Could Sailing Be Your Next Chapter?

Are you looking for your next chapter? Maybe it's sailing.

Three years ago, looking for a change of scenery, David and Camille Hartshorn headed from their home in Northern Virginia to Solomons, MD. Little did they know that the day trip would open the next chapter in their lives.

sailing in BVI
David sailing in the BVI.

How it all started

Camille: For us, it all started three years ago. It was a Saturday morning, and we were walking the dog in our hometown of Alexandria, VA. At that time, we’d been married 35 years, the kids were grown and gone, and our favorite topic of conversation was “What’s our next chapter?” 

Out of the blue, David said, “Let’s get a change of scenery. How about... Solomons Island?” The next thing we knew we were strolling down a dock in a charming harbor, with Canada geese flying overhead, and folks prepping 23-to 45-foot sailboats for their weekend excursions into the Chesapeake. There was a real buzz in the place. It was exciting. We came to the end of the dock, and there was a cabin with a sign over the door that read “Sail Solomons.” Little did we know that within three years the two of us would be ASA (American Sailing Association) certified as offshore sailors by the Sail Solomons school, and we’d be cruising on a 38-foot Beneteau in the British Virgin Islands—just the two of us, having the adventure of a lifetime. 

sailing in BVI
Camille in the BVI

Sailing as a lifestyle

David: We had been sailing together a couple of times—in the South China Sea and down in Belize—but we were only along for the ride. Watching the captains handle the boats seemed like something that was far beyond anything that we could ever do on our own. At the time, I don’t think either of us really considered sailing as a lifestyle, and we just focused on other things. Until now!   

Gaining experience and sailing further.

Camille: Jeff Carlsen, the owner of Sail Solomons, has more than a dozen boats to choose from in the club’s fleet. And just as important, they have a sailing school with fantastic instructors. We started at the beginning with ASA 101, and having joined the club, we started going out on Capri 23s. It was a blast (yes, we learned a few lessons the hard way). As we built up our experience, we continued taking courses, like ASA 103 and the ASA docking course, which was crucial for us as a couple—a marriage saver! 

Once we were ready, we started taking one-, two- and three-night charters on 34 and 39-foot Beneteaus and Jeanneaus. David also took ASA 104, 114, and the Navigation Certification course. All the while, there were so many great sailing destinations to explore in the Chesapeake: Smith’s Creek inside the Potomac, Mill Creek and Leonard’s Creek up the Patuxent River, Oxford, the Honga River. We’re gradually working our way through every page of the “Gunkholer’s Guide!” 

Start Sailing Now Meetup Event spring 2024
Camille and David at SpinSheet's Start Sailing Now Meetup event at the 2024 Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show.

What are your future sailing plans?

David: We signed up again for the Sail Solomons club and can’t wait to get back out this season. Right now, the Chesapeake navigation chart is spread out on our dining room table, and we’re planning to head further north up the Bay to some new anchorages, maybe the West River. In the meantime, after our trip to the BVI last January, as soon as we got home, we put a non-refundable deposit down on a charter in Croatia. Our broker, by the way, is Lisa Batchelor-Frailey of Kinetic Sailing, who with her husband Andy, is co-author of the ASA textbooks and founders of Sail Solomons. They helped us secure a 42-foot Beneteau for a cruise this September, sailing out of Split.

Advice for someone who wants to start sailing:

Camille: Take ASA 101 and start sailing! Sail, sail, sail. Every time we go out, we learn something new. And the more we learn, the more empowered we feel, and the more fun we have. Yes, it’s a steep learning curve, but the first time you successfully drop a hook in a remote anchorage and sit together, just the two of you in the cockpit, watching the sunset over a glass of wine... it’s magic.

Sailing trip Bitter End Yacht Harbor
David and Camille at the Bitter End Yacht Harbor in Virgin Gorda.

Seeking a boat of their own

David: We’re fairly familiar now with the Beneteaus and Jeanneaus, and we really like them. On the advice of friends and others who we’ve met in the sailing community, we’ve also looked at Island Packets, Tartans, Hinckleys... we’re all over the place, who knows? 

We’re going to the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show, and we’ve been checking out boats as recently as yesterday, together with another great broker, Michele Martinage of S&J Yachts. It’s been interesting to see the different styles of boats, figuring out what features might suit us, as well as the harbors where they’re docked, the people, the social scenes. It’s already added another dimension to the sailing experience.  

From fear to sheer thrill.

Camille: For sure, fear was an obstacle. And there have been some hair-raising moments with storms and so on. But in hindsight, with good instructors and practice (reef your sails, heave-to, and go with the flow!), the fear factor has been largely replaced with the sheer thrill of adventure.  
Camille and David: We wish we’d started sooner!!!