Sail Fast!

Just Go Sailing

Posted by By HEATHER STEINBERGER on Thu, May 16, 2019 @ 02:12 PM

Just go sailing

2018 March 1

A family raised on the water preaches that life is short; go sailing

As we age, we’re able to look back and see the little twists of fate that had massive reverberations in our lives. Mary Orme Ellis knows this better than most. When she was a 19-year-old college student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she started dating a young man with a sailboat, and her life was forever changed.


The young man owned a 25-foot Coronado that he sailed on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago. He was, Mary remembered, exceedingly passionate about it. 


“He started working on the boat in the spring, and all I could think was, this better be worth it,” she said. 


Mary grew up in Milwaukee, one of four children in a family that wasn’t attuned to the water. For her, that one intense summer changed everything.


Samantha Orme and Mary Orme-Ellis share a special mother-daughter moment.



“I became transformed,” she said. “Maybe I was a sailor in another life. We sailed every weekend in June, July and August. Then I met a guy with a bigger boat, and we sailed out of Milwaukee the next summer.”


Mary finished school at age 24, armed with a business degree. Although she had a new job as a secretary, she couldn’t ignore the lure of the sea. She wanted to go sailing and was surprised when support came from a surprising quarter.


“My boss had chartered in the Virgin Islands, and he told me I had to go to the sailors’ capital of the world,” she said. “He gave me six months’ leave.”


That was in 1979. Mary bought a one-way ticket to the U.S. Virgin Islands, boarded a plane with two duffel bags, and began a six-month journey that would end up lasting three and a half years.


She started in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, where it was fairly easy to pick up crew jobs. She moved onto the British Virgin Islands when she met a Tortola-based skipper with an 84-foot ketch.  He hired her to be the vessel’s cook, responsible for feeding six to eight guests. 


After the owner was killed in a 1981 dinghy accident, Mary moved onto a little boat in Road Town. She was living there, at the Village Cay Marina, when she met the folks at The Moorings. A new job opportunity dawned.


“They sent me to New Orleans for an interview, which was their headquarters until they moved to Clearwater, Florida, in 1984,” she said. “I spent 15 years with The Moorings in various capacities (in the BVI and Florida).”


Along the way, she met a fellow sailor named John Orme, who had sailed from his home in Cape Town, South Africa, to Tortola. He participated in the iconic Cape 2 Rio Yacht Race three times and he worked as a charter captain. They married and became parents to Tanya, born in 1985, and Samantha, who came along in 1987.


“Sailing goes back many generations on John’s side, and he introduced both girls to sailing,” Mary said.


The Orme sisters were raised on and around the water, showing off their skills as girls on a Laser with their dad.



The family, which had settled in Tampa Bay, Florida, started chartering together when the girls were in diapers. With The Moorings, they could charter a boat whenever they wanted, provided they covered airfare and expenses. Over the years, they made many happy memories in the BVI, and cruised the Eastern Caribbean islands as far as Grenada.


After the Ormes’ marriage ended in the early 1990s, the newly single mother had to make ends meet as a yacht broker. Business was good during the tech-boom years, but boats stopped selling in the wake of 9/11, and commissions dried up.


Fortunately, Mary found a new calling, and a new life partner. While she was working for The Moorings, she met Creative Director David Ellis. The duo, who enjoyed beer can racing together out of St. Petersburg, married in 2000 and, after taking a course in copywriting, Mary joined her husband at his business, Affinity Marketing & Communications.


The family continued to spend time on the water together, enjoying the charter experience without “the headaches of ownership,” as Mary put it. Her girls remained enthusiastic participants, even as teenagers.


“They were always asking, ‘When can we go?’” she said. “Sometimes they’d bring a friend, but they always loved travel and sailing. In a way, we become models of our parents without realizing it.”


The teens also spent time on the water with their father, who built a large catamaran to sail out of  Tarpon Springs.


“The girls had so much sea time, they developed great sea legs,” Mary said. “They learned to handle any size boat.”


