A replica ship of Christopher Columbus’s fleet pulled into Yorktown for Memorial Day Weekend. The Nao Santa Maria set sail in 2017 to mark the 525th anniversary of the original discovery of America in 1492. The 200-ton, three-masted ship blew in this week from Wilmington NC.
Skip Miller of Williamsburg took his gal Marion Shackford of Richmond to see the ship from the bow of Let’s Go Sail. He went into Yorktown earlier to learn that tours are free until Memorial Day Weekend.
Marion is no slouch in the ship department. “I just love sailing and miss it so much. Growing up, we went sailing every day with my father on vacation. He sailed well into his 80s. We sailed off the Atlantic coast years ago, and my mom and I ran the boat at night using only the compass. Off New Jersey, we were careful to stay out of the shipping lanes.
“My grandfather served in the US Navy after graduating from the Naval Academy. He served as a Naval aide under President Teddy Roosevelt and fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I. My great-great-grandfather served in the Union Navy during the Civil War and helped retake Charleston from the Confederates. I need to get a sailboat or I’ll break the family tradition.”
Skip did an admirable job on the helm in gusty winds coming out of the southwest. We sailed under the Coleman Bridge to see the Virginia Class submarine that the Navy docked at Naval Weapons Station last week. He’s retired from the FDIC, so I asked him about the bank foreclosures during the Great Recession.
“They were conducted on Fridays so we could get everyone out and work over the weekend to make an early inventory and investigation. It’s highly planned. I worked on the Internet side, but a foreclosure sometimes required all hands on deck. I went on two closures, and they were fascinating. With blue and red lights blazing, we got a police escort down the street at ten minutes to 5 in the afternoon, just before the bank closed. We rushed in and seized all the assets, explaining to staff that they would be kept on because another bank was taking over. What surprised me was that as we left out back of the bank for the evening , all them applauded us. It was amazing, quite gratifying actually.”
Sailing with Bikers
A Kentucky couple spent much of their vacation in Williamsburg riding their bicyles. “Nothing exotic like $10,000 for a bike,” said Sherry Kopecky, “More like $1,000.”
Tim Kopecky said, “We took the Jamestown Ferry to Surry and rode to a seafood restaurant two miles inland. Altogether we did 35 miles that day. Drivers are for the most part very respectful. There’s always the guy in a pick-up and trailer who’s trying to rush somewhere, but you find that everywhere.”
Tim enjoyed running the helm and found it very responsive. “This is the kind of boat you find in Chicago for the Mackinac Race every summer. Hundreds of boats are lined up for the start.” Elsewhere, the Kopeckys have enjoyed smaller waters with bigger boats. “We have a lake where the water is no more than two feet deep, with hundreds of boats and houseboats tucked in together. You can practically walk on water from boat to boat.”
So Many Boats
Three couples sailed in the morning and an extended family sailed in the afternoon as boating season opened on Memorial Day Weekend. For the first time, we saw a dozen or so boats out there on the York River.
Katie Rexrode of Beaverdam VA recalled, “My brother wanted to sail in the Caribbean, but his wife wasn’t quite on board. They made friends with a couple who’s done it, and now she’s more on board. I have a friend who was a chef on a yacht in the Caribbean. Can you imagine?
John Larson spoke of an aluminum motorboat that’s unique. “It’s all electric and operates on 4,000 lbs. of batteries which are stored in the bilge. You can see it on You Tube.” He paused and added, “I think I would prefer diesel.”
Cathleen Reilly is a former litigator who had the best story of the day, and nothing to do with boating. “My legal assistant in Washington used to be a slug. She would stand by the side of the road in Manassas and hitch a ride every day into DC. The drivers who pick up slugs need them to qualify for the HOV lanes. Sometimes they pick up three people at once to qualify for HOV-4, which has now been modified to HOV-3. The protocol is no talking, and of course no paying. She spent her entire career as a slug.”
Then Cathleen topped herself. “My son is dating a beautiful woman whose mother was adopted. Somehow the mother discovered she had a sister and they finally met. They were born a year apart. They have discovered that they have much in common. They like the same foods, TV shows, and more.” I asked how they could be sure it wasn’t a scam. “That’s the reporter in you, skeptical like me a lawyer. They had everyone’s DNA tested to prove the linkage.”
Her beau Gene Boissenin did a masterful job on the helm by exploiting 15 mph winds under two reefed sails. He’s Navy veteran who sailed in San Diego Bay, and it showed.
At the other end of the ship spectrum, we ran across this gem over Memorial Day Weekend. Or rather, it ran across my bow. I tried to raise it on marine radio, to no avail. A few minutes later it radioed our marina for fuel and proceeded into the channel. It cut through Sara Creek and missed Red 8, but didn’t run aground because it’s on giant pontoons. It looks like a cross between a giant duck blind and an amphibious tank. People gathered on the fuel dock and were incredulous. The rope rail was a nice touch.
Next day, the thing was lumbering out the river as I crossed the Coleman Bridge. In late afternoon, it was returning to Yorktown. I tried to raise it on radio with some question, but repeated attempts suggested they were on radio silence. Robert Staton and his wife Donna were on board celebrating their 50th anniversary with a cruise sponsored by their daughter. He has an extensive military background.
“The tents look like standard Army. The bridge looks like an ATC, or air traffic controller.” Up close, the housing unit was a repainted Airstream camper. We waved at the people on board but were not close enough to chat. The dog was nowhere to be seen.
Donna is a dog aficionado. “We have 15 dogs and numerous cats. Three of the dogs are show dogs. I have two Icelandic Sheepdogs and one Finnish Lapphund. They weigh 35-40 pounds and show very well.
“My first dog was a Cocker Spaniel who would run away and stand in the middle of the street. Herding dogs chase cars because they want to herd them, which makes sense. We’ve moved around a lot with the Army, so the dog connection has let me make friends at dog shows with people who share my hobby.”
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Santa Maria to Yorktown
The replica ship Santa Maria blew into Yorktown for the Memorial Day Weekend.
Capt Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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