Let's Go Sail

Vessel Name: Deadline
Vessel Make/Model: Hunter 320
Hailing Port: York River Yacht Haven, Gloucester Point VA
Crew: Capt. Bill O'Donovan
About: Retired newspaper publisher runs charters daily for tourists and locals to sail the York River, where the Battle of Yorktown won America's freedom.
Extra: Professional photos, at no charge.
21 April 2017 | York River
18 April 2017 | York River
16 April 2017 | York River
15 April 2017 | York River
03 April 2017 | York River
02 April 2017 | York River
01 April 2017 | Grand Cayman Island
29 March 2017 | York River
19 March 2017 | York River
11 March 2017 | York River
06 November 2016 | York River
01 November 2016 | York River
27 September 2016 | York River
18 September 2016 | York River
07 September 2016 | York River VA
21 July 2016 | York River VA
20 July 2016 | York River VA
15 July 2016 | York River VA
14 July 2016 | York River VA
Recent Blog Posts
21 April 2017 | York River

Sailing Is All About You

Sailing is all about you

18 April 2017 | York River

Navy Sails by on their Birthday

Six people from different states went sailing on the York River, with two of them celebrating birthdays. They got to see a US Navy cruiser stop traffic to transit the Coleman Bridge.

16 April 2017 | York River

Sunset Cruise Can Be a Problem

The romance of a sunset cruise is undeniable, when it goes well.

15 April 2017 | York River

Sailing Past USCG Smoke

While sailing the York River with Kevin and Jennifer Brown and their children, we spotted a rare exercise by the US Coast Guard of deploying flares and smoke simultaneously. It was very dramatic and colorful and lasted all of a minute.

06 April 2017 | York River

Learn to Sail on the York River & Chesapeake Bay

You can learn to sail fast, and quickly at that. Here are five ways, graduating from easy to intermediate.

03 April 2017 | York River

Sailing to Stay Fit

Sailing can make you physically fit, and keep you that way. If you work out at the gym, it’s that much easier. Sailing is quite an adventure for one’s muscles, without that much effort. For details, see http://williamsburgchartersails.com/captains-log/stay-fit-by-sailing

Sailing Is All About You

21 April 2017 | York River
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Sailing is all about you
Charter sailing is all about you. Exquisite customer service compels attention by the skipper to get it right, and quickly.

Sailing is all about youIt’s helpful to size up at the dock some of the things people are looking for on a three-hour sail. They may have already indicated a preference for one of three cruises: Adventure, History, Lessons. Beyond that, the skipper must be prepared to read his customer like a book. He should read not just the cover, but the pages that form the book (hence the illustration) for details.

You may be a couple looking for an afternoon of outdoor fun, which is found in the Adventure Cruise. Generally, men like to take the helm and women like to relax, but not always. Frequently, women drive the boat and the man simply observes. When women really get into the rhythm and power of sailing, men are sometimes astonished.

Sailing is all about youOther couples enjoy the History Cruise, which covers the 1781 Battle of the Capes and Siege of Yorktown. I once had a couple from Quebec who said that the Yorktown history filled in the gaps of their French Canadian history (the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham, part of the Seven Years War.)

As in any endeavor, some people find themselves chatty while others are more reserved. Some ask questions, others don’t. I once had two couples who had never met but had one thing in common—food. One fellow was a chef at a pricey New York restaurant, and the other couple watched the Food Network religiously. I could have gone below for a nap and they wouldn’t have noticed. This is how memories happen on vacation.

Lessons for families

Sailing is all about youNext, you may be a family of three, four, five or six who are looking for something different and outdoors, physically as well as mentally challenging. That’s where the Lessons Cruise kicks in. Everyone (who wants to) gets a whirl on the wheel to measure the pressure of the wind on the sails and the boat. It’s exhilarating.

With families, moms often come on board to relax, so I make it a point to find things for kids to do. The only requirement holds that those 12 and under have to wear a USCG-approved life preserver while in the cockpit or on the bow. Sometimes when I take the family photo, it winds up as the only shot of them together on vacation. One family used the photo for their Christmas card. I was flattered.

Sailing is all about youFinally, you may be group of up to six who are simply out for a good time or perhaps a team-building exercise. There’s plenty to enjoy and plenty to challenge you in a very rapid three-hour cruise. Beer and wine flow freely.

