Season Opener

After a shakedown cruise with a delightful couple from Fredericksburg, we launched the season opener with a fellow who brought his wife and sisters-in-law along for his third time at Let’s Go Sail.

Since it was a Monday, we were on the lookout for two Moran tugs that would signal an incoming Navy warship. Sure enough, off on the horizon they came. I alerted Moran of my intention, and they signaled okay. Behind them by 35 minutes was the USS McFaul, incoming from a six-week cruise.

Per the US Navy: “The guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 25, on a regularly scheduled deployment to conduct maritime security operations. The ship, and its roughly 300 Sailors, is trained and ready to conduct a wide range of tasks, to include ballistic missile defense.

Opening Day

Season OpenerAs it passed Yorktown, we could see extensive rust along the hull which suggested a retrofit was long overdue. The ship slipped through the open Coleman Bridge, where it was followed by one of the Moran tugs to offload the dockmaster.

A pilot helms the ship from Norfolk to Yorktown because pilots are more familiar with the depths and shallows the Chesapeake Bay and York River. The dockmaster, by contrast, jumps on board to helm the boat for the last 1,000 yards to the pier of Yorktown Naval Weapons Station.

Season OpenerThe McFaul arrived nearly dockside when the Coleman Bridge finally closed. The north span got stuck upon closure, which prevented the south side from closing. It took about ten extra minutes to get everything closed. I radioed the bridge master, “Coleman Bridge, good job!”

Wicked Current Sail

A few days later, Kayla McCause of Buck’s County PA brought her family sailing. Jerry Steed, a small-plane pilot, did a precise job helming the boat in rising seas and wind.

I pointed out the range lights, where the Navy follows the channel into the river. “As a pilot, we look for the red and green lights on the runway. If you come in too high, you can only see the red. If you come in too low, you can only see the green. You have to be able to see both of them to land properly.”

Wicked Current Sail

Next, he wondered about the river current, which on some days can go in opposite directions for a while between one side and the other. His wife Page said, “We’ve seen extremes of 40-foot tides in Nova Scotia at the Bay of Fundy. We were kayaking with a guide on the river and were quite proud of ourselves zipping right along. Then the guide had us turn around to go back, and it was awful. We had to struggle to make way in 10 knots of current. But we made it.”

Wicked Current SailWicked Current SailThe McCourse family brought along two dogs, an old beagle and an old sooner. They took a while to settle down but they enjoyed the sail thoroughly. Let’s Go Sail is listed on as dog-friendly (motto: Leave no dog behind). Instead of attaching bulky life preservers, we lash their leashes to the pedestal bar.

Detour Sail

Sail Detour

Colonial National Historic Park held a second public briefing on the closure of the Colonial Parkway. It’s a three-year project costing $123 million to rebuild 10 miles between the tunnel in Williamsburg and the Yorktown terminus. Do the math: $12.3 million a mile. Much it will go toward fixing 11 bridges and the tunnel.

The briefing disclosed the next closure, starting in April, which will be devasting for drivers headed to and from Yorktown and Gloucester. Segments D and E are essentially lumped together, closing the road from Felgate’s Creek to King’s Creek and beyond to Penniman Road. The road won’t be reopened until sometime next winter. People can still access the stretch, but only for recreation and fishing because there is no through passage.

The good news is that a five-mile stretch along the river will remain intact without any construction. That part of the road is fine. Drivers will know this stretch for the enormous rock work going on to strengthen the shoreline. It’s a $22 million project, half of which came from visitor fees to the National Park.

University Sail

Season OpenerA New York City couple took their children sailing on a beautiful March day that finally warmed up at month-end. I typically ask what line of work people are in, and I was astounded when Joshua Jerez said proudly, “I am the executive chef at Columbia University.”

He recounted some of the details. “We feed 13,000 people up to five meals a day, five days a week and 3,000 to 4,000 on weekends. Commencement is in a few weeks, and we’ll serve 6,000 people over the two-day weekend.

Season Opener“Columbia is a wonderful place. We have first, second and third cooks who have worked there 25 years, 30 years, even 40 years. These are great people to be with. Columbia offers fabulous benefits and a wonderful pension. I suppose I should open a restaurant, but this is too good to spend all that time and effort when the restaurant may fail – as happened so many times in the pandemic.”

Season OpenerJoshua’s girlfriend, Camila Garcia, enjoys his career. “I don’t like to cook, so this is a good thing.” She used to run restaurants for Carnival Lines. “The ships have levels A, B, Zero, then 1 through 12. When the pandemic hit, we were departing Miami. We sailed south to let passengers off in their native Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico and beyond. It was very sad.”

I asked Joshua who orders the food for 13,000 people. He replied, “I do. I use spreadsheets and computer programs to order the right amounts every day. It’s all fresh food. We serve steak and lobster, a protein, fresh vegetables, and get our basics from Sysco and other suppliers. The meal plan costs $35,000 a year per student, so it has to be good.”

Season OpenerIs there any food left over. “Yes. We pack it up and donate to a church near Columbia that caters to the homeless. They are very grateful.”

Tuition is $78,000. “On top of every other benefit, tuition and room/board is free for employees’ children. So, Josh Jr. here is going to Columbia!”

Josh Jr. steered a magnificent course in rising winds and seas, adroitly spilling wind in the gusts. I suggested he would do well on the Columbia sailing team.

Josh Sr.’s previous job was exec chef the exclusive British International School in the city. “It’s designed for American kids to learn the British educational system, where they have a Grade 13 beyond our Grade 12. It gives them an advantage when applying to Columbia, Yale or Princeton – or Cambridge in England. Tuition is $68,000.”

Sailing with Pigs

Season OpenerIn the afternoon, a couple visiting Williamsburg from Galesburg IL took their grandson sailing for the first time. Lewis Johnston is an executive with a big hog/pig agricultural company.

I told him betrayed we all felt in the community when Smithfield Foods was sold to the Chinese. He agreed that it seemed unpatriotic. “But you may get it back,” he said. “The company that bought Smithfield is in financial trouble and may have to go public, which would put it back in play.”

I asked if it’s true that when it comes to pigs, they use everything but the oink. “Oh yes. The feet and snout are delicacies in China. Yet their culture rejects all the ham products that we enjoy.” His wife Debbie added, “They even use the course hair for hairbrushes.”

Fun fact from Lewis: “We breed hogs lighter today than during World War II. Back then, they bred them so they got fat with lard. The lard was used to make ammunition for the war effort.”

Let’s Go Sail

Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. Scroll down reviews on Trip Advisor. Go back to the home page of Williamsburg Charter Sails.   

The best Williamsburg boat tour offers safe “social distance sailing” daily for up to 6 people. It’s an extraordinary experience for couples. Leave your worries behind. Enjoy the thrill of moving with the wind without a care in the world. Put life back on an even keel with a romantic experience for a birthday or anniversary. 3-hour sailboat cruise as a semi-private yachting charter lets you exhale and relax as you enjoy comfort, stability and speed.

More from the Captain...

Circumnavigation Sail

John Baker of nearby Gloucester and Joshu and Maryanne Gobrogge of Hancock MI joined up for an afternoon sailing lesson. Joshua has a small boat that he sails on a pond, while John is planning to circumnavigate the world. “Well, first I have to circumnavigate the Chesapeake Bay. I’ve always

Full Story >