Both also were determined to travel as much as they could, as soon as they could.


At 18, Tanya took off for Costa Rica with friends, and as a college student, she spent time in Australia and New Zealand. 


“She was always looking for a new place to explore, and sailing trumped everything,” Mary said. “After she graduated from Florida Atlantic University, summa cum laude with a degree in anthropology, she just wanted to go sailing. Like me.”


At the time, the 1960 reconstruction of HMS Bounty was berthed in St. Petersburg, and the owners were seeking crew who weren’t afraid of heights and were willing to learn. Tanya took on the job of deckhand and eventually worked her way to rigging.


“She wasn’t afraid to be up there, handling all those sails,” Mary said.


Tanya Orme took to the rigging of Bounty without hesitation.



Aboard Bounty, Tanya sailed on a six-month passage to the Bahamas, Central America, the Panama Canal, the U.S. West Coast and Canada. The crew participated in tall ship events, races, festivals and meet-ups along the way. When the ship returned to San Diego, Tanya jumped off and headed for Tijuana, Baja California. From there, she and a friend embarked on a backpacking-and-hitch-hiking adventure across Mexico, which Tanya documented in her extensive journals.


“She traveled on a pauper’s per diem, but she made her money last, and she turned every adventure into a life lesson,” Mary said. “She was fiercely unconventional. She just rolled with everything, and somehow, she also found time to paint. Hundreds and hundreds of paintings.”     


Tanya finally came home for Thanksgiving in 2008, and then she took a job as cook aboard A.J. Meerwald at New Jersey’s Bayshore Center at Bivalve. She was living there when, on June 21, 2009, she was killed in a car accident. She was 24 years old.


Her sister, Samantha, was backpacking Europe with a friend when she got the news. She immediately booked a flight back to the States.


“I didn’t know how the rest of college would go down for her,” Mary said. “When you’re in shock and can’t even think straight, how do you study and do homework? But she’s so smart. She did it.”


Samantha graduated with honors from Florida State University with an industrial engineering degree. Although she would go on to use that degree in the industrial, solar, environmental, digital and financial arenas, she first chose to dive into her own adventures at sea. 


“I saw a link about a superyacht crew application, and I shared it with her,” Mary said. “She knew how to crew, and she knew big boats. So she applied, she made the final cut, and she got hired.”


The application was for Bravo’s new reality series “Below Deck.” Samantha appeared as a cast member, working aboard the 164-foot yacht Cuor di Leone (renamed Honor for the show). The 11-episode first season aired in summer 2013.


Young Tanya takes the wheel.



“We saved every episode,” Mary said. “The show actually had a lot of reality in it. Sami is outgoing and gregarious, she was voted ‘Most Memorable’ in high school, and she isn’t one to take authority well. She questions everything.”


Samantha left the show after the first season and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for roughly three years. She and a high school friend toured North America for a year, and then she moved back to Florida. 


These days, Mary continues to work with her husband at their marketing firm. And they continue to enjoy chartering.


“We bareboat charter somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean every chance we get,” Mary said. “Usually, a friend or family member will suggest going and invite us along to captain and cook. Well, that’s a no- brainer!”


Samantha lives and works nearby, and she continues to enjoy sailing on her father’s 70-foot catamaran Rena. And elder daughter Tanya’s seafaring and adventuring spirit lives on, thanks to the creation of a book called Non-Local Flow: Good Chi, the Sea and Me.


Producing this book, which shares Tanya’s life journey through her art and writing, was a labor-of-love mission for her mother. Mary dedicated a full year to compiling and editing the project, with the help of her husband and their colleague Michael O’Keene. It was published in 2010.


“I spent every free moment on it,” she said. “I didn’t want Tanya to be forgotten. Even long after I’m gone, I want people to say, ‘Who is this remarkable young woman?’”


Tanya and Samantha grew up listening to the sea stories of their parents, traveling to other countries, experiencing other cultures, and reveling in every moment under sail. Mary said she believes this transformed them and deeply influenced the adult lives they would create.


