Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2008


Fans of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s (as well as the 1961 film adaptation) may recall the character Sally Tomato, the incarcerated gangster who pays his “niece” Holly Golightly to deliver “weather reports” to him behind prison walls.

That his 33-foot Tartan sloop bears the same name is an irony not lost on Towson attorney Bill Hahn.

Bill Hahn’s sloop Sally Tomato
sailsthe Patapsco River,
near Baltimore’s Key Bridge.

[Photo courtesy of Bill Hahn]

“People get a kick out of the name,” chuckles Hahn, a past president of the Baltimore County Bar Association as well as a former member of the MSBA Board of Governors, noting that the vessel, in fact, already bore the name Sally Tomato when he purchased it in 1984.

“It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat,” he adds in a tone that, interestingly, is at once both whimsical and solemn. “I wouldn’t have done it, anyway.”

Indeed, Hahn is a man who “holds on to things”: his marriage (40 years), his house (32 years), his three cars (ranging in age from 20 to almost 50 years) – even his love of sailing, which he traces back to the youthful summers he spent at his grandparents’ home on Round Bay in Anne Arundel County, more than five decades ago.
“Get good stuff, and hang on to it,” he imparts. “Maintain it.”

Like those other passions in his life, the Sally Tomato – built in 1980 – thrives under Hahn’s care, her black hull shimmering in her home berth at the Anchorage Marina in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood. Here, Hahn helped found the Baltimore City Yacht Association (BCYA; in 1987; today, the organization has grown to roughly a hundred dues-paying members.

“[When] we started racing [there were] just two boats,” notes Hahn. “That became three, and then five. Now, we’ve got 20 sometimes.”

What a way to grow up - it was almost like being Huck Finn, you know?” Bill Hahn
For a few hours every Tuesday evening (“Because Tuesday’s a night off for everybody.”), the racers knock about in the waters between Fort McHenry and the Key Bridge.

“There’s a lot of room out there,” Hahn says. “Only thing you have to do is watch out for the commercial traffic.”

To illustrate this point, he recalls a too-close encounter with an outbound dredge one night on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. “You’ve got to be really careful while you’re out at night here, because all the lights and everything in the city [blend together],” Hahn explains. “[The dredge] was coming out, and I wasn’t watching – and all of a sudden, all the lights on shore [blacked out]. It was the dredge boat.”

Hahn, drawing on decades of experience, averted disaster with a last-minute jibe. But the experience offered a fresh lesson in complacency to the seasoned sailor.

“It sort of reminded me – keep your wits about you,” he admits.

Hahn spent the early summers of his life plying the waters of Round Bay in a sailing dinghy built by his father. “It was a wonderful way for me to spend my time,” he recalls fondly. “What a way to grow up – it was almost like being Huck Finn, you know?”

After law school, Hahn kept his hand in the game by sailing with friends on the Magothy River. By the dawn of the 1980s, he was firmly entrenched in the racing culture. It was around this time that Hahn befriended the former co-owner of the Sally Tomato, whose interest in the boat he would later buy out before eventually acquiring sole ownership.

But just as a busy law practice affords such luxuries, it also hinders them. For Hahn, the opportunities to sail to such far-flung destinations as the British Virgin Islands and the coast of Maine have been few and far between – and all aboard other people’s boats.

“Except for the fact that this boat came down from Atlantic City, where it was purchased, it hasn’t been out of the bay,” he explains. “I just don’t have the time, [and] that’s what it takes.”

But Hahn is not without aspirations. “I’d like to do a little more blue-water sailing, if I had the time,” he says. For now, however, Hahn is content with “the quick fix.”

“Sometimes, I’ll sneak away from the office and come down and putter around,” he laughs.

While he clearly cherishes the Sally Tomato, Hahn – like a husband caught ogling another woman – almost sheepishly confesses to fancying the new Jeanneau Deck Salon series.

“It’s a good-looking design,” he says with a glint of boyish wonderment. “And bigger – [I’d] be able to do more long-distance stuff…around the bay, maybe go down to the islands.”

But such a scenario, should it one day come to fruition, begs a formidable question.

“If I ever sell Sally after all these years,” Hahn muses, “I wonder what my next boat would be called. Maybe Holly Golightly…”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin:August 2008

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