An unexpected sailing offer
All sailors have a story about how they got started sailing. Not many people have one that begins with a music teacher. However, shortly after Eric Plewinski moved to Maryland in 2010 to pursue a graduate degree in Percussion Performance, his percussion teacher, Tony, invited him to go sailing.
“Tony was an avid sailor and always happy to invite his students on his 1973 30-foot Bristol Puffin,” says Eric. “At the time I was just along for the ride and happy to cruise around the West River with him. During my time at the University of Maryland, Tony and I became close friends, but after his retirement in 2012, Tony had plans to move to California.”
Meanwhile, Eric and his wife Cara, who are both professional musicians, relocated to Annapolis, where they loved stand up paddleboarding and occasional sails with Cara’s mother and stepfather, who race out of Annapolis Yacht Club.
“One day in 2018, I received a call from Tony, and he unexpectedly offered Puffin to me,” says Eric. “My wife Cara and I had about 24 hours to make a decision, as he was leaving for California only a week later. We talked it over, and a day later, he met me at the West River to sign over the title.”
“The offer to take Puffin felt surreal,” says Cara, who is a professional harpest and whose mother and stepfather got into sailing shortly before she left for college. “I wondered if we would be able to find time to maintain the boat and learn to sail, but Eric and I knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we embraced it.”
Overcoming perceived barriers to sailing
We always thought we’d never have time to devote to sailing and that it would be expensive and difficult to learn, but we quickly overcame these perceived barriers, even with our busy work and performance schedules. Sailing is much more affordable than we had expected, and while there were many skills we had to master, we enjoyed (and are still enjoying) the process and practice of learning to sail. We always tell people that it is much more intimidating to perform music for an audience than it is to sail a boat!
"The cold doesn’t bother us," says Cara, "so we sail year-round. We have explored mainly the western side of the Bay from the Bay Bridge down to Herring Bay. We were fortunate to reconnect with a musician that Eric met 10 years go in Florida. He is an American Sailing Association certified instructor now living in Maryland, and he has taught us most of what we know." Additionally, Cara’s mother and stepfather have been a great resource and guided the younger couple whenever they have needed advice. "In particular, they pointed us toward a mooring that went for sale, and they’ve taught us a great deal about safety and boat maintenance," says Eric.
Volunteering, life lessons, and future sailing plans
We absolutely love cruising the Chesapeake Bay. Anchoring and exploring all of our favorite Eastern Shore towns by water is definitely a goal. Prior to Covid, we enjoyed taking friends for regular sails on the weekend. We look forward to resuming this when the pandemic has subsided. We also plan to raft up with family and friends more often. A newer and larger boat will be in our future to make our cruising vacations more enjoyable. Also, we recently started volunteering as crew for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), which has been a rewarding activity.
The lessons they have learned from sailing extend beyond the boat: Eric has become more patient, Cara has become more handy, and they have both recognized a deep love for nature and the Chesapeake. They have also found that the skills they've gained as professional musicians apply to sailing, such as problem solving on-the-spot and thinking on your feet. And just like practicing a new piece of music or technique, they practice sailing scenarios. "We’ll go out for short sails to practice reefing underway, docking, and other skills," they say. "Sailing is an art, just like music, and we are always evolving and adapting. We constantly tell friends that if they love sailing, there is a place on the Chesapeake for them to get into it. We feel very lucky to have access to this huge and ever so kind sailing community."