“In their childhoods, they saw an unconventional America,” she said. “They were very blessed that way. They understood the importance of travel, especially to Third World countries. They had opportunities to see life on the other side.


One of Tanya Orme’s paintings, which is included in a book of Tanya’s art and writings called Non-Local Flow, depicts the artist’s love of sailing.



“They also developed their creativity and imagination,” she added. “We encouraged them to interact with real people, and engage with real things rather than the nonessential stuff. I suppose all of us are like-minded — travelers, adventurers and sailors who know that life is short, so get out there, and go sailing.”

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, boating, US Sailing, youth sailing lessons, teaching sailing

Boating in DC

Posted by George Stevens on Sun, Feb 19, 2017 @ 12:16 PM

There are many places to rent a boat in the DC area. You need to know where to go for sailing vs. kayaking or paddleboards. There are no powerboat rentals out of the major marinas at this time though there are private boats that can be available.

For the Sailors;

Belle Haven Marina

Washington Sailing Marina

Gangplank Marina


For kayaks & paddleboards;

Belle Haven Marina

Fletchers boat house

Key Bridge kayaks

National Harbor

Thompson Boat House


Tags: Belle Haven Marina, Flying Scot, Learn to Sail, Potomac River, Dyke Marsh, US Sailing, Boating in DC

Just Imagine by John A

Posted by George Stevens on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 02:56 PM

Just imagine if if all sailing facilities across North America and beyond threw open their doors and invited the public to experience sailing on the longest day of the year right at the start of summer!  And then publicized it all in their local area - on Craig's List, in the local paper, in a Blog, Facebook and Twitter Feed.  All sailboats, all sailing, all together.  Summer Sailstice is the opportunity for everyone to do this for this year's 15th annual Summer Sailstice.

We always love seeing more sailing organizations coming on board to just do it so it's great to find a post on the Washington DC area Craig's List for Mariner Sailing School in Alexandria, VA.  

Mariner Sailing School is publicizing free one-hour sailing lessons on Craig's List.

The Summer Sailstice events page now has two options for posting your event:  Public Participation events with yellow pins are events open to the public.  Red pins are demonstration events, i.e.  cruises, races and other events which showcase the best of sailing but where public participation isn't available.  

We'd like to see as many events as possible on Summer Sailstice so all of sailing is on display and we especially like seeing US Sailing training centers like Mariner Sailing School offering open houses and other opportunities for uninitiated sailors to get on the water.  

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, Washington Sailing Marina, Clean Marina, adult sailing lessons, Mariner Sailing School, US Sailing, Sunfish, sailing lessons for children, Washington DC sailing marina

Eight reasons to Sail from US Sailing

Posted by George Stevens on Mon, May 12, 2014 @ 10:44 AM
    • Sailing is fun!  Sailing is Adventurous. 
    • Sailing is social.  It is the only sport that all ages, genders and physical capabilities can enjoy---all at the same time.
    • Sailing is a lifetime sport (‘If you are going to do this for the rest of your life, is it not best to learn to the highest certified standards, the first time?  ergo, USSA)
    • Sailing makes one’s life bigger and the world smaller.
    • Sailing continually expands one’s knowledge of the physical world in many natural ways (STEM)
    • Sailing is transformational.  It is often a demarcation point in many lives (before vs after becoming a sailor)
    • ‘Sailing is for you’.  achievable, affordable, available,
    • Sailing is a quiet escape from daily tensions/pressures


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Tags: Belle Haven Marina, Learn to Sail, sailing, adult sailing lessons, US Sailing, sailing lessons for children, Sailing Instructors, teaching sailing

Smart Questions To Ask Sailing Schools ~by Lisa Batchelor Frailey of Sail Solomons

Posted by George Stevens on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 @ 09:45 PM


Without guidance about how to find a sailing school, many prospective students may start with the least effective method: a Google search. Decisions might then be made based on cost, location, timing, and length of the courses. Let us share other important factors to consider and more targeted methods for sifting through the multiple options of sailing schools on the Bay.

