Start Sailing Now Update: From a Bristol to a Tartan

Start Sailing Now: where are they sailing now?

Since 2014 Start Sailing Now has been chronicling the stories of sailors who took up the sport (or got into it in a big way) as adults. We’re going to keep bringing you such stories, but we also want to bring you updates on some of the sailors we interviewed years ago. If you were featured on this page and would like to update us on your sailing adventures, email [email protected].

Start Sailing Now: Eric and Cara
Eric and Cara, who like sailing year-round, enjoy daysails, long weekends on the boat, and happy hour cruises with family and friends.

Sailing update!

In this article we feature Eric Plewinski and Cara Fleck Plewinski, who originally shared their story with Start Sailing Now and SpinSheet in January of 2021. Eric and Cara’s first boat, a 1973 30-foot Bristol, Puffin, was a generous and unexpected gift in 2018 from Eric’s percussion instructor (Eric is a professional percussionist, Cara is a harpist). When we caught up with the couple in 2021, they were enjoying day sails, short cruises, and learning more about sailing and maintaining their Bristol. Here is their update, in their own words.

Another Puffin: a Tartan

We knew that we would eventually buy a more updated vessel, and in April of 2023 we began looking in earnest. The prior October, after a major issue with the Yanmar engine on our Bristol Puffin, we decided to have the engine rebuilt over the winter and sell the boat. Puffin’s new owners are a couple from Virginia who are about our age and were looking for their first cruising boat to sail in the area where the Potomac River meets the Bay.

When we started boat shopping, we knew we wanted a boat around the same length or slightly larger. Eric is six foot, four inches, so we preferred a boat with more headspace down below. A cabin with a more modern galley and a shower was a “must.” Finally, since we had already learned a lot about Yanmar motors, we wanted another boat with a Yanmar.

Eric, who is always ‘window shopping’ for sailboats, saw a 1988 Tartan 34-2 in beautiful condition come through his feed. We took a look a few days later, and the boat checked all of the boxes, plus it had heating and air conditioning. We made the purchase and renamed her Puffin

Tartan Sailboat
Eric and Cara have moved up to a Tartan 34-2, also named Puffin.

Pop the ’chute!

With the Bristol we learned a great deal about engine maintenance, but with the Tartan we’ve learned how to use the spinnaker—something we had not tried on the Bristol.

Over the last three years we’ve taken many lengthy cruises and overnights around the Chesapeake, including lots of nights on Lake Ogleton, long weekends in St. Michaels, and a trip to the Rhode River. We continue to do lots of day sails and have taken many friends out for happy hour cruises and dinner on the boat. We’ve also done tandem cruises and raftups with other boats.

We still like to sail year-round. When it’s coldest out we take short sails from Weems Creek to Annapolis Harbor and back. It’s fun to sail in Annapolis Harbor when it’s empty.

Puffin underway

A preference for  keelboats

Since 2021 we’ve taken a few trips to Europe, and we spent July of 2022 in Maine, where we tried dinghy sailing and found that it was not as fun for us as sailing a yacht-sized vessel! 

Professionally, Cara is now the senior director for general management and strategic initiatives at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, having previously held a communications position in the school’s Division of Student Affairs. Eric, a professional percussionist, has ramped up his performance and teaching schedule since Covid is finally behind us. 

More inspiring Start Sailing Now stories.