Light and variable winds reduced the speed, so we experienced a serenity sail on the cooler York River.
“The heat doesn’t bother him,” Cate Bell said of her husband Bob Caley. “He’s in the heating and air conditioning business.” Last week Bob hurt his hand removing a water heater from an attic, where things get pretty hot this time of year. I asked him how hot.
“It can get to 180 degrees. At that point you can’t last but 15 minutes. So you come downstairs and rest for 15 minutes. And back up to the attic for 15 minutes, and so on. When you start to see spots before your eyes, that’s when your entire body is too hot. You’re not just dehydrated, which is one thing. You’re overheated, which is bad.” It was getting pretty warm in a still wind, but Bob was relaxed and mellow.
They live in Virginia Beach. Years ago Cate lived on the Peninsula and raced sailboats out of Hampton Yacht Club. “One time we were out in the Chesapeake Bay on a boat smaller than this when a gust of wind nearly blew the thing over. I got tossed out of the boat. I knew it wouldn’t capsize because where I was, I could see the keel sideways. But I was flipped into the water. My boss played Jesus and lifted me up and out of the water with one hand. OMG! The water was really cold, since it was October.”
Cate has worked many jobs. “I once was a jailer at the Norfolk jail, working in mental health.” I asked if she watched “Orange is the New Black.” “No, it’s too gross.”
We could hear the traffic in the distance on the Coleman Bridge, and Kevin asked how the span opened. He makes engines for small airplanes, including experimental planes. I showed him with hand gestures how the spans turn sideways to allow the Navy ships to transit.
The other couple on board was Kevin and Cheryl Eckert of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, home of the Little League World Series. You’d think they’d have thousands of hotel rooms, but the event only lasts a week so there’s no money in having them vacant the rest of the year. “As a result,” Cheryl explained, “the smart people book the guest rooms months in advance for what few rooms are available.” I wondered how a team could be so confident as to predict they would make the World Series. But a gust of wind came up and I forgot to ask her.
The winds picked up slightly and we turned downwind to fly the spinnaker. Cate went up on the foredeck to help me hoist the chute while Cheryl ran the tack line and the spinnaker sheet.
A fellow on a trimaran called Full Stride sailed up my aft quarter and proceeded to tell me I was flying the spinnaker wrong, that I should have more of a beam reach than a deep broad reach. “Your asymmetrical doesn’t work as well straight downwind,” he shouted. “I’ll run out of water otherwise,” I responded. He sailed away, having impressed his date.
Kevin held on the helm. “I made a sailboat once, out of a rowboat. I took a two-inch-wide section of galvanized pipe and placed it in the bottom with concrete as a foundation. The rowboat didn’t have a centerboard, so I made two dagger boards to attach to the side. My sister sewed double sails and I managed to get them both out in different directions to go downwind. We went really fast that day.”
Williamsport is way up the Susquehanna River, “about 150 yards wide,” Kevin said. “One time the mayor took out a motorboat with some important people on it. My friend noticed from the dock that the plug was out of the boat and it was slowly taking on water. He waited until it was up to their ankles and asked if the mayor would like him to restore the plug. ‘Yes!’ and he did.
Let’s Go Sail
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