Brainy Sail

Yorktown SailAfter more than a decade since the Yorktown Refinery went bankrupt and the “parts” were sold to China, workers finally began cutting up the numerous fuel storage tanks for scrap. It’s a shame no one came around to revive the refinery, because it’s perhaps the only deepwater port on the East Coast suitable for that.

Brainy Sail

While on Spring Break visiting Williamsburg and Charlottesville, a Louisville couple took their young daughter sailing on the York. Brian Snyder went to the University of California-Berkeley and was on the sailing team. Amazingly, he and his teammates sailed 12-foot scows in San Francisco Bay. Under the bridge? “Yes.”

Brainy SailHis skills were rusty after ten years or more, but he got them back quickly. A warm wind blew out of the west and then died, leaving us temporarily stranded off Yorktown. Then the winds clocked around from the east and picked up smartly, albeit 15 degrees cooler. He had no trouble adapting.

I asked what he did in Louisville and Brian said “I’m a surgeon.” His mother-in-law Cheryl Bradley piped up, “He’s very modest. Brian is a brain surgeon.”

To get there, “I took four years of medical school and seven years as a resident, plus at least one year of a fellowship that’s coming up this summer. It will entail operating on the brain while the patient is still conscious.”

Cheryl and I looked at each other as if to say, “We’ll take the anesthesia.”

Brian explained. “I’m removing a tumor, perhaps several. I need you awake so you can respond if I ask you to move your arm. If that eventually becomes difficult, that means we’ve gone deep enough and need to stop near that section of the brain before continuing elsewhere.”

He works with a team but is the only surgeon in the room, averaging five hours for each operation. “Many, many times I’ve taken 12 hours or more.” Without a break? “Yes. I can take a break but I choose not to.” He listens to rock music while operating. “It provides me with energy to keep going. Only afterward, while driving home, do I listen to classical in the car.”

Tumors grow within the brain because there is enough room.

Brainy SailHis wife Danielle Burch is no slouch. She works in physical rehab at the University of Louisville Hospital. “My specialty is rehab after brain injuries or surgery,” she said. Brian quipped, “She fixes my mistakes.”

Can people recover from a stroke? “Oh yes,” she said. “There’s a window of neuroplasticity when the brain is still pliable enough to regain motor function so patients can walk, move, talk and more. At first, we have to get them motivated to get out the bed. It’s a long process but very rewarding. I love my job.”

I told her mom, “Well, you’ll be in good hands right up until you have to go to the old folks’ home.” Everyone laughed.

Brainy Sail

Foggy Sail

Fog is rare on the York River, since the sun and wind blow it out on those few mornings when it rolls in. On this day, the fog persisted into the afternoon and led to virtually no wind as we waited for the weather to change.

Foggy SailDeanna Butler remained unfazed while enjoying her surprise for husband Torey on his birthday. He’s a postal carrier who once served in the Navy. “I was in boot camp in Illinois when 9/11 happened. They took us immediately and shipped us all out. I was in the second wave to Iraq.”

I facetiously asked if anyone fell off a ship. “Fell? Well… not exactly. I saw a guy thrown off the bow of an aircraft carrier.” Whhhaaaat? “It turned out he was a spy. There was no time for a court martial. It was war.”

The fog lifted and the wind picked up from the east, so Torey took the helm. He provided some context.

“I was rated an ET, basically an electrician. After 9/11 the Navy wanted to rewire submarines for new weapons systems. Before, they could fire two Tomahawk missiles. Afterward, they could fire eight. It was hard work rewiring everything, and in tight quarters as well. I needed runners to fetch the wire because I was wedged in tight and couldn’t move.

Foggy Sail

“Then I nearly got electrocuted. The power was off, and some guy thought it would be interesting to see what happened if he turned it back on. Wham! It blew me ten feet up and paralyzed my leg for a while. It was 240 volts. That scared the life out of me, to think it could have killed me. I got out of the Navy after four years. I don’t even do electrical work around the house. Let someone else take the chance.

“Anyway, while the sub was getting all this rewiring, someone in the ranks was taking notes and leaking them to someone linked to China. These were details about the new missile system by a straight-up spy. That’s why he went over the bow. I didn’t participate, but I knew about it.”

Anniversary SailAnniversary Sail

Anniversary SailA couple from Martinsville in south central Virginia joined a couple from the Philadelphia suburbs on a breezy morning with bright sunshine. They both celebrated wedding anniversaries, 5th and 50th respectively. And three of the four people were grade schoolteachers. Coincidences abound in sailing.

Sailing with Cancer

An older couple from metro Richmond took their young grandson sailing for the first time. Eric and Susan Norman had sailed on his brother’s boat years ago in San Diego, so he knew how to helm. It was challenging in a brisk wind, so we let the main out full and withheld the jib.

Sailing with CancerHe’s an ex-Army captain who served all over Vietnam in the 1968 period, where he contracted Agent Orange. “I’m in Stage 4 of the cancer, but as you can see I can still function.” He sailed admirably and looked 20 years younger than his 80. “I can’t exercise much and can’t work in the yard, but I can do this.” Eric raved about his physicians and treatment at the VA Medical Center in Richmond. “Some of the doctors are oncologists at VCU Medical School, and the VA regularly defers to their judgment.”

Later, he asked, “Have you ever eaten at Mission Barbecue in Richmond? Every day at precisely noon they stop everything to play the National Anthem.” Susan Norman added, “The cooks stop, the wait staff stop, everything stops. They all come out into the dining area for the Anthem.”

Let’s Go for a Yorktown Sail

Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. Scroll down reviews on Trip Advisor. Go back to the home page of Williamsburg Charter Sails.

The best Williamsburg boat tour offers safe “social distance sailing” daily for up to 6 people. It’s an extraordinary experience for couples. Leave your worries behind. Enjoy the thrill of moving with the wind without a care in the world. Put life back on an even keel with a romantic experience for a birthday or anniversary. 3-hour sailboat cruise as a semi-private yachting charter lets you exhale and relax as you enjoy comfort, stability and speed.

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