The ride of their lives
Two couples from Florida got the ride of their lives in 20 mph winds along the York River. For safety’s sake I had everyone suit up in Class I life preservers. Johnny Motoc held the helm throughout. Under a reefed mainsail we plowed out toward the oil terminal, where one freighter was making weigh while another stood ready to replace it.
A strong east wind churned up 3-feet seas on the Yorktown side of the Coleman Bridge, so we turned around and took the downwind route to the lee of the wind under the bridge. The rain held off but the waves built. I pointed out that the waves are often more trouble than the wind. They believed it. The sailboat was heeling a steady 15 degrees, occasionally gusting to 20. It was the closest we got this season to extreme sailing as at least once the bow plowed into the river.
Once in the lee we sailed easily, still under half a reefed main as we glided past the Navy warship Mesa Verde. We gave it plenty of leeway, cognizant of the Navy patrol boat guarding the perimeter. Inexplicably a USCG training boat came past us, headed upriver. Then came a second, a third, a fourth and fifth, all spaced ten minutes apart. They disappeared over the horizon toward Queens Creek. “Maybe they’re going for donuts,” Johnny joked.
The couples stayed overnight in Norfolk and were surprised at all the flooding lately. “Is there a plan to deal with the rising waters from global warming?” Johnny asked. I suggested it was still a back-burner issue, just short of denial.
“It’s terrible in South Beach,” Johnny said. “Stores on Collins Avenue have sandbags at the ready to put out front. And that’s just for a bad rainfall. Sometimes it gets a foot deep in the middle of the street.” Shawn Ushko added, “We’ve seen a similar situation at Ft. Lejeune, North Carolina, where we do work. The houses out on the point are under water sometimes.”
Shawn and her husband Paul are in the roofing business. “We have a lot of military contracts,” he said, “mostly Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. Nothing in Virginia.”
I asked where how they find employees. “Mostly word of mouth,” Shawn said. “We advertise on craigslist too. It’s hard to fine good people. It’s hard to find Americans. “I told them how the Guatemalans flooded into greater Williamsburg after the last hurricane.
Shawn said, “We have around 15 workers, including a team of Guatemalans who keep to themselves. Our workers are all legal, and we don’t tolerate drugs on the job since it’s so dangerous. Sometimes I have to show them how to do the work, so I get up there on the roof with them. We pay $50 a square, which is a ten-by-ten section. They’ll try to negotiate for $55, but I tell them, ‘Hell, we don’t pay Americans $55.’”
We talked about the spreading legalization of marijuana, which no one seemed fond of. “It’s coming to Florida,” Paul said gloomily. “But you know, it’s still safer than alcohol. You don’t hear about any DWIs or car accidents because of marijuana.” Johnny piped up, “Nor barfights.”
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