Today I’m taking a different approach, introducing you to a special book, "Her Helm," and the special woman who undertook a first-of-its-kind project featuring female captains who operate on the Chesapeake Bay

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The cover of "Her Helm." Photos courtesy of Kristin Rutkowski

Kristin Rutkowski has taken amazing shots of these local female captains. “I am quick to see beauty in people,” she said. “I love the ability to see a person through a shutter and capture a beautiful image.” Kristin also enjoys sharing those pictures with her clients (“See how great you look!”), and the responses she receives after she photographs them.

To get a better sense of the 51 female captains featured in “Her Helm: Chesapeake Bay,” let’s take a look at Kate Hollingsworth. The boats she has captained over the years have become progressively bigger, ranging from classic wooden Chris-Craft boats to 150-foot (and larger) luxury sailing yachts, as well as party barges. 

Kate has known since childhood that she would spend her life on the water. When she was too old to attend sailing camp, she signed up to teach sail camp! She feels strongly about making the water a welcome place for everyone, regardless of their background or experience. 

Most of Kate’s summers are now about teaching navigation and cruising. She’s also focused on mastering the finer points of Extreme Customer Service (“You’ll polish stainless till you drop!”), in addition to exceptional vessel maintenance. 

What Kate loves most is teaching, particularly teaching how to dock. Her role often blends boating skills with couples’ boat-handling skills. 

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Captain Kate Hollingsworth at the helm of a 1959 Chris-Craft. 

Kate says she loves to travel to every boat show and talk about boats—big boats, small boats, boats with sails, boats with paddle wheels, work boats, pleasure boats, fishing boats. “If it floats, I want to be on it!” she says. There is one drawback though… “I’ve never been on a boat with an engine room that I could fully stand up in!”

As you know, this column typically features a classic boat. Here’s Kristin’s photo of Kate at the helm of a 1959 Chris-Craft yacht. It’s a wood-planked yacht that measures 58 feet with twin diesels that provide her power. This model and length were among the top-of-the-line offerings from the world’s largest boat builder back in the late ‘50s. 

Seeing the other 50 female captains like Kate “come to life” as they share their inspiring stories truly makes this book a must-have in your library. Each captain’s image is coupled with her unique biographical story. Their backgrounds vary widely, from owning their watercraft to holding USCG licenses, from racing sailboats across an ocean to delivering boats, from teaching nautical basics to operating a ferry. 

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Author Kristin Rutkowski.

The second half of the book includes stories, poems, essays, and art by a select group of writers and artists around the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll come away with a genuine appreciation of these female captains for the resilience and determination they had and continue to have as they forge their unique paths in the maritime world. Last but not least, Kristin wanted the passion and accomplishments of these women to both inspire and empower the next generation of female captains.

If you’re interested in learning more about their career stories, gaining insights into their journeys, and hearing about their remarkable achievements of these female captains on the water, you can order the book directly from Kristin. Only a limited number of books have been printed. To purchase “Her Helm: Chesapeake Bay,” visit

Kristin is based in the wider Chesapeake Bay region, from the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, over to Delaware, and down to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. In addition to working on this book, Kristin provides other photography services for individuals as well as families.

By Chris "Seabuddy" Brown