A couple eager to sail hard on a windy day joined a family who thought they were just going for an outing on the York River. The result was sailing to serendipity.
Cathy and Steve Kirby vacationed in Williamsburg from their home near Charlotte. “I have a 26-foot Hunter that’s trailerable with the water ballast. We take it to the Neuse River, to Oriental and Beaufort for a week at a time. Kathy goes to the beach and I go sailing out in the ocean.”
He added, “The boat is named I-77 so that when my boss calls I can tell him I’m stuck in traffic on I-77, for hours at a time. I even have the Interstate symbol on the side of the boat. I showed a picture to my boss and he said, ‘I’ll be damned.’”
Skip and Claire Baker brought their children Kaylah and Andy. Steve graciously yielded the helm to Andy to get a sense of the high seas. The wind picked up from 5 to 15 mph in a few minutes and we were off on a downriver tack in seas that eventually built to three feet as the win whipped off Chesapeake Bay. We were flying, but everyone was safe.
I gave Kathy a slicker, and she and Kaylah went up to the bow to ride the downwind leg on a flatter plane. Later when we turned back into a close reach, the waves crashed against the bow and created a roller coaster effect. “This is awesome, the best ride ever!” Kaylah shouted to us from the bow.
Skip recalled his early days of sailing. “I had a 21-foot Chrysler called the Mary B. I took Claire out and had a good sail on that as we sipped wine.” There would be no wine today as the boat was rocking with excitement.
Skip added, “When I was young I took out a friend’s 17-foot Prindle in the Gulf, off Panama Beach. We thought it would be fun to go out in a storm and ride it into shore. We sailed ahead of the storm and I stretched out on the trapeze as far as I could go. A gust of wind nearly pitch-poled the boat, but we made it. The jellyfish were so big that they kicked out the rudders as we went by. That was 40 years ago, I remember it clearly.”
The implication is that smaller boats are more vulnerable to weather. By contrast, a 32-foot sailboat cuts through the waves.
Steve had a similar story. “My friend went out in seas like this on a 23-foot boat that he just bought. He took his wife out to get her used to it. They planned to go 50 miles across the sound. Midway, he called the Coast Guard for help. They asked if anyone had fallen overboard. No. They asked if he was taking on water. No. ‘Then you’re on your own. We can give you a number to call someone else.’ Six hours later, the Coast Guard had to rescue them anyway.”
On a brighter note, Steve said, “Kathy comes from a boating family. Her father took us out fishing on his 60-foot sport fishing boat. I offered to pay for gas but he said no. He suggested I bring sandwiches instead. Good thing. The fuel that day cost $3,000.”
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