Credentials, Please
American Sailing Association (ASA) or U.S. Sailing schools offer internationally recognized certification programs, allowing you flexibility in sail training and chartering locations. Each organization promotes “Outstanding Schools and Instructors,” right on their websites. Ask yourself how “far” you’d like to go in your sailing. Would you eventually like to buy or charter a boat on your own? If so, choose a school that offers the full gamut of sailing certifications. Don’t select the sailing equivalent of a junior college if you’re after a master’s degree

Do the Boats Fit the Course?
Does the school have boats appropriate for the level of certification you’re trying to achieve? Many schools start initial training on small, tiller-steered keelboats, allowing you to get a feel for basic sailing skills and build confidence. For more advanced courses, progressively larger and more complex boats should be used. Will the school offer rentals or charters for practicing your newly learned skills on your own? Many schools do; some even have sailing clubs for cost-effective practice while meeting new sailing friends.

Customized for You
Many schools offer customized sailing courses, including courses for women, couples, or families. Tailored courses may also focus on specific skills like docking, racing, or even just being a good crewmember. Through most good schools, you may hire an instructor for private instruction on your own boat, if applicable.

Shoreside Resources
Dockside resources; availability of meals and lodging; size, type, and condition of boats; and safety and maintenance of boats. These items may be addressed by a personal visit to the school for a tour of the facility and boats and perhaps a demonstration sail.

The Peeps
Top schools post instructor biographies on their websites and gladly introduce you to the teaching staff when you tour the facility in person. Are the instructors ASA and/or U.S. Sailing certified instructors? Do they have U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s licenses? Are they friendly and good at listening as well as “experts?” Would you enjoy spending a weekend with these instructors?

Better Business
Sailing schools are businesses, and if you hope to develop a relationship with one, be sure you’re comfortable with their style. Were your inquiries responded to promptly and courteously? Did the school provide the information you needed to make a good course selection? What sort of flexibility will you have for re-scheduling, in the event of emergencies or foul weather?

Do Your Homework
Ask for former student references. Sailing is an exciting and inspiring sport, and
newcomers tend to have strong feelings about how they learned. If a school
hesitates to provide happy customers’ contact information, there may be a
reason for it. If a school does not have references for you, we recommend not
writing the check.

Tags: Learn to Sail, adult sailing lessons, US Sailing, Sailing Instructors

Gary Jobson - 34th America's Cup

Posted by George Stevens on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 @ 03:27 PM
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Chesapeake Multihull Association is fortunate to have Gary Jobson - a top-tier personality in the world of sailing - make a presentation on March 30.  He has a talent for telling a story and he comes with terrific audio-visual support courtesy of NBC and ESPN.  The presentation will include:
 ·       34th America's Cup  (about half of the program)
 This proved to be one of the most exciting comebacks in all of sports. Commentating for NBC, Gary Jobson, was on the water every day for the Louis Vuitton Challenger Trials and the America’s Cup broadcasting live. Gary will present an exclusive inside look of this amazing story.
·       Setting Speed Sailing Records
·       Sailing Classic Yachts 
·       Unfurling the World:  The Voyages of Irving and Electa Johnson
·       Racing Highlights that includes:  Vendee Globe, Volvo Ocean Race, Kite Boarding, Crash and burn (always fun)
·       Gary's favorite stories laced throughout the program
In addition Gary will present a preview of his new film, Unfurling the World, the Voyages of Irving and Exy Johnson 1933 -1958, also a feature on speed sailing: the quest to be the fastest sailboat on the water.
Location:  Southern High School, 4400 Solomons Island Road, Harwood MD 20776
Time: 2:00 - 4:00 PM
Free to all, but donations to CBYRA are quite welcome

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, boating, Mariner Sailing School, Sailboat racing, US Sailing


Posted by George Stevens on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 @ 04:07 PM


10 Beginner Sailing Terms Everyone Should Know

We’ve also compiled this short list of 10 beginner sailing terms that everyone should know. If you’re just learning how to sail, these handy terms can provide a helpful overview of sailing basics you need to become familiar with.

