Sailing to Afghanistan
Jennifer and Curtis Miller took their family on a “glam camping” trip to the York River, and we wound up sailing to Afghanistan. They are active duty Air Force, so they drove from nearby Langley AFB to Cheatham Annex, east of Williamsburg. There the Navy has decked out the old commandant’s compound into weekend getaways.
From there they went sailing farther downriver at Gloucester Point. Flat seas gave way to 10 mph and then 15 mph winds as we tacked downriver toward Chesapeake Bay. It was Jennifer’s first time behind the wheel of a sailboat, though the family has done considerable fishing and motor-boating. She did great.
The couple met in Afghanistan, where she worked in medical administration and he worked in medical infrastructure. She helped oversee the first democratic election in the country seven years ago, when Hamid Karzai became president.
Curtis said, “We trained medical personnel and turned the presidential palace into a hospital in Kabul. It’s a beautiful place. Our team of four people also built three hospitals in the countryside with 80 beds each. Then we trained the personnel. We also refurbished a big hospital in the capital of Kabul that was left behind by the Russians. It had 400 beds.”
I asked about the weather. “Americans think of Afghanistan as hot and dusty, which is true in the south. Temperatures get to 125 during the day. But in the north, it’s much cooler. I once saw 14 inches of snow fall in eight hours. So to some extent, Afghanistan weather is just like that of the States.”
Back on the boat, we flew the asymmetrical spinnaker with the help of Jeanne Kushabar on the wheel, which is very delicate going downwind. I was praising Jennifer’s ability sailing when Curtis added a telling story.
“We were taking a 40-foot ferry from Izmir, Turkey to Patios, Greece on a windy day. It was the last trip of the year before they had to close for bad weather. The winds were howling as the boat rocked up and down, back and forth, with waves crashing over the bow and the sides everywhere. Everyone on board was getting sick except her.”
“I loved it,” Jennifer beamed. It was her birthday.
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