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News from Alliance

This past winter in Virginia was the worst in recent memory, with raging storms and snowfall shutting down power grids and wreaking havoc statewide. Or so we heard. The crew of the Alliance ducked all of that, sneaking out of the Chesapeake Bay on a brisk Christmas Eve afternoon. Twelve days later, the Alliance was at anchor in the beautiful San Blas Islands of Panama, the crew frolicking in the eighty degree, crystal clear waters surrounding the colorful coral reefs.

Four months and three countries later, and you can find Alliance back at her berth in Yorktown. We’re sailing daily once again from Riverwalk Landing, and we’ve got all kinds of fun stuff going on this season. May saw the start of our weekly Science sails, a partnership featuring a different speaker from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science aboard Alliance to discuss hot topics affecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed today. Coming up this week, Dr. Deb Steinberg will be discussing plankton and the role it plays in the food chain here in the bay.

In other schooner news, word has reached Yorktown of impending attacks by the marauder Mayhem!

That’s right, folks! The schooners have returned to Yorktown once again, and will continue with the widely popular Captain Mayhem’s School of Piracy. We’re looking forward to working together closely with the pirate camps at the Yorktown Waterman’s Museum, so be on the look out for Mayhem and his band of roving swashbucklers.

A special “thank you” to all of the friends of the ship who have stopped by to welcome us back home! We missed you guys too, and are glad to be back on the York River. See you out there!

Engagements and Weddings on the York River

For guys, when it comes time to ask their girlfriends to marry them, figuring out where to ask the question is often times more difficult than getting on a knee and belting out “Will you marry me?”

Some people like to make a scene, like doing it at a busy restaurant, or on the jumbotron at a ball game. Others would prefer it to be a more private occasion.

Either way, the proposal should be romantic, and there’s no better way to make that happen than on a sunset cruise in the York River.

Just last week on board the Schooner Alliance’s sunset cruise, Sail Yorktown guest Keith got down on one knee, in front of his friends and other guests, and asked his girlfriend and co-worker at the Newport News ship yard, Hannah, to marry him.

On the majestic, three-masted tall ship with a picturesque sunset setting over the York River, and the sun’s rays glimmering off the diamonds on the ring, Hannah didn’t hesitate. She said yes.

Schooner Alliance“We fired the cannon in salute and in celebration,” said Laura Lohse, Owner of Sail Yorktown.

Lohse was on board when it happened and although she didn’t see the actually proposal, she knows the routine.

Proposals happen a few times a year on board on the Alliance and Serenity. In fact, last year during the Fourth of July fireworks cruise there were two wedding proposals as the fireworks exploded over the ship.

“We love it,” she said. “It’s always awesome to have a proposal on board.”

With wedding proposals come weddings, which can also take place on the Schooner Alliance or Serenity. It makes for a unique and exceptional venue to have a private ceremony while sailing on the York River. I mean, how many people can say they were married on a tall ship?

Wedding on Alliance“We can do the ceremony and a small reception all on board,” said Lohse, who mentioned she had a wedding ceremony booked this Friday. “Sometimes wedding parties go to the local restaurant after the sail and have a sit down dinner there, but a lot of time we have food on board and the boat trip is the whole event.”

The Alliance can hold up to 49 guests and the Serenity can carry up to 26, so they’re perfect for a small, intimate ceremony. Another perk about getting married on either the Serenity or Alliance, bookings only need to be made a month or two in advance.

If you want to impress your soon-to-be wife, take her on a sunset sail she’ll never forget.

You’ll truly be sailing off into the sunset.

Science Under Sail today

Kory Angstadt from VIMS

We had an exciting sail today for our 2nd Science Under Sail cruise of the season.  Scientist Kory Angstadt from VIMS brought his side scan sonar unit aboard so we could look at the river bottom as we sailed along.  One of the major hazards to marine life in the area is marine debris in the water.  In 2004, Kory and his team from VIMS found that crab pots are being lost at roughly a 20% rate!  With tens of thousands of crab pots being deployed by watermen every year, this adds up to a lot of pots!  These unmarked pots, or “ghost pots,” catch live fish and crabs and trap them in the pot.  These waylaid fish then become bait for more wildlife.  Kory found that a standard vinyl coated crab pot can last up to seven years in the water without breaking down, and will continue to trap wildlife during that time span.  With the help of government grants, Kory was able to form a team of local watermen to hunt for these ghost pots in the river.  The first trial run was 50 days and yielded almost 30,000 ghost pots!

