What started out as one couple going out for a cruise on the York River turned into an unexpected sailing lesson.

Chris Loving and his girlfriend Krysten Scafe drove in from Richmond for a quite sail. While waiting for them in the ships store, a couple approached who were looking to rent a boat. Carlos Davis moved here from New Mexico, where there is precious little sailing waters. His girlfriend Angela Panuga lives in Gloucester Point.

Unexpected sailing lessonAngela is an OR tech at Riverside Medical Center in Newport News. Her operating team specializes in eyes, ears and throat. Riverside has 14 operating rooms there and two in Williamsburg. Krysten is a dental assistant with a group in Richmond that has 60 dentists scattered over multiple locations. They had a lot in common to talk about. 

We ventured out on a sunny day in light breezes, with Carlos on the wheel for his first lesson.

Running tide prevents making way

Unexpected sailing lessonWe sailed across the river on a southwest wind that suggested we could tack up river. I pointed out that the tide was running out, creating a substantial current the precluded making way over ground. As we approached Riverwalk Landing, they could see the drift. It took three more tacks to reach the Coleman Bridge, where we motored through in two minutes. From there, the coast was clear to sail upriver.

Soon we were sailing away from the bridge, well above the Mariners’ Museum. We tacked across and went far enough to get a good tack upriver again. I watched the depth meter fall from 20 feet to 18 to 15 to 10 to 8 and proceeded to come about when THUNK! We ran aground at 3.2 feet. My draft is 4 feet. I let the sails loose and turned the engine on to motor backward a few feet. The current slowed our exit, so Angela suggested the four passengers move to the bow. That did it. The shift in weight helped free the keel, and we were off. The entire grounding took around two minutes. It was the first time I’ve done that in 10 years.

How to get off a grounding

The trick is to think about what’s going on down there. You just hit ground. Don’t make it worse by turning, since that will only screw the keel into more ground. Reduce or remove the sails to avoid windage as that forces pressure on the keel. Turn on the engine and back off in the exact direction you approached. You’re only two feet away from clearance. If the tide is running, as was the case here, act quickly to avoid running out of water.

Unexpected sailing lessonWe did three more tacks and turned downwind to fly the spinnaker. Carlos and I went up on deck to raise the chute while Angela and Chris help the sheets. Krysten held steady on the helm. We sailed for miles, through the bridge and past Yorktown. Then the wind changed and we took the spinnaker down. All told, we did 31 miles in a great adventure of shifty winds and one unexpected challenge. They loved it.

Unexpected sailing lessonLet’s Go Sail

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