The romance of a sunset cruise is undeniable, when it goes well.
The axiom “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” is a helpful indicator that the sky will remain clear. Except when it doesn’t, and rain falls—in the dark.
After a long day at work, couples enjoy a sunset cruise to relax, but nothing could be further from the truth for a boat captain. After his or her long day, it’s like playing a night baseball game.
The sun sets in different locations as the summer proceeds, so it’s useful to wind up on the water at the best spot at the critical moment. This isn’t Key West, where the sun sets in virtually the same spot beyond Mallory Square.
And unlike Key West or the Gulf of Mexico, the sun sets over the York River into the trees. I’ve found that to be an annoying surprise to guests who automatically assume all sunsets on the water are sunsets into the water. Not.
Seasons matter once the sun goes down. Late summer is best because the skies remain warm in July, August and September. But during March-June and October-November, things get chilly pretty quickly. If the wind picks up, as it can do with any temperature change, that makes it worse.
Summer poses another challenge, with evening thunderstorms. Sometimes they pass quickly but are still ominous to see coming at our suddenly little boat. Occasionally thunderstorms linger for a half-hour or so, which sucks.
The coup de-grace in summer is the Fourth of July. Scores of boats assemble off Yorktown to watch the National Park Service fireworks. But the fireworks don’t start for an hour or so past sunset. Afterward, there’s a mad dash to the surrounding marinas, where it gets dicey. Imagine 20 boats trying to round Daymark 8 in a narrow channel—at night.
Charter boat skippers hate to sail at night for fear of hitting a crab pot or worse. The line of the pot (cage) can hang up on the rudder or the engine prop. If it’s the latter and the engine is on, the engine is suddenly off. Even worse is to run aground in a narrow channel.
Let’s go sail, but not at night
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