What’s the Deal with Dolphin Sightings?
While Let’s Go Sail doesn’t promote it, we get asked all the time, “What’s the deal with dolphin sightings?” People looking for boat rentals and sailing charters get an added adventure on the York River.
The Couvion family of suburban St. Louis crossed at least two rivers to go sailing on the York. First the Mississippi and second the James, where they’re staying in a VRBO house near the water while vacationing at Williamsburg.
Mike the dad said, “We’re close enough to swim in the river, and you can walk way out without going under.” Debbie the mom said, “The woman cautioned that not go behind the house to the ravine because the soil was like quicksand.”
They came across the James on the state-run ferry, whose crew had only the day before delivered a baby on board. It was the second time in 13 months that had happened. As I was getting revved up for the history lecture, a pod of dolphins showed up. It was the first substantial sighting this month and largest this summer. About a dozen frolicked in the water, chumming for fish.
The dolphins didn’t used to show up until late August, and then only at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. Today they arrive as early as May and well into the channel of Sarah Creek. The water is getting warmer and warmer, to be sure.
“We swam with the dolphins in Cozumel,” Debbie recalled. “They warned the women not to go in if they were pregnant. I thought it was a precaution against some water-borne infection, but no. It’s because the dolphins have unique sonar that can detect pregnancy in women. They become agitated and start fighting each other to protect the baby. Isn’t that amazing?” We pondered the wonders of science for a moment when her son Caleb piped up, “That would be an awkward way to find out that you’re pregnant.” Everyone laughed.
The dolphins swam away and someone asked if the boat would make it under the Coleman Bridge. I said sure and away we went. I explained how Navy ships transit the bridge, and how the crew of the USS Yorktown guided missile cruiser would stand on the deck in dress whites to salute the town.
Debbie said, “My father served on the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Vietnam.” I encouraged her to take him to the Yorktown Museum in Charleston, where the carrier is on tour with exhibits covering multiple wars. The Congressional Medal of Honor Museum is on the ship. “We should do that. He doesn’t like to travel, but that would be good. He never talked much about his Navy service. Once he said, ‘Here I am, safe on a ship when just five miles away there are boys fighting out there in the jungle.’ He’s 75 and still working. That’s their generation.”
More on Pilgrim
Cristina and George Buliga of Mineral VA drive to work in opposite directions to UVA Hospital and an apartment complex in Spotsylvania. She works in the ER and he heads up the maintenance of 280 apartments. They went sailing to relieve the stress.
“I love the peace and quiet of the sea,” Cristina said. They are originally from Romania and lived 20 years in Chicago before moving to Virginia. “Chicago is too cold and windy in the winter,” she said. At work, “I have seen some bad situations in the ER. We have 26 bays and soon will move into a new ER with 25 rooms. Auto accidents are bad, but yes seat belts and air bags work to save lives. Motorcycle accidents are the worst.” George said, “Virginia at least requires helmets, but not so in Illinois.”
They occasionally went to the Black Sea in the summer, so I took them over to visit the Russian ship Pilgrim at Yorktown. It too has been to the Black Sea. According to the Pilgrim Facebook page, Pilgrim is the second replica by “distinguished Russian Federation adventurer Sergey Sinelnik, who with his bother Alexander made unique expeditions in many parts of the world. Their last circumnavigation was aboard a 10th century Slavic Viking boat called Rusich that made an eastbound passage of 20,000 nautical crossing 25 seas and four oceans.”
We went under the Coleman Bridge and discovered more than a dozen dolphins frolicking in deep water. They popped up in twos and threes, and sometimes one at a time. They dove toward us and under the boat and back. They trailed the boat and led the boat. George took video from the bow, and I caught the first good photos all summer. It was a remarkable afternoon.
Gals’ Day Out
Six women friends from Richmond and beyond gathered to sail the York River with wine and friendship. Among them was Terry Day, a retired nurse.
She said, “I used to live in Easton MD and worked part-time as a bartender. I think I made more money tending bar than I did as a nurse. I was something of a rebel back then. Easton had only 5,000 people and it felt like you knew everyone. Once, the sheriff was tailing me home from a bar. I turned my lights off and zig-zagged along back streets to shake him. When I got to my apartment, there he was waiting for me.”