The watermen have continued to recover pots every year, but now the focus has switched to prevention as opposed to response.  With the help of a biodegradable plastic polymer developed by M.I.T., Kory and his team at VIMS have developed a sacrificial port for crab pots that will break down once the pots are lost.  The bioplastic relies on bacteria to eat away at the structure, which is made primarily from corn.  If the pots are recovered regularly, UV rays from the sun kill the bacteria and the ports remain intact.  Using this new technology means less pots trapping wildlife.  These pots can then continue to serve a second life as oyster reefs without harming the other marine life.

Join VIMS and Alliance again on May 29th as Dr. Deb Steinberg tackles the topic of jellyfish and other drifter species, and explains how they affect our local ecological system, and what roles they play here on the river.

Schooner Alliance participating in the Cape Charles Tall Ship Festival June 14 – 16

Schooner AllianceOn June 14 the Schooner Alliance will be sailing across the Chesapeake Bay to take part in the Cape Charles Tall Ship Festival!

This festival will give people a chance to tour the Alliance along with two other tall ships, the Sultana and Virginia.  The USS Tornado, a US Navy patrol vessel, will also be open for tours. There will be two hour day sails for all ships throughout the weekend, along with a marketplace filled with excellent food, beverages, arts & crafts and music and entertainment.

There will be activities for adults and kids, including face painting, animal rides, the making and sailing of model sail boats and kids can even get the chance at hauling the yard-arm. Schooner SultanaWhat would a tall ship festival be without pirates on hand? Costumed re-enactors will be hanging out to revel in the fun as well.

The Alliance’s Cape Charles Festival sails will take place on June 14 at 1 p.m., June 15 at 9 a.m. and June 16 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.  She will also be open for deck tours in between sailings.

Not only is it a chance to go on a tall ship cruise in the Chesapeake, it’s a chance to check out some other fantastic tall ships like the Sultana and Virginia.

The Sultana is a replica of the 1767 ship used by the British Royal Navy to enforce the tea taxes that led to the American Revolution.  It was built in 2001 and sails throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Schooner Virginia The Virginia is a re-creation of its namesake vessel, which was the last pure sailing vessel used by the Virgin1a Pilot Association used from 1917 – 1926 on the Chesapeake Bay.

It will surely be a great weekend of sailing, history and fun, so come check us out. For more information, visit

York River Science Cruises in May

Did you miss out on the Fishes Near and Far Science Cruise? Well don’t miss out on the trio of science cruises we have coming up this May.

On May 1 — Underwater Vehicle Sail

Join us on our exciting Underwater Vehicle Sail where we explore what’s hiding in the York River with a remote operated vehicle.

What could be under there, you may ask? Well shipwrecks of course! It’s known that possibly nine shipwrecks are on the bottom of the York River, as it served as major battleground during the Revolutionary War. With researcher Rochelle Seitz from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science coming aboard, we’ll explore the bottom of the York River using a remote operated vehicle to look for shipwrecks. The ROV will have a camera attached, and with a screen on deck, we’ll be able to see what’s down there from the majestic Alliance.

The presentation will also explain how these remotely operated vehicles are used beyond just looking for shipwrecks, but for environmental monitoring. Last year we searched for the wreck of Betsy.

May 15th — “Ghost” Crab Pot Sail

On May 15th we’ll explore “Ghost” Crab Pots in the York River as marine researcher Kory Angstadt of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science comes aboard and shows how VIMS uses sonar to detect these lost ghost pots, which can continue to collect fish and crabs.

Over the last few years, VIMS with the help of local watermen have been locating and removing these ghost pots, which get removed from their fishing lines for whatever reasons, and sink to the bottom of the river. According to a survey by VIMS in 2006-2007, more than 600 ghost pots occupied the mouth of the York River, as posted on William & Mary’s website.

Angstadt will show how they locate the pots and what measures are being done so that when a pot does become derelict, it biodegrades so the fish or crab that’s captured can return to their habitat instead of staying trapped inside the pot.

May 29th Drifters and Jellies

Jelly FishThey are the oldest living multi-organ animal on earth, and one of the least complex organisms too, which is what makes Jellyfish one of the most interesting marine species to roam the seas. They have no brain, no nervous system, nor even a specialized digestive, circulatory or respiratory system, yet are able to survive. Oh, and as some of you might know, they have an incredibly powerful sting!

Professor Dr. Deb Steinberg of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science will help us reel some jellies in and discuss some facts about the different jellies and drifters, which are quite frequent in the Chesapeake Bay area, and their importance in marine ecology and food webs.