1. Aft - The back of a ship. If something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat. The aft is also known as the stern. 

2. Bow - The front of the ship is called the bow. Knowing the location of the bow is important for defining two of the other most common sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard (right of the bow). 

3. Port - Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port is used to define the left-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front. 

4. Starboard - Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, starboard is used to define the right-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front. 

5. Leeward - Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward). 

6. Windward - The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction an important sailing term to know. 

7. Boom - The boom is the horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sailboat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backwards. 

8. Rudder - Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger sailboats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism directly aft. 

9. Tacking - The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. 

10. Jibing - The opposite of tacking, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking, since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind.

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Learn to Sail, sailing, Mariner Sailing School, US Sailing, Sailing Instructors

6 tips for choosing a sailing school on the Potomac River

Posted by George Stevens on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 @ 01:46 PM


1) How long has the School been in existence?

Like any business selection,  are you willing to take a chance with a recently started program or one with a proven track record? Schools that have been teaching for 35 years must be doing something right. Belle Haven Marina has been teaching sailing skills on a full time basis since 1977.

2) What Certification is Offered?

Certification of sailing is a relatively recent phenomenon.  There is no one single standard in the United States nor is it required to rent or buy a sailboat. The Mariner Sailing School is an approved US Sailing training facility. US Sailing is the governing body of sailing. This certification is recognized by sailing professionals and charter companies worldwide and ensures that our school complies with an established and comprehensive program.

  US Sailing Logo

3) What type of sailboats will I learn on?

The last thing you want to do when learning how to sail is to pick an  unstable boat. This would hardly inspire confidence, nor do you pick a boat that feels like a floating battleship. The best of both worlds is to choose a stable, yet responsive centerboard boat. 19' Flying Scot - is our choice for all Adult Learn to Sail, Racing and Private Instruction. The skills acquired can be easily transferred to other larger boats.19' Flying Scot

 Sunfish - our choice for the Youth Learn to Sail courses. The sunfish can be enjoyed by all ages and sailing skills and confidences are quickly acquired.

 C&C 34 - an ideal boat for learning to cruise with its centerboard design and outstanding performance. We will  make cruising in the Islands a pleasure.

4) How large is my class?

This is probably one of the most important questions to ask when selecting a sailing school. Obviously, the more students per instructor, the greater the profit margin for the sailing program. There are three positions on the boat, skipper, mainsail trimmer and jib sail trimmer. If you have more than three students aboard, you are getting ripped off. 

5) What happens if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate?

Great question to ask in the mid-Atlantic area. No one learns to sail while sitting in a classroom, but rather by being out on the water. When investigating sailing programs ask them how they make up for rainout days or days with no wind. At the Mariner Sailing School, no attempt is made to sail in dangerous or miserable conditions and lessons will be rescheduled. 90% of your sailing time is on the water.

6) What if I just don’t feel confident?

So what happens if you just completed a sailing course you don't have the confidence you need? Do you have to take the course over again? Our guarantee to every student: If after completing a course you feel you could use an extra lesson, we will be happy to arrange this for you. We are so confident in the quality of our Instructors that we offer you a week of unlimited free practice Monday - Friday, immediately following the completion of your course.


Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Flying Scot, Mariner Sailing School, US Sailing, Sunfish, C&C 34

The National Sailing Programs Symposium

Posted by George Stevens on Sat, Jan 14, 2012 @ 12:08 AM

Port tack

 US Sailing logo


After 25 years with the American Red Cross, the Mariner Sailing School is now an authorized provider of US Sailing certifications. We are attending the National Sailing Symposium in Long Beach California. What a wonderful learning experience it has been. Sharing information with schools from all over the country is invaluable and will make our programs even stronger this season.


Tags: US Sailing