Nancy and Mark Clark of Leander, Texas, visited Williamsburg and took their first sail on a very brisk York River. Mild winds from the northeast got stronger as we ventured out toward the Chesapeake Bay. Whitecaps began to show at 10 mph, and the seas built to 3 feet as neared Goodwin Island. The couple was unfazed and enjoyed the sheer adventure of exciting sailing. Their own lives have been quite an adventure.

The sheer adventure of exciting sailingMark used to be in the Navy. “I helped support and train SEALs,” he said matter-of-factly. “I did six years of active duty and then went into the active Reserves. Much of the work was with SEAL teams on both coasts. The even numbers are at Little Creek in Norfolk and the odd numbers are at Coronado, San Diego. So, for example, SEAL Team Six is from here.”

Nancy yielded the wheel to Mark as the boat sliced through the waves. We heeled to 15 degrees, then 20 and 25. The sun was setting as the clouds darkened. It got chilly, so Nancy got her windbreaker. I already had mine on since it was downright chilly. Mark was oblivious in a T-shirt, grinning wonderfully.

The sheer adventure of exciting sailingHe continued, “You don’t just join up with the SEALs. You have to be in the Navy already and achieve a certain rating (rank). BUD is their boot camp. That stands for Basic Underwater Diving. The graduation rate is 23 percent largely due to washouts from the cold water. It’s brutal, and the water is much colder on the Pacific side. Once they graduate, the SEALs go to jump school on the East Coast, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It’s all very physical, requiring great strength but also endurance and smarts.”

Running back, downwind

Out past Buoy G17, we tacked to take a run back on a beam-to-broad reach. The waves caught the stern and pushed the aft quarter to challenge the steering. I sent the couple up to the bow to enjoy a smooth ride downwind for five miles.

The sheer adventure of exciting sailingLater Mark said, “SEALs have miniature submarines that use for clandestine purposes. They embark on missions from conventional submarines. I flew out from Florida to Bermuda to help them on a training mission. We dropped into a Zodiac dinghy and motored at high speed to the sub. At one point I found myself in the silo of a missile, some 80 feet deep. I was working on the electronics.”

We turned to tack back into a close reach and the speed hit 12 mph. Nancy’s cheerful courage during the maneuvering suggested her own adventurous life.

The sheer adventure of exciting sailing“I went with our church on a mission to Zimbabwe where we helped orphan children. We taught them life skills and other skills. They could understand English, and the teachers were fluent as well. It’s very dry there. One 14-year-old girl worked out a way to grow a garden using a deep well. She was remarkable.”

So were Nancy and Mark.

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