People often ask, “What’s it like to sail through a storm?” It’s challenging, for sure. A young couple from Charlottesville drove all the way to Williamsburg to take three children sailing on the York. They wound up learning quickly about sailing through a storm. Actually, when a storm approaches is the best time to roll up the sails. Otherwise the sails provide too much windage and can become impossible to take in. We reacted quickly.
Heather Lutz is writing her dissertation for a PhD in applied health and psychology. Her husband Scott Lim is a cardiologist at UVA Medical Center. We tacked down river to avoid rain clouds moving beyond the Coleman Bridge, farther west.
“I used to be in pediatric cardiology,” he said while quickly adapting to the helm. “The intensity of the heart surgery on children was not sufficiently supported by the government in terms of insurance because so few children need the kind of heart surgery that I do. So I transitioned into a new field. I install miniature heart valves and stints through non-invasive surgery.” We tacked farther down river.
How small? I asked. “Two millimeters for the stint and this big for the valve.” He held two fingers almost touching. How much? “About $5,000 for the stint and $50,000 for the valve.” We kept tacking down river as the storm began to creep toward us.
I wondered how big UVA Medical Center has become. “We just added more beds, so it’s now 470 beds. I was in China recently giving a talk when they took us on tour of Hospital No. 6 in a big city. It had 4,800 beds, all under one roof. They have 37 surgeons working every day. I can only image the size of Hospitals 1 through 5.”
The wind picked up sharply, and it took three of us to reel in the Genoa furler. I managed to reel in the mainsail but lost the outhaul line into the boom. Heather and her small son went below, and I got life jackets and ponchos for the two teen girls. Rain began to pelt and then became a deluge as we turned on the motor and headed back. Scott ran directly into the storm, unfazed. Winds piped up to 30 mph within minutes, but the waves didn’t have time to build to any size. Within 20 minutes we were back in port.
Scott found the adventure exhilarating and asked for information on future sailboat rentals. The girls laughed off the rain, and little Kia kept his life preserver on all the way to the car. Teamwork is vital in a storm.
Sailing by Coincidence
After the storm, I returned the next morning to reset the outhaul line which got lost in the boom. I disconnected the boom vang, mainsheet, outhaul line and finally the tack of the boom. Then I gently lifted some 75 lbs. of 12-foot aluminum boom onto the bimini and eventually to a cargo cart to take it away.
I set it up vertically at the bath house where I could access it from a set of stairs to the second floor. The challenge now was to send a messenger line down the interior to clear the other end. A very thin sailing twine needed to have a small but heavy object to take down the interior without getting entangled with the mainsheet which was still inside. I needed a surveyor’s plumb bob, but the best I could do was the metal shank of a small interchangeable screwdriver. It worked! I picked out an old sponge to keep out bees and messengered the outhaul to great accomplishment. The entire job took a little over two hours.
The two couples who showed up for the afternoon sail were none the wiser. They had several intriguing things in common.
They were from Tidewater, one Suffolk and the other Gloucester.
Both men worked in industrial positions involving plants.
The men have owned motorboats over the years.
Both had significant problems with their boat engines.
The men were celebrating birthdays by sailing.
Marie and David Eckstein live in Gloucester on a creek that feeds into the upper York River. “We went to a reception at the Moton Center, which is right across the creek. I thought, How great is this to walk to a wine reception! The place was founded in the 1930s by a black minister as a retreat for African-Americans to come together to discuss mutual problems. They say that’s where Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired to write his I Have a Dream speech. The place fell on hard times because of a scandal, but it’s back now in the original form helping blacks.”
John and Nancy Dwyer of Suffolk celebrated their son Manny’s 24th birthday. Manny and Mom spent an hour or so on the bow chatting, and later John joined them. John and I had something in common in that our boats are both docked at a Suntex marina. His is in Portsmouth.
“I was new to boating and asked the salesman, ‘How does this work, buying a boat?’ He said to take the asking price and knock it back 60 percent. Really? So I took it down 70 percent. I wound up buying a 310 boat priced at $36,000 for $12,000. We’ve had some problems, though. The gas tanks developed pinhole leaks in the plastic that led to gas running into the boat. The cause was galvanic corrosion from the fasteners of the tanks to the boat. They replaced the tanks, but the clean-up fell to me.” What a relief to know that sailboats aren’t the only boats that face mechanical and structural challenges.
As for the afternoon’s sail, the winds were light so we ferried back and forth between VIMS and Yorktown. Everyone had a wonderful time chatting and, in the case of John’s wife Nancy, napping. Meanwhile, the outhaul and other boom lines worked flawlessly, gliding over sheaves.
Let’s Go Sailing through a Storm
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