Two couples and a solo sailor chased a Navy submarine for much of the afternoon. It was overcast and still, so we motored under the Coleman Bridge to the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station so they could see a sub in port. It was the third time this season that a sub arrived, which is very unusual. The last one looked like it was having its missile tubes worked on.
I noticed that instead of one Moran tug, there were two. That suggested the sub would be heading out. They keep one in port just in case, but only send the second one for transiting back to Norfolk. I radioed the Navy security patrol standing guard, asking if the sub was weighing anchor so I could get out the way. He responded, but it was garbled.
As we motored back under the bridge, three hefty Navy patrol boats came roaring toward us with guns everywhere. You could see four machine guns, one for the bow, stern, port and starboard. We jockeyed near the Alliance to watch the parade, but nothing happened. Finally the wind piped up a little, so we sailed downriver. Then we heard it.
“Attention, US Navy Submarine 507 transiting the Coleman Bridge and going out to sea! All vessels, stay away 500 yards! Do not cross the bow of the submarine!” By now we were in the middle of the river, so we set out for R-24 and advised the Navy of our attentions. They seemed pleased.
The sub emerged from the middle of the Coleman and turned right to stay in the channel. Once near the US Coast Guard training dock, it turned to port to go out in the channel. The tugboats were the advance party as the three heavily armed patrols scooted back and forth to protect the sub. “This is so cool!” said Lisa Glenn. “I’ve never seen a submarine before.” As the sun came out, it reflected off the hull to show all its length. Later I could find no name for 507, the last one dating to World War II.
Nancy and Pete Perkins of Kingsmill welcomed their sons and their gals home for a pre-Thanksgiving weekend. Their third son was en route from Utah, where he has been working on an astronomy team deep in the heartland where there is no light pollution. Nancy said, “It takes him two hours to drive to the nearest small store for food, and he has no wi-fi out there. So he’s kind of out of touch.”
Sam ran the helm in light winds as I recounted the 1781 Battle of the Capes and Siege of Yorktown. The winds were chilly from the approaching winter, and this was the last afternoon of Daylight Savings Time. Sailing season is fast winding down.
Learning to Sail
A Richmond couple stayed the weekend in Williamsburg and went sailing ahead of ASA lessons in Norfolk with SailTime, where I used to teach. Cynthia Levine said, “He’s wanted to learn how to sail and we thought this might be a good introduction.” I took them through much of the ASA 101 basic course, including close reach, beam reach, broad reach, hove-to and more.
“We’ve been looking for something to do together,” Jay said. “I’m retired and she’s nearly retired. She doesn’t want to ride motorcycles with me, and given my recent history of accidents I thought I’d give that up. This seemed safer, so she’s having me take the course first to see if she would like it as well.” Jay and I set the mainsheet and turned the helm over the Cynthia, who figured it out quickly. She was in a peculiar position of starting out with brisk winds just over 10 mph that slowly diminished as the day wore on. The learning is tougher in light winds, but she did just fine.
Sailing Through Beaufort
Bonnie and I took a quick trip south to see old friends in Beaufort SC. While Bonnie shopped one afternoon in Charleston, I checked out the city docks. The entire operation has been taken over by the company Safe Harbor, down to and including the gas station. I asked the clerk if things were better or worse now that the city was no longer in charge. She shrugged and said, “It’s corporate now, so no.” True dat.
Charleston docks are unique for the Megadock, where yachts worthy of Pier 66 or Tortola tie up. One of them was a long, open motorboat with five outboards comprising 325 hp each. Do the math. It looked very sleek.
Megadock is not only big, but higher than the other docks by 4 feet. A fuel pump showed a $1,838 sum for 559 gallons of diesel. Nearby on an interior dock was a skiff with a center console that goes from boat to boat pumping out their waste tanks. The name is Bow Movement. I passed a sailing yacht named Silver Slippers with a dinghy named Flip Flops. A motor boat of pristine blue was named Mutiny, which seemed odd. Imagine calling the US Coast Guard on marine radio with that identity.
Another standout was a 1984 Catalina 27 that was perfectly restored. I noticed it right away because the nonskid was painted a glossy gray, and all the boat lines were elegantly painted. When it was built, the boat was infamous for its errant aspect ratio, which had to be corrected with an 18-inch plank extending off the bow. That was Bristol with a varnish finish. Indeed, all the brightwork was gleaming varnish. Even the rubrail was replaced, from 1980s brown to 1990s grey. But the most glamorous thing was the nonskid, which was professionally finished.
Farther along was a dock loaded with Oceanis 48s and 51s by Beneteau of South Carolina. I was surrounded by around $2 million worth of luxury sailboats. Nearby a workman was trying to mount not one but two furling systems on a 50-foot yacht. He was turned upside down and struggled just to grab his tools. “I’m a contortionist!” he said cheerfully.
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Sub Exits York
Five people got to see a Navy sub up close as it left Yorktown and went "out to sea."
Capt Bill ODonovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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