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‘Serenity’ offers cruises from homeport Urbanna

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Serenity enters Urbanna Creek.  (Photo by Tom Chillemi)
Under full sail, the schooner “Serenity” arrived at Urbanna Harbor, her new home port, on July 15.

The Town of Urbanna and the 65-foot schooner have partnered to bring a unique sailing experience to the area.

Serenity currently offers afternoon and sunset cruises on the Rappahannock River on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. 

Serenity’s 14-foot beam (width) and full keel makes it a smooth and stable ship for passengers, said Captain Laura Lohse.

The Town of Urbanna has agreed to provide Serenity free dockage, but charge $50 a month for utilities. In exchange “Serenity of Urbanna” will market cruises that will bring people to town. 

Urbanna Town Councilman Lee Chewning, who worked to bring Serenity to Urbanna, said the boat will attract tourism and fits well with Urbanna’s history. “I believe the future of Urbanna is once again to be found along the creek,” said Chewning. 

“Having our wonderful town marina and a number of exciting activities that will draw guests to visit for a weekend or more is the key to our revitalization,” he said. “Serenity will be an important link in that whole process.” 

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Under full sail in the Rappahannock River.  (Photo by Mike Kucera)
Serenity was designed by Tom Colvin who in his long career was a senior designer for the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, a Consulting Naval Architect for Kaiser Aluminum Company in Chicago, and president of Colvin Manufacturing Company and Colvin Sailmakers in Mathews on the East River, where Zimmerman’s Boatyard is now located. 

Built in 1986 in  Arapaho, N.C., Serenity was originally designed to carry cargo.   Serenity was being used for commercial fishing in North Carolina when Laura Lohse and her husband Greg found her in the spring of 2000. “She was a mess when we got her,” said Capt. Laura Lohse.

With lots of hard work, they turned Serenity back into a passenger vessel. They started running charters out of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore.

Captain Lohse said they moved Serenity to Urbanna in hopes of reaching a larger customer base. “The Rappahannock River is beautiful cruising grounds with protected smooth waters,” she said. “And it’s plenty wide so you can get good breezes with plenty of sailing room.”

Sailing and water are in the blood of Laura and Greg Lohse. Laura grew up in a sailing family from Chicago. After graduating from college with a degree in earth science, she headed for the ocean to start crewing on tall ships such as the “Westward,” “Harvey Gamage” and “Pride of Baltimore.” She has been a licensed captain for 20 years, having worked her way up from deck hand.

Greg grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and was drawn to  Virginia’s Eastern Shore while getting his degree in oceanography. Realizing he enjoyed fieldwork more than crunching data in the lab, he began crewing on research vessels, earning his first captain’s license in 1978. 

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A birthday party for Wayne Skinner of Locust Hill was recently held aboard “Serenity.”
Laura and Greg met working on  the brigantine “ Corwith Cramer,” teaching sail training, navigation and seamanship  to college students.  They have sailed all over the Atlantic and  North and South  Pacific oceans working on various ships.

They purchased their first schooner, the 45-foot “Delight,” in 1989, the year they got married. When not working aboard tall ships or research vessels, the Lohses  sailed the Delight on Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic seaboard as far as Maine. They started their day-sail business with her, then upgraded to the 65-foot Serenity in 2000. They had been operating Serenity for 4 years when they learned about the  plans for  Riverwalk Landing Pier in Yorktown.  In the summer of 2005 they purchased the 105-foot 3-masted  schooner “Alliance” and began another day-sail business in Yorktown. Alliance offers three cruises every day from May through October. 

In late fall they winterize Serenity and head south to the Caribbean with Alliance, where they offer week-long cruises for up to six guests in the San Blas Islands of Panama.  Greg’s son Erik and daughter Jocelyn frequently make the trip south on Alliance.  Both are licensed captains, and both have captained Serenity.

For its first season, “Serenity of Urbanna” is offering cruises from the Urbanna Town Marina  Thursday through Saturday.  Passengers are encouraged to bring a picnic with their favorite beverages, said Captain Laura Lohse. A 2-hour cruise costs $35 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the ticket service at 1-800-979-3370. 

Serenity is also available for private charters for up to 30 passengers. Call Captain Laura for group charter information at 757-710-1233. “We are looking forward to becoming a part of the Urbanna community and bringing people out to experience the ‘River Country” aboard Serenity!” said Captain Laura Lohse.

posted 07.31.2009

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