Sailing with warships

Three couples went sailing near Williamsburg on the York River and wound up sailing with warships, metaphorically and literally.

dscn9631Steady winds on a bright sunny day rocked the boat from side to side, which formed a context to show how the man-of-war battleships coped in the Battle of the Capes. You can’t shoot your cannons very well if the gunwale is pitched downward into the sea. Similarly, waves of two feet can broach the aft quarter enough to throw off the projection of cannons shooting from anywhere on board.

As if on cue, a Navy warship came cruising in from Norfolk on the way to the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. The USS Mahan is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that comes and goes frequently. I radioed the ship to indicate we were standing off to the south in the moorings of the river.

Sailing with warshipsThe radio man on the bridge thanked me and altered course to go more directly into the middle of the river instead of the channel off to the south. This impressed my crew greatly. Jeff Anderson pointed to the gun on the bow. “That takes a 5-inch shell.”

No wake zone

What happened next was fascinating. After undergoing swells and pitching that altered our shooting capacity, everyone was surprised to find that the Mahan created no wake as it steamed past us. New technology somehow mitigates the wake, which is important for maintaining stealth at sea.

Sailing with warshipsPam Blankenship was intrigued by the Mahan for another reason. “That number is DDG-72. My son’s aircraft carrier is CVN-72, the USS Abraham Lincoln. We went on a Tiger Cruise where you can take your immediate family out for two weeks, but no girlfriends or boyfriends. We boarded in Hawaii and cruised to the next port of San Diego. Some people got off, but we stayed for the next leg to Everett, Washington. That’s the home port. It was the best trip of my life.

“The accommodations weren’t fancy of course. I berthed in racks with the female crew. There were 1,000 guests on a ship with capacity of 5,500. My son was in charge of issuing ice cream, so he did a lot of bartering and as a result never had to do his own laundry. He went on to become embedded for a year with an Army unit in Iraq.

Circus act

Sailing with warshipsJeff Anderson and Pam’s date Jim Bateman are in a band that plays all over West Virginia and beyond. Joining us were Jim Scannell and Caroline Lemay, and she’s in a band as well. “I play oboe and flute in Cirque du Soleil,” she said. Jim said, “We just finished up in Hampton and this is our day off.” They were taking the Lessons Cruise to get in shape for three consecutive courses they’re taking in St. Vincent  Island with the American Sailing Association.

Jim added, “I’m a carpenter with the stage crew, knocking down and reassembling the sets. We split 50-50 between artists and crew. There are 18 Cirque du Soleil, of which Las Vegas, Orlando and New York are permanent. The rest are traveling shows.”

Sailing with warshipsThey met on tour in Japan and have played all over Europe, Australia, Taiwan and the U.S. So you’ve traveled all over the world? I asked Caroline. “A bit of it,” she replied. She is from Ottawa and he’s from Kent, England. Jim said, “My grandparents have a 28-foot sailboat in Southampton. The currents are wicked. I hope to acquire that someday and see more of the world.”

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Sailing with warships




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