Freedom and Her Crew

Schooner Freedom under full sail.

Schooner Freedom under full sail.

The Freedom

Freedom is an authentic replica of a 19th century blockade-runner. She is a double masted, gaff-rigged, topsail schooner. Naval architect Merritt Walters and his marine construction company, Rover Marine, Inc., designed and built Freedom, the first of his many Rover schooners, in 1982 in Norfolk, Virginia. The Schooner Freedom is built of steel with aluminum masts and spars. The Freedom’s sparred length is 76 feet while her length on deck is 64 feet. Freedom’s beam is a 15 feet 4 inches and her draft is 6 feet. Her main mast height is 62 feet and she carries a total sail area of 2400 feet. Freedom was built with stringent attention paid to water depth and bridge height along the Intracoastal Waterway, making her the perfect vessel for both inland and offshore sailing. The Freedom was the first sailing tour boat to be certified under the Coast Guard sub-chapter ‘T’ to carry passengers for hire since the great days of sail. Under this certificate she is licensed to carry forty-one passengers and required to have a master and two crew members.

The Captains & Crew


Captain John & Admiral Sarah Zaruba


John & Sarah have been sailing for most of their adult lives. Over the years, John and Sarah owned and sailed on a 32 foot West Sail sailboat they rebuilt and named the Athene. They logged hundreds of miles under the keel, sailing between Charleston, South Carolina and Key West, Florida. John and Sarah purchased the Schooner Freedom in 2000, completed a year-long refit, and launched her in 2001 as a charter boat in St. Augustine, FL.
John and Sarah’s love to share their passion and love of sailing with others.

Captain Kevin Bingham

IMG_4141Kevin is an 8th generation Floridian and has been sailing since he was 12. Growing up in Venice, Fl and spending most his life on the ocean, he quickly became a scuba instructor and boat Captain. After working for years in the Florida Keys, Kevin and his wife (Taryn) and son (Samson) have come to reside in Palm Coast. Besides sailing, Kevin enjoys surfing, playing guitar, and spending most of his time with his family.

Sydney Zaruba


Sydney has been sailing her entire life. Born and raised on her parents boat, the Athene, Sydney went sailing for the first time at the tender age of 6 days old, and hasn’t stopped since. Since the Freedom’s launch in 2001, she has been either below decks, doing homework, above decks, working the sails, or behind the scenes, working the office and as our resident blogger and social media expert. She recently graduated the University of Florida as a Broadcasting and Communications major and can be frequently seen and heard on the campus’ NPR station.

Jack Zaruba

Jack, the second and youngest child to John and Sarah, is 18 years old and is attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.  He has been on ships his entire life, and joined the ranks of the crew at a young age of 2, being the favorite of many a passenger aboard ship. He will be trading in his sea legs for mountain legs while in the Colorado Rockies, but will return to a life at sea during the summer.  Jack is a natural athlete and cannot wait to start up school and see what the future has in store for him.

Gina Manz

Originally from New York, Gina attended Belmont in Abbey, NC with a BA in psychology.  She moved to St. Augustine from NY in 2013 after owning a spa for 7 years.  Gina Has one fur baby named Lola. Gina Loves to bake, be in the sun, travel, and living close to the beach is a dream come true. She is currently learning Italian, and is happy to be the Freedom’s Office gal extraordinaire!

Daniella Tichenor

Daniella is a full time Flagler student with a double major in History and Spanish. She was born and raised in South Florida, and came to St. Augustine to immerse herself in the rich history St. Augustine has to offer. On her time off, she loves to study languages and is now trying her hand at Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese. She began working for the Freedom in April, where she mans the office, books the reservations, and ensures everyone boards the Freedom with smiles on their faces.

Courtney Cox

IMG_4163Courtney is a senior at Flagler College specializing in documentary production and journalism, while placing an emphasis on the coastal environment. She immediately took her passion for the ocean aboard the Schooner Freedom when she found out they were hiring. With no prior sailing experience, she was determined to earn her sea legs as part of the crew. Now, just a few months into the job, she’s sharing her love for the ocean with others while also finding her love for sailing alongside the Freedom crew.

Matthew Drennen

Matthew is originally from Jackson, MS.  He is currently a Junior at Flagler College, majoring in International Studies and minoring in Spanish.  When not working on the Freedom, you can find me outside in beautiful St. Augustine or learning languages!

Zachary Gustat

IMG_4142Zachary grew up in the one traffic light town of Perry, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelors in Sociology and a background in Ecotourism. Having previously worked as a Zipline Tour Guide and a Parasailer, he has found a new love outdoors in sailing on board the Schooner Freedom. A naturalistic poet, with chops in percussion and rhythm, and a lover of the sea who keeps that energy within him. Hobbies include surfing, kayaking, slacklining, and distance running.

Sarah Smith


Sarah is a junior at Flagler College where she studies Journalism and Latin American History. Originally from Venice, Florida, she enjoys kayaking, shooting hoops and drinking coffee. She joined the Freedom Family just a few months ago and is sharing her bubbly personality with tourists and locals alike while getting a grip for life on the high seas!

BJ Wheeler


BJ is starting college this fall at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. He has grown up in Lake City and St. Augustine FL. He enjoys everything on the water. From learning to sail on the Freedom to fishing to surfing. BJ is studying Marine Science and plans on being a member of the US Coast Guard, but meanwhile he hopes to spend his summers on the Freedom during his time at Uni!

Brian Huffman


Brian Huffman is a recent graduate of the University of Florida in Sports Management, and a born and raised Saint Augustinian!!  With a Minorcan family background, he is learning the ways of the water while waiting to attend nursing school in the near future.  Brian has always been around the water, but this is his first time testing the waters of sailing, and he enjoys sharing stories with both tourists and locals like on board the Schooner Freedom!