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 and Crew


Captain John & Admiral Sarah

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 love to share their passion and joy of sailing with others.

Captain Steven Groh

Captain Steve, born and raised in Chicago IL, has always been drawn to the water. He is new to, but already in love with St. Augustine. Steve started his warm weather life in 2010 when he moved to Fort Lauderdale to pursue a life on the ocean. Since then he has become a full time live-aboard sailor. He has spent the past 7 years sailing and living on his own 37′ sailboat.  He travels have taken him as far South as Guatemala and as far north as New England. Spending more time on water than dry land, Steve loves to share his deep passion and love for the ocean and sailing with our guests aboard Freedom.

Captain Austin Arrington

Austin was born in Atlanta, GA and grew up in the North Georgia Mountains. After receiving his Bachelor’s in History from the University of North Georgia, he gave up his job as a white water raft guide and answered the call of the sea and has made it his career ever since. His seafaring began with a 22-foot 1968 Bristol Caravel Daysailor he bought after graduation, rebuilt and spent two and a half years years sailing, living aboard and exploring the Southeastern US coastline, logging over 1,200 nautical miles aboard the little boat. Since then, his maritime career and love of the sea has taken him from the Panama Canal to Southeast Alaska from the Florida Keys to the Chesapeake Bay. He has been a yacht delivery and Dive Boat Captain in Ft. Lauderdale, a crew member aboard Lindblad-National Geographic Expedition Cruise Ships in the Pacific and Caribbean and most recently the captain of 150-passenger high-speed whale watching boats in Alaska. He is passionate about nature, his family, well-found boats and good coffee. His fiancee, Sarah, and he are currently retrofitting a 38′ Blue Bird School Bus into a mobile tiny home to explore the US and Canada in next winter (

Sydney Zaruba – First Mate

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 graduated the University of Florida in 2017 as a Broadcasting and Communications major and is a world traveller and yogi, always looking for the next adventure.  Sydney also works as a travel agent with Explorateur Travel and is a travel blogger at The Boho Traveller.

Jack Zaruba

Jack, youngest child to John and Sarah, is 21 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 will soon be graduating Fort Lewis and has yet to decide what he wants to be when he grows up, now that he learned becoming a T-Rex is out of the question.

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!

Sadie Owens

Sadie is originally from Tallahassee Florida. She is a Flagler College graduate and enjoys spending her free time on the water, swimming and surfing. She is a behavioral assistant for children with special needs during the week. She enjoys spending time on the Freedom and learning more about sailing.

Hope Hare

Hope is originally from Salisbury Maryland and moved to St. Augustine Florida to attend Flagler College. She is an accounting major and coastal environmental science minor. She enjoys being outdoors in the sunshine and loves being by the water.

Jason Amato

Jason is from originally from New Jersey, but he has lived in St Augustine for three  years. He is a student at Flagler College studying political science. For fun, Jason’s enjoys surfing, writing, kayaking, and cooking. Although he is new to sailing, he has learned a lot during his time working on the Schooner Freedom. After graduating from Flagler, he wants to become a grant writer and continue living in St Augustine. 

Vaish Gundakaram

Vaish is a student of science at Flagler College and aspires to work in coral reef restoration. She was born in India but has lived all over the United States as well as Jamaica. She is an avid traveler and has many stories to share. She loves learning new things (like sailing). In her free time, which is pretty much non-existent, she practices yoga, enjoys doing any activity that is outdoors, especially if it involves being on the water.

Lindsay Anderson

Lindsay is originally from Virginia Beach, VA. She moved to StAugustine to study Hospitality & Tourism Management at Flagler College, and stay close to the ocean. In her free time she loves to go camping, read books, surf, and explore new places.

Meghan Johnson

Meghan is a Flagler alumni originally from Virgina, but has been in St. Augustine for quite a while now!  She spends her free time with her cat, surfing, serving up coffee, and living a free spirited life.  She loves being out on the water with Schooner Freedom!

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!