Other permutations include mother-and-daughter, father-and-son, parents-and-child, grandparents-and-grandchildren, and solo sailors as well. Out on the water, you matter a lot to me. Trip Advisor reviews attest to that.

Navy Sails by on their Birthday

18 April 2017 | York River
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Six people from different states went sailing on the York River, with two of them celebrating birthdays. They got to see a US Navy cruiser stop traffic to transit the Coleman Bridge.

One of the birthday celebrants was Scott Reinhard, whose wife Magdalena surprised him. “I told him that he works too hard and needed to take time off from 11 to 2 on Monday for a surprise.”

Among six aboard, Scott was unquestionably the most adroit on the helm. He’s a fighter pilot with ATAC. “We have 28 planes that we fly against Navy jets to train their pilots in defensive and aggressive maneuvers. It’s cheaper to outsource to us than to use their experienced pilots and expensive jets. We’ll typically fly in a straight line to let the Navy pilots figure out how to weave in and out to attack us. We can do dogfights, but that’s trickier. Last week I spent a week in South Carolina training Marine pilots.”

The Bradeur brothers and friends were intrigued. Warren Bradeur kidded Scott, “When I was in the Air Force in Louisiana years ago, you guys caused me a lot of trouble. You’d break the sound barrier, and the noise would shock thousands of chickens on the ground in poultry farms. They panic and bunch up and wind up smothering each other, as many as half of them. I was assigned to go out to the farms and try to settle claims with the farmers for maybe $1 or $2 per chicken. So thanks for that.” We laughed.

Scott’s wife Magdalena is from Germany and was looking to learn how to sail.
“This is so beautiful out here, so graceful. We sail on lakes in Poland that are so big you can’t see the other side. The lakes are connected so you can go from one to the other for miles and miles. Once we lost the thing you have for the lines (drum) and had to pull by hand the entire time. That was very difficult but it was still a wonderful ten days.”

When the Navy ship came into Yorktown, traffic stopped on the bridge to open it. Magdalena said, “Oh! My sister is a civil engineer and wanted to see this last year when she came to visit Williamsburg. But we missed it.”

Sunset Cruise Can Be a Problem

16 April 2017 | York River
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
The romance of a sunset cruise is undeniable, when it goes well.

The axiom “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” is a helpful indicator that the sky will remain clear. Except when it doesn’t, and rain falls—in the dark.

After a long day at work, couples enjoy a sunset cruise to relax, but nothing could be further from the truth for a boat captain. After his or her long day, it’s like playing a night baseball game.

Sunset cruiseThe sun sets in different locations as the summer proceeds, so it’s useful to wind up on the water at the best spot at the critical moment. This isn’t Key West, where the sun sets in virtually the same spot beyond Mallory Square.

And unlike Key West or the Gulf of Mexico, the sun sets over the York River into the trees. I’ve found that to be an annoying surprise to guests who automatically assume all sunsets on the water are sunsets into the water. Not.

Seasons matter once the sun goes down. Late summer is best because the skies remain warm in July, August and September. But during March-June and October-November, things get chilly pretty quickly. If the wind picks up, as it can do with any temperature change, that makes it worse.

Summer poses another challenge, with evening thunderstorms. Sometimes they pass quickly but are still ominous to see coming at our suddenly little boat. Occasionally thunderstorms linger for a half-hour or so, which sucks.

The coup de-grace in summer is the Fourth of July. Scores of boats assemble off Yorktown to watch the National Park Service fireworks. But the fireworks don’t start for an hour or so past sunset. Afterward, there’s a mad dash to the surrounding marinas, where it gets dicey. Imagine 20 boats trying to round Daymark 8 in a narrow channel—at night.

Charter boat skippers hate to sail at night for fear of hitting a crab pot or worse. The line of the pot (cage) can hang up on the rudder or the engine prop. If it’s the latter and the engine is on, the engine is suddenly off. Even worse is to run aground in a narrow channel.

Let’s go sail, but not at night.

Sailing Past USCG Smoke

15 April 2017 | York River
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
While sailing the York River with Kevin and Jennifer Brown and their children, we spotted a rare exercise by the US Coast Guard of deploying flares and smoke simultaneously. It was very dramatic and colorful and lasted all of a minute.

