People ask, “What’s the deal with pirates?” Pirates prevailed at Yorktown on Saturday as the Schooner Virginia and RV Virginia sailed into port. The 122-foot schooner went bankrupt years ago and was revived by the Nauticus Foundation, home-ported there in Norfolk. The big white Virginia was just christened as the newest research vessel by VIMS, across the way. The 93-foot vessel is for probing Chesapeake Bay. Note the draft is nearly 9 feet, to offset the top-heavy appearance.
Later we toured Little England Farm, one of the oldest plantations in Virginia dating to 1716. The original building dates to 1690. The place was on the Gloucester Homes Tour for Garden Week. It’s the first time in 49 years that it was open to the public, and only for one day. The classic Georgian house was there when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. In fact, he stayed there one night to get away from the constant bombardment. The local joke is that it made Little England Virginia’s first B&B. On a more contemporary note, an outbuilding called the Nanny’s Cottage is available as an airbnb. When the Rockefellers came to visit in the 1930s, the adults stayed in the main house while the nannies took the kids to the cottage. A quilted pillow reads, “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” The back porch of the Nanny’s Cottage has a spectacular view of York River Yacht Haven along Sarah Creek.
An Ironic Fire
A returning couple from Norfolk joined a young family from suburban Richmond for a beautiful Sunday sail on the York River. George and Daiva Sparrow are transferring in the Navy to Chicago, where he’s from. George took lessons at Great Lakes Naval Base years ago and refined his skills on the helm in fluky winds.
Melissa and Steve Doney brought their two young sons for their first sailing outing and their seventh anniversary. Melissa had sailed in the Caribbean and would love to do it for keeps. “We’ve been to Aruba, BVI, St. Thomas, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands. One of our captains sailed from Canada to the BVI and met his wife there. He an a 20-year-old crewman took us sailing while she cooked the meals every day at home. What a way to live.”
Melissa is a nurse practioner at McGuire VA Hospital in Richmond, while Steve is a paramedic and fireman with Henrico County. “We had a terrible fire at our marina in Henrico,” Steve said. “Thirty boats were destroyed at Rocketts Landing, including our own fire boat. Jimmy Dean’s house burned down and we had no way to get to it. I could hear on the radio traffic that our guys were trying to get to our boat to help control the fire. The problem was that it was at the end of the dock when it should have been at the front.”
Melissa gave me sage advice in the event of someone suffering chest pains. “Four baby aspirin, and keep them calm as you proceed to shore for rescue.”
Dogs Go Sailing
In the afternoon, Sunshine Barnett of Bowie MD made a spontaneous call to take three children and two dogs sailing. “We’ve been tied up at Newport News City Center where my daughter was in an ice skating competition. We needed to do something different and get outdoors.”
She brought her daughter Nadia, son Kaydin and his friend Josh Walker. Together they herded two Dobermin Pinchers, the black Geronimo aged 2 and the brown Broski aged 8 months. “We found you on bringfido.com, where you got an excellent review,” Sunshine said.
“Nadia won four ice skating competitions at Newport News: Spirited, Direct, Synchro and Production.” She moved gracefully about the boat as well, very confident and energetic.
Sunshine works at a luxury dog hotel in downtown Washington called Life of Riley. “Rates are $115 a night for the luxury suite and $60 a day for daycare. People drop off their dog before work. The overnights sometimes last for weeks. One young woman has kept her dog there for three months. One dog owner has the meals cooked by a chef and brought in by pouch. The chicken and rice dinner is wonderful. I would eat it.”
Josh ran the helm quite well for a teenager who’s easily distracted. He kept his targets most of the time in light winds that changed direction at one point. We sailed past the Schooner Virginia, which today flew the largest American Flag imaginable for a boat. Out on the river, four smaller boats exchanged cannon fire as part of Pirates Weekend at Yorktown.
Sunshine handled the dogs, calming them quickly to adjust to the boat’s heeling. She marveled at the economy of sailing, since the fuel is free. “I took the children on an RV excursion last year, out West. We toured Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Zion and finally Venice Beach in California. This one (Geronimo) went hiking with us up the cliffs and on the ledges. He did fine. We had a wonderful time. The gas cost only $806.”
We sailed under the Coleman bridge and back before the winds died down to flat. The kids spent much of the time on the bow, just hanging out. It was everyone’s first time sailing, including the dogs.
Let’s Go Sailing near Yorktown
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