mother Lisa said none of them had ever sailed, and they did great. She’s in charge of the kidney donation center at Henrico Doctors Hospital.
A sixth person joined us, Doug McCall of Jupiter, Florida. He was in town on a contract job at Fort Eustis and came on at the last minute because the weather was so good.
“I sail a MacGregor 26 near Jupiter, which has one of the two most dangerous inlet currents on the East Coast.” He loved the Hunter 320 and asked excellent questions. I was curious about sailing out in the Atlantic on such a small boat.
“That’s where we go. At one point, my buddies and I sailed across to the Bahamas, which is 63 miles. It was tricky crossing the Gulf Stream, where the current runs 4 to 6 miles an hour. On the way back, we had it just right or we’d wind up in Georgia. You don’t want your engine to conk out, either.”
I was dumbstruck at the thought of 63 perilous miles anywhere near the Gulf Stream, much less across it. I suggested he and his crew were glad to see the sight of land, and he nodded. “It took about 10 hours to cross back, quite an adventure. They were all competent sailors. We made a good team.”
The wind was clocking again from the southwest, so Doug and I went up to the bow to set the spinnaker while the Matthias family teamed up to run the boat and the spin sheets. He was excited. Alas, once we pulled the shoot up the wind suddenly shifted to the north so we had to drop the chute back into the V berth.
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Four discrete sail cruises in three days demonstrated various forms of sailing teamwork.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails t/a Let's Go Sail
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