Florida Keys Business
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Heart and sail
Capt. Seth Salzmann specializes in small-group sailing charters

"Awesome Sunset Sail!"

Seth and Cassie are experienced knowledgeable captains. The boat was clean and beautiful. We'll always remember the way the vessel sliced through the water, the peaceful setting and the amazing sunset they sailed into for us! Can't wait to go back..."

Reviewed August 2, 2013 NEW

Visited July 2013 -- from TripAdvisor

Capt. Seth Salzmann smiles triumphantly at the latest five-star review of the intimate sailing excursions he offers aboard vessels he lovingly and painstakingly restored.

"When I said in high school I wanted to be a sailor, the teacher in charge of the vocational program just sort of scoffed and said, 'You can't make a career out of sailing,'" Salzmann recalled, shaking his head at the memory. "What kind of teacher says that to a 17-year-old kid? So I asked her, 'How do you think those Nikes you're wearing got here? On a ship. Run by a bunch of sailors, all of them making a living.'"

Salzmann has been proving that teacher wrong for the past 12 years, sailing tall ships, private yachts and teaching vessels all over the world. Ten years ago, when Salzmann was 19, he was the youngest schooner captain on the Eastern Seaboard, having served as skipper on the legendary Schooner America. Salzmann also sailed his 41-foot Schooner Conch West to Haiti in 2010, carrying 3 ¬½ tons of rice, beans and flour for earthquake victims. At one point, he had captained every schooner in Key West, except the Western Union, which was under the command of his brother, Salzmann said.

These days, the laid back, but clearly enthusiastic captain is sailing his own boats and catering to his own clientele.

Salzmann owns and operates Sunset Sail Key West, offering small-group sailing charters on one of two perfectly restored vessels.

The 33-foot Schooner High Tide was built in Islamorada and was once Key West's very first charter sailboat, Salzmann said.

The High Tide's shallow draft enables her to take up to six passengers on snorkel trips to the reef, sunset sails and day cruises.

"We're really flexible and will work around our clients' schedules," said Capt. Cassie Castillo, Salzmann's partner in work and life.

Sunset Sail Key West's other vessel is the 41-foot Schooner Conch West, which offers, "day trips of up to 6 people or overnight, secluded island exploration charters," states the company website, www.sunsetsailkeywest.com.

"I was running one of the big sunset sailboats in town, and was taking out 115 people at a time," Salzmann said. "I started seeing a niche that was growing where people wanted to be a part of the whole experience."

And the crew of Conch West and High Tide, namely Salzmann and Castillo, are well-equipped to help passengers of all skill levels learn their way around the labyrinth of lines and sails. The pair spent the past three summers with the Bahamas High Adventures Seabase, where they taught sailing and seamanship during week-long adventures.

This summer found them in Key West, where they jubilantly finished a painstaking restoration of High Tide, which, before Salzmann took her on, had sat neglected at a dock for more than a decade.

The decks were blindingly white in the recent afternoon sunshine as Salzmann, Castillo and a few friends prepared for a long-awaited sail aboard the resurrected High Tide.

Currently, High Tide is docked at Stock Island Marina Village while Conch West is in Key West Bight behind - appropriately - Schooner Wharf Bar.

The boats will switch docks in the coming weeks, Salzmann said, but passenger pickups will remain easy, convenient and flexible.

"We'll really cater to the clients, when it comes to how involved they want to be and what they want to do," he said, adding that water and soft drinks are provided, with plenty of cooler space reserved for any "adult" beverages and snacks the clients want to bring.

"The High Tide was called 'Key West's most versatile sailboat' in a magazine article, and it's really true," Salzmann said. "She's great. And all this restoration was done by us, and by a group of volunteers and with help from a local restaurant."

Her captain and crew are just as versatile.

Despite his world travels, and hours at the helm of sprawling tall ships, Salzmann is clearly delighted at the chance to share his love of sailing and his local knowledge of Key West with an ever-changing array of happy passengers.

Those TripAdvisor reviews that remind Salzmann of a disapproving are just icing on the cake.


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