Later she said, “I used to sail out of Annapolis. A fellow and I sailed out of nearby St. Michael’s on a beautiful day and got caught up in a tornado. It banged me around and bruised me something awful. Honestly, I thought I was going to die, the water was so angry. We finally pulled back into our slip at 3 in the morning. While driving home exhausted, my tire blew out. This is the first time I’ve been on a boat since then.”
In the afternoon, Linda and Henry Maandekock of Algonquin IL took their two teenage children sailing to learn more about the two battles of 1781. They had just come from the Yorktown Battlefield, and they were working their way through Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown as well. I asked about their experience in town.
Henry said, “We thought $100 to fire a musket was a big high, so we went to the ax range instead since it was only $10. He trained us well in how to throw it, and we got up to six tries each. He walks you back six steps and you throw the ax. If it doesn’t catch on the tree, you adjust your distance by a quarter step forward or back. It was a lot of fun.”
Navy Warship Passes
Martiza Rivera-Herleman and her husband Karl traveled from Pittsburgh PA to take their children touring to the history sights. “We’re staying at the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, because the kids love the indoor water park,” Karl said.
There wasn’t much wind, but Martiza was happy to be out on the river with all its serenity. “I’m from Puerto Rico,” she said, “and I love the water. My father and grandfather had boats, and we went out every weekend. I miss that.” Later she looked up the kind of boat by checking with her sister, “It was a Regal 27 or 28. All of us had chores. Mine was the ropes to the dock. And afterward all of us had to clean the boat. It was fun.”
Soon we heard over marine radio, “Attention! Navy warship 99 preparing to depart Naval Weapons Station on the York River. All vessels be advised. Almost immediately the Coleman Bridge began to open, prematurely as it turned out. For some reason, the ship, USS Farragut, was still docked. I think the bridge tender jumped the gun because he’s supposed to hold off on the opening until the boat is moving toward the bridge. Within 15 minutes that happened and we got to see it.
As the Farragut cleared the bridge, I radioed the ship to report that I had moved to the south side of the river, nearing the moorings, so it could go straight out. The radio operator thanked me. Karl and Maritza asked who I was talking to and why. I explained the protocol and they marveled that ship changed course for me.
A family with a small dog and two guys teamed up for an afternoon sail that included a substantial encounter with dolphins. Cocoa the Cavapoo was silent all day long until the dolphins showed up. Then she started to bark, which was amusing. They were nonplussed and kept diving under the hull, to everyone’s delight–well, almost everyone.
Sonya and George Blackwell of Kenbridge VA celebrated their first anniversary by taking a cruise on the York. She’s deputy clerk of the Circuit Court of Lunenburg County. “I love my job. The judge keeps wanting to take me fishing. He has a fast boat on Kerr Lake. Everyone at the courthouse is friendly and helpful.” I figured she was set for life since she can run for the elected office of County Clerk when her boss retires. She smiled.
George is a lineman with an electric co-op. They decided to go sailing over other adventures. “She wants to go skydiving, but why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good plane?” I suggested in case of fire. He thought about that. “Well, a bad fire. Otherwise I’d use the fire extinguisher.” We all laughed.
Electric shock is no laughing matter. “We have a video of man getting rescued atop a pole within 4 minutes. The rescue man has to disengage him and lower him down with line that pivots off the arm at the top. We can do it from a bucket too, but it takes longer because he has to be slipped out of his safety harness. I did it yesterday, and it was kind of sketchy.” Talk about suspending disbelief.
“The thing to remember is that AC power pulls you in while DC pushes you out. That’s why you never hear of anyone electrocuted by a car battery. It pushes you away. Sometimes, experienced linemen get complacent. One man with our company had 17 years on the job. He was holding the open line of one phase in one hand and the other line of the second phase in his other hand. He had on company gloves, but there was a pinhole that allowed the electricity to go through him.” I didn’t ask the outcome.
George offered a helpful tip for drivers. “If you have an open line down on your car, you have to be careful to get out without maintaining contact with the car. You’re protected inside because of the rubber tires. But if you just step out normally, your feet will touch the ground and kill you. You have to hop out, no longer touching any part of the car.”
I promised to send him the recent video of the lightening strike at a Boston area marina.
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