So if you missed out on our Fishes Far and Near cruise, don’t miss out on one of our scientific sails slated in May. You can purchase tickets online for our special science cruises here.

Meet the Sail Yorktown crew!

We’re excited to be back in Yorktown and we’re excited about another great crew for the 2013 sailing season!

We have four fun, friendly and intelligent crewmembers back aboard the Alliance to help you have an exhilarating sailing experience on the York River. From knowledge of the area, history of the boat, and just great helpful personalities, it’s great to have the four crewmembers back.

So without further ado, let’s meet some of the crew.

Christa and Alex

Christa and Alex Sail Yorktown

These two rode with us last year, and even rode out Hurricane Sandy when we went up the river to ride out the storm at anchor and stay safe. Here they are pictured at the Mariners Museum after rain wiped away our slate of sails for the day. They’re ready for fun sails all summer.

Christa joined Alliance at the end of last summer after graduating from High School in the Chicago area.  She was new to tall ships but was a quick learner and very enthusiastic.  In her 3 months aboard Alliance last fall she learned the ropes quickly and was a valuable member of the crew.  This past winter she spent 3 months crewing on the schooner Lynx in Florida and has recently come back to the Alliance to start our day sail season with us.  She will be heading back to the schooner Lynx next month to spend the summer sailing in the Great Lakes.  Christa also loves horses and was an avid dressage competitor.  She also loves running, and to draw.  She will be heading to college in Colorado in the fall.

Captain Alex Sail YorktownCaptain Alex Ott will be sailing as Chief Mate or Captain aboard the Alliance and Serenity this season.  Alex has been with the Lohse team for over nine years crewing and captaining the schooners.  He was one of the delivery crew when the Lohses first bought Alliance and brought her to Yorktown in 2005.   Alex was captain of Serenity when she won the Pepsi Americas’ Sail Tall Ship Race in Beaufort NC in 2006! Alex has been working on traditional vessels for the past 15 years and has sailed throughout the Caribbean, North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Great Lakes working aboard various tall ships including the Pride of Baltimore II, US Brig Niagara, Hawaiian Chieftain, and the Privateer Schooner Lynx.   He is a talented engineer and loves a good project!



Captain John-Michael John-Michael will be back after sailing with us last year. Energetic and enthusiastic, JM brings a fun level of energy that excites those around him. He’s a great shipmate and valued member of Yorktown crew.

Currently, John-Michael is on his way back from the US Virgin Islands where he’s delivering his new sailboat back to the Yorktown. He’ll be on board later this month.



Julianna Schooner AllianceThis young sailor is back with us again aboard the Alliance over spring break and will return for part of the summer after she graduates from high school. She’s a fast learner and loves to be out on the water. Next fall she’ll be attending Maine Maritime Academy.  We’re lucky to have such an eager student on board! Julianna also loves to dance and take photographs!

Now that you met our crew, come out and meet our boats! Our daily sails have begun and the Pirate sails will be in full swing in late May. We’re ready set sail all summer long!

We’re Ready to Sail! Are you?!

The Alliance is ready to leave port and cruise the Chesapeake Bay and York River. Next Saturday, join us as we start our Spring sails, starting with the sightseeing day sails at 2 p.m. and a romantic sunset cruise at 5 p.m. Here’s a look at our schedule and where you can reserve your spot in a history filled adventure  in the sea.

The Alliance will be the boat of use until late April when the Serenity gets prepared for the busy summer season.

Cruising the York River aboard the Serenity or Alliance is one of the best ways to see historic sites, take in some sun and fresh air, and relax on the water. Our tours, have been providing guests a special view of the Chesapeake and other locations for nearly a decade.


The Alliance, a regal, three-masted, 105-foot gaff-rigged schooner, whose homeport is Yorktown, Virginia and the York River, can accommodate up to 49 guests for day and evening cruises, where folks aboard can learn the history of pirates on the Bay, see the sites, enjoy a meal on board and so much more.


In operation during from mid-March to November, the Alliance is the perfect location for weddings and corporate events while cruising the Chesapeake. What better way is there to celebrate two lives coming together than aboard a beautiful schooner, headed down the Chesapeake Bay?


Get your event booked or plan your tour of the Chesapeake Bay and York River aboard the Serenity or Alliance now as spots are filling up quickly. Spring is a great time to be aboard these schooners, cruising the waters, participating in a pirate tour and just relaxing at sea. The summer heat hasn’t yet hit and the spring sunsets on the water are a thing of splendor and are not to be missed.


