Sailing the Great Outdoors
On a day when the winds went from flat to fresh to stormy, we went sailing the Great Outdoors on several levels.
First, our crew thought it would be fun to sail under the Coleman Bridge. That’s intriguing because while the boat clears the underside by ten feet, the illusion suggests it’s much narrower. As we approached, the twin spans began to swing open, which was weird because that only happens for the US Navy. Yet there wasn’t a Navy ship in sight.
I radioed the bridge and he said it was a test. “Come on through, Captain.” So we did. The drivers stuck on the bridge were likely annoyed at having to wait for a sailboat to transit. Then the bridge got stuck open! That last ten minutes. As we got near, we waved cheerfully as if to say, “Thanks for waiting.”
Next we saw our daily dose of dolphins, but they were few and far between. It was almost as if they were playing us as opposed to playing for us. One couple, Kevin and Shelia Meyers, spent the entire three hours lounging on the bow of the boat in a serene and romantic setting.
Chris Culp had his parents aboard, and we could see off in the distance the SS Cornhusker at Cheatham Annex pier. “We use it for training stevedores because it has two cranes. I’m an officer with Navy Cargo Handling Battalion.” I asked why it came through the bridge under tow a few weeks ago. “I don’t know why since it’s fully powered.”
Years ago Chris transited the bridge three times on destroyers to the Naval Weapons Station. I was under the impression it was to unload stale munitions and load fresh, but no. “After a ship arrives at Norfolk [Navy Base] they have a week to settle in before they come up here to unload weapons for safety purposes. They don’t want ships clustered down there with weapons aboard. When they get ready to redeploy they’ll come up here to get a new set, not necessarily the munitions they unloaded. The stock is rotated.”
I have trouble differentiating destroyers from cruisers. “The mast is canted on a destroyer, and cruisers tend to have two masts.”
Big Boats & Small
Back to smaller boats. Chris’s father Caroll had a 22-foot Catalina with a swing keel, so he had no trouble on the helm of a 32-foot Hunter. “We used to charter in the Caribbean,” he said with his wife Donna next to him. “We sailed a 50-foot ketch from St. Maarten to Curacao with a Dutch couple. The weather got pretty severe, to the point that I nearly had the bowsprit dipping into the waves. It was a lot of fun.”
We talked about American sea history and Chris reported, “The USS Constitution is more than a tourist attraction. It’s still in service as a US Navy ship and is manned by the Navy.”
The winds picked up for the afternoon run. Todd and Joy Needham drove in from Charlottesville just to be on the water. “I have a 23-foot Precision off Lake Huron, on a bay,” he said. “We went to St. Maarten for three years running to watch the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. We sit out on a friend’s balcony to watch, and we go out on a catamaran to watch closer. It’s great to see 200 sailboats under sail, in all classes. The fastest is the Phaedo, a hydrofoil cat that can reach 50 miles per hour.” Later he sent me links to Facebook and Sailing World magazine to expand on the wild speed of Phaedo. It’s simply amazing.
Ice Fishing & Sailing
Todd rides snowmobiles in the winter in upstate Michigan. He was familiar with ice sailing on Lake Huron. “I don’t see much of it, though, since the ice has to be smooth. I see lots of ice sailboats in people’s yards, for sale. Mostly we see people ice fishing, but that can be tricky. Even though the ice gets two feet thick, it snaps and cracks. That’s how you wind up with ice floes. Or it just opens up completely. My buddy lost his ATV that way. He had to fish it out but was lucky since it was in 16 feet of water.”
With that, I crossed Ice Fishing off my Bucket List.
With us were Rob Spain and Sara Elizabeth Timmins. He works as a recruiter of engineers and other professionals for a huge energy company. We chatted about the balloon accident in Texas where 16 people died when the rig hit high-power lines. It looked like it exploded.
“I doubt it since it was just hot air, not gas,” Todd offered. Well, it clearly caught fire. Rob added, “Most people don’t realize those high-power lines are not insulated like regular wires. That way the electricity travels faster and farther, without impediment by the sheathing. So it’s not something you want to come in contact with.
I crossed off Hot Air Balloon from my Bucket List.
Rob and Sarah were sailing to familiarize him with the excitement. She hopes to take a series of ASA sailing classes all at once during a week in the Caribbean. Rob said, “The deal is that I’ll do that with her in return for her hiking with me in the back country of Yellowstone.” Isn’t “back country” an oxymoron? “No, they have campsites and other amenities for regular visitors. The back country has potential encounters with black bears and grizzlies. The black bears eat people food, but the grizzlies eat people. My plan is to open a can of tuna and plant it in the backpack of another hiker to divert the grizzly’s attention.”
Rob said hikers sometimes leave behind an occasional canister of food for others to use, especially in an emergency. “However, the bears have figured out how to open the lid even though they don’t have opposable thumbs. They’re pretty clever.”
I crossed off Back Country Hiking from the list. Sailing never looked safer.
Let’s Go Sail
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