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Chatting with Captain Shannon McLellan About Life on a Yacht

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It's the ultimate meet-cute: Captain Cameron McLellan, formerly an offshore fisherman, acquired catamaran Heron in 2009 and sailed her to the Virgin Islands alone. He met Captain Shannon Carleton there, where she was hired as crew between Maine and the Virgin Islands. Shannon and Cameron set sail on Heron, and six days later were engaged. Less than a year later, they were married. Today they sail Heron between the Caribbean and the Hamptons. Curious and a little envious, we sat Shannon down for an interview. (Don't forget about our contest to win a $250 credit for Heron Yacht Charters! Like Curbed Hamptons on Facebook and add a comment to our post there about the contest to enter.)

So tell us, is it hard sometimes to be married, working together and living together in a small space?
Yes. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are husband and wife before business partners and stop discussing work. But that's hard when we're so engrossed in it; it's like living in your office! We eat, sleep, and breathe Heron…

What do you like best about Sag Harbor and Montauk?
In Sag Harbor you can walk to anywhere you need to go. And it's full of yachties, so no one judges you for sprinting down the streets towing a dock cart full of ice and rosé!

My favorite thing about Montauk is that it's managed to maintain that retro, beachy vibe even with all the new businesses.

Does Cameron miss commercial fishing?
He misses what it used to be. But he maintains a camaraderie with the fishermen in Montauk, two of whom purchased his last fishing vessels! He points the boats out to our charter guests every time we sail by them.

Tell us about the day-to-day operations of the boat. Some of the great stuff and some of the headaches.
I enjoy the marketing above all. I love taking candid photos of our guests during charters and then surprising them with an album. Plus, I get to use the photos for Heron's social media. I'm at my computer constantly (usually until the wee hours because our sunset sails end at 8:30PM) doing that and arranging for catering, flower deliveries, and so on. The day-to-day headaches are more for Cameron. Boats used recreationally (on the weekends for three months a year) are a headache. A 63 foot catamaran working every day in the Hamptons all summer, then sailing to the Caribbean to do the same thing all winter: that's a migraine. It's a never-ending cycle of scrubbing, varnishing, and oil changing.

What's your favorite part of running a catamaran charter?
The relationships. We get to know our clients during the reservation process, so it never feels like strangers are coming aboard. It's genuinely pleasant when you finally get to meet someone face to face whom you've been conversing with for months to plan their special event.

And most of our clients are repeat customers. Some of them sail with us a dozen times throughout the summer, then again in the winter during their vacations. We are literally watching their children grow up aboard Heron!

How do you find time to relax?
There's no end to our days; no 5 o'clock. Cameron rises very early in the morning to begin the scrubbing before charters, and my "office job" (at Heron's chart table in the main salon) begins at 9PM after our sails. Heron Yacht Charters is typically a 21 hour a day operation!

The passage between New York and the Virgin Islands takes us about nine days. We have no cellular or internet access (we're 1000 miles offshore!) and I find that to be the most peaceful time. It's really the only way to disconnect ourselves from everything, so we cherish our days and nights in the middle of the ocean!

What are your plans for the future?
We thought a lot about building another catamaran, but recreating Heron would only cheapen her. Sort of like seeing the sequel to a film that you love; it's never quite the same. Heron has a palpable energy that can't be replicated. In lieu of that, we're looking to purchase a luxury villa on St Barth for our Hamptons clients to vacation at in the winter months. (Heron would, of course, be included for day sailing!)
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