Call and reserve your spot aboard some of Yorktown’s and Chesapeake’s finest tall ships and discover all that awaits you with Yorktown Sailing Charters.

Getting prepared for next year

Hauling out a tall shipYorktown Sailing Charters couldn’t ask for a better week when its 105-foot Schooner “Alliance” was hauled out for some pre-winter cleaning. Beautiful weather made the process easy, along with our friends at KT Smith’s Railways who helped us haul out the Alliance.

KT Smith’s Railway is in a really beautiful location up the creek from our normal docking location. It’s not a commercial location, so it was nice to get out, enjoy the countryside and get our work done, which took about a week as we benefited from some awesome weather.

Cleaning a tall shipKT Smith uses a railway to help move the majestic ship out of the water where our work begins – power washing and scraping the barnacles off the boat under the hull. After that’s done, the painting begins!

The total time for the haul out took about a week, which was the fastest that we’ve accomplished that in quite some time. Also, no glaring issues were found when the Coast Guard checked her out, which is always pleasant news, though we did replace the propeller shaft that had been worn.

When the Alliance was ready to head back to the water, we docked her across the marina from all the other boats. As for her younger sister, the Serenity, we do a haul out every other year for both our ships, so it was her turn to stay docked and hang out while her big brother got cleaned up for another fun spring and summer.

Propeller ShaftSpeaking of another fun spring and summer, purchase gift certificates for that special sailor in your life. Whether it’s a romantic sunset cruise on the Alliance for your mate or a fun pirate cruise on the Serenity for your favorite matey, have picturesque sail with us on one of our two majestic tall ships as we sail the Chesapeake and Yorktown River.

Yorktown Sailing For gift certificate inquiries, call 757-639-1233. Keep warm this winter check back for updates in the spring time as our Yorktown Sailing Charters begin in April.

We’re safe and we’ll be home soon

When Yorktown Sailing Charters heard Sandy was coming up the coast this week, we got out of her way and headed up the Pamunkey River to hide out and bunker up for the hurricane on Saturday. After dropping anchor on the Serenity, Captain Greg, Christa, Alex and Laura all boarded the Alliance to stay safe, enjoy each others company and ride out the storm, which was nothing more to us than some pretty gusty winds and heavy rain at times. Both ships are safe without any real bumps or bruises!

Riding out a hurricane in Yorktown would’ve definitely been dicey, but the trip up the Pamunkey was totally worth the cost of staying safe.

Take a look at some of our photos from our trip that can be found on our Facebook page — where you can like us if you haven’t already done so!

Here’s our recent Facebook post on the trip:

“It was a beautiful trip up the river with the fall colors in full swing! We always enjoy coming up here even though it is associated with bad weather. The ships are snugly anchored and we are enjoying a peaceful morning before the rains commence.
We hope to be back in Yorktown on Wednesday to finish our last weekend of the season. Unfortunately Alliance will not be headed to the Caribbean this winter as we did not have enough interest in charters there. We will winter here in Virginia unless something interesting comes up!”

On a very somber note, though, one of our tall ship friends, the HMS Bounty, didn’t make it through Hurricane Sandy. Everyone at Sail Yorktown was saddened to hear the news of the sinking of such a  majestic ship and praying for our friend, Captain Robin Walbridge, will be found alive and well.



Still setting sail

What’s prettier than a sunset sail in the summer time?

A sunset sail on the Chesapeake in the fall!

With only about three weeks left in our sailing season, come out and enjoy one last ride on our majestic 105-foot Alliance ship. We’re still going out twice a day starting at 2 p.m. for the sightseeing day sails, then again at 4:30 to enjoy a pretty fall sunset before heading back to port.

Fall sail season is sometimes much prettier, and definitely more comfortable than the hot temperatures of the summer. With temps ranging from the mid-60s to mid-70s in the day and a little bit cooler toward the evening sail, it makes for a calm and relaxing sail. What’s better than sailing during the cooler temperatures, is seeing the historic sites with the pretty fall foliage that’s beginning to take place in the background.

Also, the early starts to the sail make for a not so late evening, which is always nice if you have to work in the morning or if your children have homework.

So before the Alliance heads to port for the last time in 2012, come snuggle up with a loved one and enjoy a pretty fall sunset on the Yorktown River. You’ll be glad you did.

Right now, we’re scheduled to continue our Yorktown sailing charter through the first weekend of November. To see if we have day sails and sunset sails available, click here.