Sail Satori’s mission is to share the joy of sailing with the public, and to empower those who want to increase their confidence and competence on the water through sailing education. “We do this through an adult sailing school that teaches to the highest standards,” says Captain James Ashton, “along with fun and innovative charter sailing adventures for those who just want to sit back and enjoy the water.”
“For gaining sailing skills and confidence, nothing beats spending as much time on the water as possible,” observes Ashton. “You should do what you can to just get out there and make mistakes (safely) because that’s how you learn. Curiosity and a desire to learn certainly helps. Observe the wind, water, and waves, and ask questions of your host. A good captain is happy to share his or her knowledge and experience. And we might add that it’s important to find a sailing school with a solid curriculum for your level that will provide a structured learning experience to build upon.
“Every charter includes a private, professional captain and is an opportunity for anyone to get out and enjoy sailing without needing to lift a finger. Guests have the option of helping to sail the boat or they are welcome to sit back with a glass of wine and just enjoy. Both our sailboats are good performers, so we can sail in as little as 5 knots of wind. With preparation and good seamanship, we are able to avoid most problems, but surprise squalls can be an issue or minor issues with breakages on the boat. The ocean is a hostile environment for all the systems on the boat so we bring spare parts and do our best to plan for any repairs that are needed.”
“During the summer, the best time to sail in Marblehead waters is usually in the afternoon between 12:00 and 6:00pm when there is a good thermal (sea breeze) that comes up. I love sailing Satori, a Catalina Capri 22 performance day sailer that handles well and it is very fast upwind! For first-time sailors, it’s a bit of a learning curve to learn how to tune into the elements (wind and currents) while also steering the boat and finding the right alignment between wind and sails. It’s an art and science to sail, but that’s all part of the fun! Of course, always check the weather forecast before we go out and wear a life jacket. Safety first.”
“Sailing is my #1 passion,” Ashton explains. “Back in March 2019, I just dove in and bought a boat and decided to make it happen. With my US Coast Guard’s Captain’s License, and years of experience teaching sailing, I felt I had what it took to make Sail Satori a success. I also had years of marketing experience from a former career, which helped me figure out how to best promote the business. There is a great need in Marblehead for sailing lessons and charters and people started responding immediately. Satori, derived from a Buddhist term for ‘sudden enlightenment,’ describes the feeling my sailing school and charter clients get when sailing.”
“My business grew through word of mouth based on happy customers, for which I’m grateful. Also, I brought in another Captain, Jim Waddell, with a larger boat—a Marlow Hunter 33—to complement our offerings by providing more advanced sail training, bareboat charter captain certifications, and additional charters for larger groups. While my search engine visibility took a while to build, it has now become a major driver of business. I have clients from all over Eastern Massachusetts who find us on the web and want to come visit Marblehead and the North Shore. Charter guests often comment on my patience, professionalism, and communication skills as a teacher. It is very gratifying to hear.”
We asked James about how he got into sailing in the first place. “My family owned a cruising sailboat when I was a kid, so I grew up sailing in the summers. As a child, my mom enrolled me in a junior sailing program on Long Island Sound where I began racing competitively all the way through college. I have continued to sail my whole life and have explored racing, bluewater sailing, and, like all good sailors, I am still learning. That’s the great thing about sailing—you never stop learning.” James is also a person who likes to give back to the town. He serves as the chair of “Our Harbor, One Ocean,” an advocacy and working group of Sustainable Marblehead.
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