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October 7, 2015 Navy, Sailing, York River

Sailing with the Navy

While taking a Lowery family from Hawaii sailing on the first sunny day in nearly two weeks, I spotted something five miles out. “Oh look, a Navy ship is coming into port.” They looked at each other as if to respond, “Meh.” Maile Lowery said gently, “We’re from Pearl Harbor. We work for DOD, all but one of us.”

To get in the lee of a 15 mph wind and to see the ship better, we sailed under the Coleman Bridge so they could watch it approach Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. From the bridge, the radio operator advised it was Navy warship 66, which was the guided missile cruiser USS Gonzalez. It was here nine months ago in December, so if it was reloading missiles the obvious inference was that it was back from the Mediterranean, namely Syria.

Maile perked up a little at the sight. “Well, I’ve never seen a Navy ship this close, nor from the water. And I haven’t seen a bridge swing open, either.”

Maile’s sister Cathy spent 30 years crisscrossing the country for the Navy. “I was responsible for installing the missile system materials to retrofit them or install them new. I went to Mississippi, Norfolk, San Diego, all over. I remember how proud we were during Operation Desert Storm when we learned that our Tomahawk missiles were successful. They showed us video of them turning and rising and moving to avoid obstacles. It was fascinating.” Cathy explained that the original Tomahawk missiles were launched from platforms on deck while today’s Tomahawks are hidden below deck and launched vertically, like from a submarine. Can she tell a conventional Tomahawk from a nuclear one? “No, I can’t, not from looking at it.”

Everyone watched as two tugboats nudged the Gonzales into port at the pier. “Remember the time a Navy ship nicked the USS Arizona Memorial and became grounded?” Maile said. “He was relieved of command.” There were no charter sails that day to go see the damage.

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