I first met Sebastian and Samantha in St. Augustine, Florida, at a meet and greet for cruisers. We had to be the youngest people at the function and certainly the only ones sporting dreadlocks. We were riff-raff sailors on production boats. We were also semi-broke and looking for work. They were smarter than I in that category and had arrived with a plan to network with the owners of larger cruising yachts.
I went for the free beer, snacks, and to meet Seb and Sammi—as I now know them six years later. On three separate occasions, from North Carolina to Florida, mutual friends informed us we all had to meet. And I’m so glad we did.
Their unique southern accents were distinctive in the historic Floridian tavern. Sebastian is a mix of Louisianan and Columbian-American, and Sam’s Tennessee-meets-Carolinas.
A networking plan for the boring cruiser’s function wasn’t the only way the pair was ahead of me in the logistics department. They were quick to pick up seasonal work outside the marine industry, and they also lofted brand new sails for their Cal 29, Dancin’ Lions, which was already a pretty tricked out liveaboard.
Sebastian was becoming something of an expert when it came to canvas, masterminding Dancin’ Lion’s sails, dodger, bimini, and more, but Samantha was the right hand in much, if not all, of the process.
Not long after our meet-up (and a short-term gig where the couple dressed as elves for holiday tourists), Sebastian was working full-time at a local canvas shop while Samantha continued with odd jobs.
Later they headed north to the Chesapeake Bay and a 20-ton Tayana 37 with room for Sebastian’s industrial sewing machine. He also put me on to a job on a tall ship nearby, a 100-foot schooner docked on one side of the deep, exposed York River in Virginia. On the other side was a protected creek and yacht basin where Samantha worked restoring their new boat, which they renamed Rhythm, and where Sebastian got a job in the boatyard.
I sailed back and forth between the yacht basin where they worked and the ship where I worked. At the end of the season, we went our separate ways again.
In 2020, Sebastian started his own canvas-making business, Black Dog Sail Loft, from the salon table of their 37-foot boat, measuring, fabricating, and installing on yachts of all kinds with the utmost attention to detail.
From there, the pair returned to the North Carolina-South Carolina border, where they first met through their mutual love of dogs. Oh yeah, they each have their own pup aboard, a tiny poodle named Gypsy, and Shadow—the namesake of what is now Sebastian’s very own bricks-and-mortar, full-service sailmaking loft.
Black Dog Sail Loft officially opened in 2022 in Calabash, North Carolina, less than a mile from the Little River Inlet and Intracostal Waterway. Home to traditional seafaring and now charter fishing, the town is a natural fit for Sebastian the sailmaker.
It’s the best of both worlds; living aboard close to family while growing the brand and business hands-on. Sebastian built out the loft floor using Samantha’s mother’s garage. Now he is producing spinnakers, mainsails, roller furling headsails, and more.
The Black Dog logo is flying as far as the Bahamas. With two employees to help with canvas operations that include sail-packs (dubbed “dac-packs” because they are lined with Dacron), Sebastian can focus on sailmaking from racing to cruising.
Samantha is on the back end with accounting, installs, and moral support. They travel to measure and deliver clients’ sails all over the East Coast.
Sebastian, Samantha, and I found ourselves in the same region again in April, this time for the annual boat show in Oriental, North Carolina. We were all now bona fide industry pros: I was there with our mutual friend that owns the yacht brokerage I rep for, Sunshine Cruising Yachts, while Sebastian whipped up miniature sails and dac-packs for display and gave a presentation at the symposium.
Seb, Sammi, as well as their full-time employee and dear friend Sumer, the two pups, and the Sunshine Cruising Yachts crew rented a turn-of-the-century house for the boat show. We had all grown up a lot over the half decade we’d known each other. And we’re not stopping there.
Having worked with international sailmaking brands like Precision Sail Loft and Evolution Sails myself, I’m honored to call the founders of Black Dog Sail Loft my friends. And yes, we have all since cut our hair.