Captain James Ashton has been a sailor all his life, and he'd like others to experience the pleasure he feels whenever he is out on the ocean.

Ashton's sailboat is in Salem Harbor off West Shore in Marblehead, located at the Village Street Pier where parties ride a launch out to the boat. He offers a variety of choices form basic lessons in the sport of sailing, intense three-day courses, two-hour charters, sunset sails, and a program called Soul Sail.

With Sail Satori, Ashton is lookin to create affordable access to Salem Sound and the sport of sailing itself while finding the healing influence of the ocean itself, according to his website.

"I've had such a good reception," said Ashton. "I was surprised to learn there's not a lot of opportunities to sail on smaller boats like my 22-footer available in the Marblehead/Salem/Swampscott area. A boat that size gives you a great feeling for the ocean as opposed to the large schooners.

"I hope to fill a need and provide affordable prices for the public.  If learning how to handle the boat is not your thing, but you just wants to enjoy going out on the boat, that's fine, too."

Sail Satori offers courses for three people that range from two-hour sessions to three days of comprehensive instruction, private charters, and on Salem Sound through the end of August.

Ashton is the owner of the enterprise and has many years of experience teaching students at sailing schools in New York and Boston.

In 2016 he was recognized by American Sailing Association as an outstanding sailing instructor. He has his Coast Guard Captain's license, and said the boat is very safe.

His Satori is a Catalina Capri 22 for up to four students. The name comes from a Buddhist term for sudden enlightenment, and it is the choice boat of many other major sailing schools.

Ashton, who lives in Marblehead, offers lessons to teens and adults, eighth grade and up, or younger accompanied to parents.

"This boat is new for me," said Ashton. "I've owned different size boats all my life and been paid to sail, teach and charter, but I've never been a captain with my own boat. I'ts magical to own your own business, and I've always found the sea to be healthy and healing. I'm even thinking about trips to see whales down the road."


Ashton began sailing on Long Island Sound with his father in the family's 40-foot sloop when he was young, and he went on to race competitively. Through high school and college, he raced mainly one design boats and competed on the national level. In fact, his first visit to Marblehead was for a race when he was in high school.

He worked in the corporate world for over 20 years, but found his true passion was taking people out on the water.

"Racing was fun, but as I got older I found I wanted less stress," he said. "I started sailing long distances, taking other people's boats to the Caribbean. In 2009 I sailed from Antigua to England with two others on a 46-foot boat. It took 37 days and we delivered it back to England, stopping at the Azores on the way. That was one of the best experiences I've had.

"I like the challenge of sailing a boat in any condition," he added, "dealing with wind, waves and storms."

The captain is also a life coach who has sailed throughout New England, the Caribbean, Mediterranean Sea, and Australia. He is excited to introduce others to the joys the sport of sailing offers.

Ashton and his partner, Peyton Pugmire of Creative Spirit in Marblehead, also offer meditative sails, a 90-minute project designed to put people in touch with the smoothing sights and sounds of the ocean. It includes 20 minutes of silence to tune into nature, and at the end of night a group meeting at Crocker Park in Marblehead to discuss what it felt like.

"There are so many ways people can learn to appreciate the water," said Ashton. "I have my license to take up to six people, and we could fit that number on the boat, but it's much roomier with 3-4. When I do my three-day instructional classes, I limit it to three in order to provide maximum individual attention. The boat is a day sailor, fast, and very easy to learn how to operate. I'm very excited about my new venture."

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