Locals provide smooth sailing at North Tahoe-based charter company
July 8, 2015
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — It's 1200 hours and there's a warm, steady breeze blowing from the southwest at 10 knots, propelling the 50-foot Tahoe Cruz along the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, its bow pointed toward Eagle Rock.
Tyler Salvo – co-captain of the Tahoe City-based sailing vessel – hoists the main sail with the kind of ease and confidence amassed only by a sailor who truly knows the ropes.
"I've sailed charter boats for over 10 years, and this is by far the best performance sailboat I've ever been on," Salvo said. "The way the boat cuts smoothly through the water and the way the wind comes straight offshore without creating a chop – it's like a dream."
Donning his preferred uniform of a Tahoe Sailing Charters logo T-shirt, shorts and a wide-brim, woven-straw beach hat, Salvo alternates captaining the Tahoe Cruz with co-owner Mike Pavel, who's been onboard the 25-passenger sailboat since its launch in Lake Tahoe in 2005.
"We've both sailed on the open ocean – Tyler even more so – but Lake Tahoe is hands down one of the best places in the world for day sailing," said Pavel. "After doing this for 18 years, it's pretty neat to share this beautiful body of water with someone as experienced as Tyler."
TWO TRUE-BLUE SAILORS
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Though Pavel and Salvo take turns at the helm of the captain's wheel, they share – and collectively define – the weather-worn grit and open-water pedigree that distinguishes a skilled sailor from all other walks of life.
A born-and-bred waterman, Pavel grew up surfing and sailing along the Southern California coastline before navigating his way through the competitive world of college crew, after which he pointed his compass north toward Tahoe.
"I took a hiatus from sailing to raise a family in Squaw Valley, where we owned and operated the Squaw Valley Stables for many years," Pavel said.
Pavel also dove headfirst into the ski industry, owning and operating Mountain Mike's, which grew to become one of the largest ski shops in Squaw.
"When I got into the ski business, I knew it would be seasonal, so I wanted to find something to keep me busy in the summer," Pavel said. "I had a little racing boat and my good friend, Jim Courcier, owned a parasailing business, and one day he told me to come in and use their facilities, and that eventually led to the partnership we had for 18 years."
CATCHING THE WIND TO TAHOE
Around the time Pavel began steering the course with Tahoe Sailing Charters, Salvo was riding out a wave of success as a member of the sailing team at the University of Hawaii, where he competed alongside Pavel's son, Danny Pavel.
"I was born in Boston and moved to Seattle when I was a little kid, so I've always been around water, and I started sailing up and down both the east and west coast at a young age," Salvo said.
Upon graduating in 2005, Salvo switched gears from competitive racing to earn his captain's license, running full throttle into professional boat operations from dive expeditions to chartered sailboat excursions.
The highly motivated, laid-back mariner made headway at sea, but after 10 years of island life, it was time to tread new water as a yacht delivery captain, wherein Salvo sailed approximately 35,000 nautical miles in two years.
"I did a dozen or more trips across the Mediterranean, and I crossed the Atlantic twice," he said. "On the one hand, it was amazing to travel the world in that way, and I now have friends in the weirdest places and I have favorite bars in the most random towns in Turkey, but on the other hand, yacht deliveries can be a huge pain because it doesn't matter what the weather is like when the clock is ticking."
Salvo stomached life on the high seas for two years before returning stateside to captain a catamaran out of Santa Barbara harbor, but there would be another ocean crossing on the horizon that would reroute the course once again.
"I ended up doing a catamaran delivery from France to Annapolis and Danny [Pavel] was part of the crew," Salvo recalled.
Coincidentally, Courcier was wrapping up his tenure with Tahoe Sailing Charters to focus on real estate, leaving Pavel in the market for a new partner, and his son knew just the sailor for the job.
IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
It didn't take much convincing for Pavel to extend the partnership opportunity to Salvo, and the decision was equally smooth sailing for Salvo, who relocated to North Lake Tahoe with his wife in April.
"There's only one Lake Tahoe, and there may not be many sailboats on this lake, but the ones that do sail here think it's one of the best places in the World for sailing," Pavel said. "I love sharing that energy with newcomers like Tyler, and more so with the novice sailor who has never been on a sailboat before and gets to experience the thrill of the Tahoe Cruz – that's my greatest passion in all of this."
Setting a new course as co-captains of the Tahoe Cruz, Pavel and Salvo have also welcomed another vessel to their fleet — a 12-person, 35-foot Catamaran aptly dubbed the Tahoe Dreamer, which is available for private charters from Tahoe City to Emerald Bay.
"Having sailed in so many beautiful places from Hawaii to the Greek Islands, this really is the nicest area I've ever sailed," Salvo said. "Some people want to change the world through drastic government action and what not, but I want to affect the world by making more people smile, and I'm lucky that this is my outlet to express my enthusiasm and outlook on life in a way that makes people smile, 26 passengers at a time."
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Have an idea for a merchant to feature? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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