By Mary Thurwachter
Capt. Charlie says the ocean is in his blood. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, he learned to sail at 13 (from his father) and he has been at it ever since.
He started on a Hobie Cat, moved up to high-performance boats and even raced Olympic-class boats for a few years.
These days, you can often find Capt. Charlie (aka Charles A. Mount, president of Palm Beach Charters Inc.) at the helm of 55-foot catamaran yacht sailing guests into the Atlantic Ocean and up and down the Intracoastal Waterway to see huge mansions, historic lighthouses, and sometimes schools of bottlenose dolphins splashing alongside the boat.
Nestled between the hulls of the Palm Breeze, guests find ample room to sunbathe or sip a cool drink while listening to steel drum music. Behind the bar is cruise director Olena Markel, whose wide smile and cheery demeanor help ensure everyone has a good time.
“I grew up in the Ukraine,” Markel says. “I dreamed of living by the ocean. Then one day I was in Jacksonville and I realized my dream had come true.”
Markel, who lives in Boca Raton, even makes the safety talk fun. “There are life jackets. If you see me wearing one, you should, too,” she advises before she cranks up the island music to put everyone in a “don’t worry, be happy” state of mind.
While Markel chit-chats with the folks on board, in this case a mix of European tourists and locals, mate Greg Steck scurries about helping to raise the sails and occasionally relieves Capt. Charlie at the wheel.
On this day, the Palm Breeze departs from the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Capt. Charlie cranks up the engine to get out of the inlet and then raises the sails full speed ahead into the Atlantic.
It’s a very green operation. Solar panels charge the batteries and wind powers the boat through the open waters.
Cruisers discover how quietly and quickly the catamaran glides across the waves.
“We broke our speed record recently,” Capt. Charlie reveals. “After a Coast Guard inspection in Fort Pierce, Olena and I came back at 20 knots (about 25 miles per hour). That’s high performance for a charter boat. We went 100 miles in five hours with no engine.”
Even on a regular sightseeing cruise like the one we took recently, the catamaran moved along at 10-15 miles per hour as it sailed south by the Hillsboro Inlet.
From there, the sailing yacht cruised by the historic Hillsboro lighthouse, which opened in 1907.
Once inside the inlet, the Palm Breeze sailed back to the Boca Raton Resort & Club, the crew pointing out some of the mansions along the way.
Perhaps because the catamaran is so wide and Capt. Charlie is such an accomplished sailor, or maybe because the winds weren’t brutal, no one appears to have a problem with seasickness.
While you might not think about sailing boats as fishing vessels, Capt. Charlie says the Palm Breeze has an impressive fishing history. Large sailfish, wahoo and mahi mahi are reeled in fairly frequently, he says, much to the delight of guests.
The day we sailed, a 10- to 15-pound mahi mahi took the bait and jumped out of the water three times before escaping with a chunk of ballyhoo in its mouth.
While sailing may be in his blood, Capt. Charlie says he likes the people side of the business as much as anything. “I enjoying meeting people with diverse personalities and being outdoors,” he says.
Capt. Charlie and his partner, Holly Sauer, established Palm Breeze Charters in 1987 with a sailing yacht. They currently have two 55-foot catamarans, a 48-foot motor yacht for Intracoastal cruises and a racing boat.
The boats, which depart from various locations, including the Boca Raton Resort & Club and Deck 84 in Delray Beach, are available for charters but individuals can board as well.
Debra Acquilano, who worked for the Boca Raton Historical Society where she set up the historical trolley tours and currently works in sales and marketing for the charter company, said history cruises are popular outings.
Volunteers from the Historical Society board to share their knowledge and talk about Boca Raton’s history and how Addison Mizner influenced the city’s architecture.
Charters are tailored to the clients who might want to see sights, learn about local history, go on snorkeling trips or watch the sun set.
Sunday Fun Day
cruises are geared toward locals. Ú
For reservations or details including prices ($55 for adults, $35 for kids), call Sauer at (561) 368-3566, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.airandsea.com. Group pricing, Florida resident and senior discounts are available.
In Coasting Along, our writers occasionally stop to reflect on life along the shore.