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September 20, 2016 Alabama, Autism, Charter sail, How to, Kayak, Lessons, Sailing, Williamsburg, York River

Sailing to Maine

Two couples who’ve known each other since the 1970s went sailing along the York River and wound up sailing to Maine.

Sailing to MaineJim and JoAnn Giesen of Williamsburg hosted Jan and Pers Jonas, who coincidentally live in York, Maine. I was explaining how the current of our York can run to 4 knots, which led Pers to recall another rapid river.

“The Piscataqua in Maine is said to have the second-fastest current in America after the Columbia River. It gets to running because it’s backed up by a big reservoir. When they drain it, the current flows. I kayak very close to shore to minimize the current but I have to give it up sometimes and get out.” I looked it up, and the current runs to 4.6 knots. That’s faster than most people walk. Pers said they live so close to the ocean that he can walk it every day.

Sailing to MaineI pointed out the range lights that show you’re in the channel of the York. I stressed that the lights have to be blinking, or you’re about to be run over by a freighter. JoAnn recalled that a ferry in New York City recently ran over some kayakers. “They were all right.” Pers added, “My kayak instructor said you may have the right-of-way over a freighter, but your heirs will have to argue the point in court.”

That triggered thoughts of shipwrecks. Jan said, “We have a wreck from a long ago war buried in the sand along the shore. At Short Sands, the tides wash in and out, exposing the hull as the sands shift. They had the presence of mind to leave it alone instead of trying to raise it.”

Horses as Therapy

Everyone agreed sailing is good therapy, but Jim had one better. He’s a volunteer with Dreamcatchers, the farm in Toano where they use horseback riding as therapy for children and adults suffering the entire spectrum of autism.

“We total around 4,000 lesson hours a year and do 13,000 volunteer hours using 14 horses. No wait, they just added two more so that’s 16 horses. One program is called Silver Saddles, for those suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s. We recently took a man who was 96 riding. You put a 96-year-old back on a horse after all those years and it all comes back. But it took a long time to get him up on the horse into the saddle. The horses are very patient, as if they know the situation.”

Jim held the wheel like it was the reins of a horse, steady and true. I asked if he was a golfer or a musician, but he turned out to be a mathematician.

Sailing Lesson

Sailing to MaineIn the afternoon Taylor Clarke took her mom Tam Dahlgren sailing while she could take lessons. The wind was brisk but fluky, great for teaching. Taylor learned on a dinghy and got the basics quickly.

Her dad works for Smuckers, which Tam reported was one of the last family-owned companies in America. Her husband’s cat food manufacturing plant of Meow Mix was just acquired by Smucker’s, so they’re moving from Alabama to Ohio.

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Sailing to Maine

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