The exercise is rare on the York River because the very sight of the bright lights and grey and orange smoke implies an emergency requiring all boats in the visual vicinity to drop everything and respond. Flares and smoke are reserved for fire and other life-threatening emergencies. As it happened, we were sailing directly toward R24 so we could have easily helped had there been a real emergency.

To avert public reaction, the Coast Guard typically announces the exercise on marine radio. But in this case they didn’t. The only announcement was on Channels 16 and 22 after the fact. We happened to be sailing toward buoy R24 in sight of two Coast Guard boats. Because we were under spinnaker, our maneuverability was minimal and we cruised right past. I waved and one fellow waved back, a bit chagrined I suspect for failing to warn us of the exercise.

Kevin has had big boat experience and is looking to buy a boat in retirement. “We’d like to retire to someplace warm, like the Virgin Islands,” admittedly warmer than Northern Virginia where they live now.

“I have a friend with a 50-foot Downeaster sailboat that I sailed in Galveston Bay, Texas. It was so big that it had a crow’s nest at the top and I went up there. Texas is crazy with weather because the storms come up so rapidly. I be up there in the crow’s nest and hurry down on the ladder.”

Jennifer is an Emergency Room nurse who’s leaving Inova Hospital for the adventure of becoming a sole nurse practitioner. She enjoyed the smooth and quiet sailing diagonally downriver on the spinnaker run.

“It’s so peaceful. It reminds me of the boat trip I went on in Brazil with a medical mission by our church. We were on the Amazon River and went from place to place at night by ship so we could work at different places during the day.” Kevin added, “The Amazon breaks into two rivers, the White and Black, which are white and black.”

Learn to Sail on the York River & Chesapeake Bay

06 April 2017 | York River
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
You can learn to sail fast, and quickly at that. Here are five ways, graduating from easy to intermediate.

Adventure Cruise

Couples and families who book an Adventure Cruise with Let’s Go Sail get a chance to run the helm over the course of three hours. In so doing, they get sufficient tips and pointers to get the drift of sailing. Before long, they pick it up intuitively. Sailing is one of the few sports that are easy to learn, provided the boat is big enough and the wind sufficient. Note: Lessons informal and non-certified, taught by a USCG captain and certified sailing instructor.

Lessons Cruise

Learn to sailLet’s Go Sail offers a specific three-hour block to teach the basics. Learn the aerodynamics of sailing. Differentiate the three sail “reaches” for power. Learn how to “see” the wind. Find out how to rescue a man overboard quickly. Try your hand (and voice) at marine radio. You can learn to deploy the spinnaker sail when going downwind. It’s informal and a lot of fun. Guests who enjoy this package often move up to the next level or go out and buy a boat for themselves. Lessons informal and non-certified.

Adventures in Sailing

Learn to sailFor 16 years, the Williamsburg Area Learning Tree has underwritten a community sailing class that spans three Saturdays or Sundays in the fall and spring. Up to six people spend six hours each day going through various drills to learn how to sail. The class is as much social as educational, and it’s a great orientation for couples. Visit wuu.org. Lessons informal and non-certified.

Sailing Made Easy

Learn to sailThis is the basic 101 class offered by SailTime Virginia Beach under the American Sailing Association. The class runs two days on a weekend, with an hour or so in the morning for classroom instruction. That’s followed by the rest of the day on the waters of Willoughby Bay in a 22-foot Capri. Instructors are USCG captains and ASA certified. Certification enables sailors to use the Capri fleet at their convenience with a SailTime membership. It’s a great alternative to buying a boat. Visit sailtime.com/virginia-beach/.

Basic Coastal Cruising

This is the next level of ASA, 103. The coursework is more detailed and the scope is larger. Classes are held in the morning and are followed by outings in Chesapeake Bay on Hunter 36 boats. Certification calls for an overnight cruise from Norfolk to Cape Charles or Hampton so sailors can learn basic navigation and docking. Visit sailtime.com/virginia-beach/.

Sailing to Stay Fit

03 April 2017 | York River
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Sailing can make you physically fit, and keep you that way. If you work out at the gym, it’s that much easier. Sailing is quite an adventure for one’s muscles, without that much effort. For details, see http://williamsburgchartersails.com/captains-log/stay-fit-by-sailing
Gallery Error: Unknown Album [1:]:30186
Deadline's Photos -

About & Links