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There is a new skipper offering cruises of the Potomac River that launch from Gravelly Point in Arlington.
Jerry Lee is a South Korean immigrant and a lawyer-turned-captain who started chartering boat tours this spring through his new company, Reflections DC. He offers two-hour powerboat cruises of the Potomac from Gravelly Point and three-and-a-half to five-hour sailing excursions of the Chesapeake Bay from Shadyside, Maryland.
His launch coincided with cherry blossom season and he was fully booked during that time.
“That was really encouraging,” said Lee, who lived for a number of years in Clarendon.
Bookings continue to fill up: His weekends are almost fully booked and he takes tourists on the water about two to three times a week. Many find out about his company through his Airbnb experiences page, which drives up to 40% of his bookings. His most popular offering is the powerboat cruise but he is working to promote his sailing excursions, which range from trips for pleasure to instructional courses.
“It’s very quickly been enough to earn a living,” he said. “It’s going faster than I expected. As the weather gets warmer, people are booking more and more.”
He got the idea for Reflections DC from a friend who owns a charter business in Baltimore. He started the company last year and then set out to obtain the necessary business licenses and build up the online presence needed to get started.
Lee is trying to carve out a niche for Reflections DC as a private, small boating company offering “engaging, conversation-driven and personalized experiences” — with complimentary beer, seltzers and sodas — amid big competitors running dinner cruises.
“I really do want to get people inspired to learn to sail and to buy a boat, to do all that stuff safely,” he said.
The skipper, who came to the U.S. when he was 16, discovered sailing in college while teaching martial arts to support himself. One of his students became a good friend and took him sailing for the first time. Throughout the rest of college and during law school, Lee rented little dinghies and kept improving his sailing skills. He finished law school in 2011, did corporate litigation for two years and started taking on cases as a private-practice attorney in 2013.
While he has kept his day job for now, one day Lee hopes to make Reflections DC a full-time pursuit.
“When people see me as a lawyer, they have a problem they want me to solve, and that’s fulfilling, but people are upset when people see me,” he said. “On the boat, people are happy, and if they aren’t, they will be when they’re done.”
Lee aims to expand and run more than one boat at a time but he doesn’t want it to get so big that Reflections DC loses its essential offering — “a more pure experience” of the river and the sights surrounding it.
“I feel like I shouldn’t be able to make a living doing something so much fun,” he said.
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