Sunday, April 11, 2010

legalities and realities of an M-16

Very nice sail today that included sunny skies, some nice wind, a good nap and an interesting exchange with a sailor cradling an M-16.

I do most of my day sailing on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia. It is an industrial/military river no doubt, it has been so since the colonial days almost 400 years ago. That's fine. I enjoy it. I'm the son of a career naval officer and enjoy being around the military. We get lots of commercial traffic - barges, container ships, tugs - and I find that interesting. And then you'll see the warships, Navy SEALS in their sleek black boats that don't make any noise, coast guard fast patrol boats. I never know what I'll see on a given day.
But today I got chased down by a young petty officer in a launch. I was passing bay a warship in a shipyard and he had seen me looking through my binoculars (in the opposite direction of the warship).
"Sir, may I ask what you are doing?"
I glanced around at Spartina. I had my sunblock on, hat, bottle of water. Starboard tack, feet up on the coaming. Was I missing something? "I'm enjoying a day of sailing" I said.
He told me, cradling his rifle in his arms, that my use of binoculars in the vicinity of a warship made me look suspicious.
I guess I could have argued with him, pointed out that I was well within the main shipping channel, pointed out that a tourist boat with dozens of visitors, all armed with binoculars, cameras and even - my gosh - video cameras, had just passed within range of his warship. I even considered raising my camera and taking his photograph. But then again, even knowing I was well within my rights, I could have spent all afternoon sitting in an office until they figured out I was, in fact, within my rights.
So I said "Have a nice day" turned my back and kept on sailing.
He was just a young sailor trying to do his job. (When I was his age I was trying to figure out how to use a cash register. He gets handed a weapon and is told to defend a ship against terrorists.)

I sailed for a few hours with very nice winds. Headed back to Crawford Bay and even though the wind was still very nice I dropped my anchor, put my feet up and took a nap. It felt great.

When I fell asleep I was the only boat in the bay. When I woke up the cutter above was anchored nearby. He was out of Hays, Virginia, up on Mobjack Bay about 30 or 40 miles north of here. And heading in I saw this interesting boat just off the Norfolk waterfront.
It was a nice day out on the river.
I did get a phone call from the prodigal sailor Bruce yesterday. He was between adventures, though I'm not sure which ones. He mentioned humming birds, Death Valley, rivers and boats in the conversation. But he wanted to go over a few details for the spring cruise on Pamlico Sound. We were in agreement on all the details. He's handling food, as usual. We are trying to minimize our gear. He agreed with the overall sailing plan. And Bruce insisted on shrimp and grits at The Chelsea when we get to New Bern. Sounds good to me.


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