People summon up the distant past to remember the strangest things about sailing. After seven days of clouds and rain, the skies brightened and so did the customers. While navigating the York River in a rising wind as his wife and daughter looked on confidently, Matthew Reed of Higganum CT recalled sailing after a storm in St. John’s in the Virgin Islands.
“The storm blew through, leaving behind strong winds from the front. My buddy and I went out on a 40-foot catamaran in seas that rose to ten feet. Everyone below was throwing up, but we were having a fine time up on the bow lying in the netting. As the boat rose in the waves we had to cover our beer cans with our hand to avoid losing any. It was amazing, rising up and crashing down. A crew member crept up to us and asked if we were okay. ‘Sure! Bring it on!’”
Matthew races mid-week on the Sakonnet River. “We get dozens of boats turning out for the race. I sailed on a J-24 and now a J-40. The river empties into the Atlantic near Block Island. Sometime when the current is running 7 knots we can barely make headway.” On this day, big winds blew the boat back and forth to 20 degrees heeling, and Matthew loved it. “30 degrees, actually,” he corrected me with a grin.
In the afternoon, David Magnuson of Half Moon Bay CA relished the emerging sunshine by spontaneously calling Let’s Go Sail in search of an opening. He was in luck and brought his two children and one of their friends along. He’s looking to buy a 40-foot catamaran, which was quite a coincidence after the Reed story.
He asked about slip fees, and I told him ours run $225 a month. “Wow, that’s great,” he said. “It costs $600 a month in Half Moon Bay, and I’m on a waiting list that will take years. Half Moon Bay is actually rougher than San Francisco Bay because it opens directly to the ocean.
David is a former Navy officer who got washed out of SEALS training with a near-fatal embolism in his lung. He’s still a physical fitness buff. “I kayaked from Catalina Island to shore with a big wind on my port side. A chase boat was with me, and it took a long time.”
Among war stories we discussed, he mentioned that his ex-father-in-law is a retired Marine officer who once fell on a grenade in South Vietnam to protect his troops. “It blew off his jaw and required extensive surgery, with a new tongue too. Oddly, he had a deep rural Southern accent but he lost it after that.” It occurred to me later that he should have won the Congressional Medal of Honor, but I forgot to ask. David said he would bring him sailing next time.
A few days later we encountered a Navy crane barge lumbering up the river toward the Naval Weapons Station. YD-255 is a non-self-propelled barge 175 feet long with a crane the can lift 1,372 tons. The ship, if you can call it that, is home-ported at Norfolk Navy Base and has to be moved with two Moran tugs.
Surrie Moran departed Naval Weapons to meet her counterpart pushing the barge as it reached Yorktown. Together they navigated the Coleman Bridge and gently got the barge snugged up to the pier. It was delicate because another ship was already in port, the USS Stout. A Navy patrol boat hovered offshore protecting both vessels. A few minutes later another barge came up the river toward West Point, so we remained on the north side of the channel.
Observing all this were two couples from Tuscon and Maryland. Vicki Ronco loves Arizona and was hoping for the sun to come out, which it did. “In Tuscon, we tell all our friends up north that we’re busy shoveling sunshine.” John said, “We saw your article in AARP and had to go sailing with you. We came to watch the LPGA tournament at Kingsmill, and Vicki played the course a few days later. She shot a 91.”
Her husband Ron recalled his college days on the water. “My roommate’s dad built a Skipjack sailboat in Chesapeake Bay and took up to New York and then the Hudson, through the Erie Canal and on to Lake Erie at Cleveland.” I asked how it sailed. “I don’t know. Our job was sit on the rail and drink beer.”
Tom and Beth Shumate never left their post on the aft of the cockpit. Tom sailed the entire route not by standing up like most people, but rather seated beside the wheel. That’s the preferred method of experienced sailors because the vision is good around the genoa while the tension on the wheel is excellent. I asked where he sailed previously. “My first time, actually,” he said.
Later that day a couple from Los Angeles took their 12-year-old son sailing. Mark Fergesen said, “Lisa and I once had a 14-foot Lido. We called it The Cursed because everything went wrong. One time we were slowly moving along when the boat simply stopped. I looked up and the mast had hit a power line. Not fast enough to break the wire or the mast, thank God. Another time, when the wind picked up, the mast simply broke in two, with shrouds passing by our faces. That was the end of The Cursed.”
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Sailing Under Brighter Skies
Sailor from Connecticut recalls hanging on to a catamaran in 10-foot seas without spilling his beer.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails t/a Let's Go Sail
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