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Carmel Valley charter sailing business prepares to cast off

Patty Zamora and Santiago Becerra of Espiritu Santi Luxury Catamaran Tours.
Patty Zamora and Santiago Becerra of Espiritu Santi Luxury Catamaran Tours.
/ Courtesy photo

A Carmel Valley couple is getting ready to launch their new charter sailing company, Espiritu Santi Luxury Catamaran Tours. Patty Zamora and Santiago Becerra hope to take people out on their 57-foot catamaran Espiritu Santi for bay cruises, corporate outings, photo shoots and even overnight trips to Catalina.

The Espiritu Santi.
The Espiritu Santi.
/ Courtesy photo

Zamora is a former communications executive who worked for CNN, Qualcomm, Novatel Wireless and Life Technologies (now Thermo Fisher Scientific), and Becerra is a software development executive at MeLLmo in Solana Beach, with a background in video game development. He developed Angelo Studio, which was acquired by Rockstar Games, and then founded a business software development company that was purchased by the French company Business Objects.

Becerra has lived in his Carmel Valley home since 2006, but the pair have been in San Diego since 1990, when they were both attending UC San Diego. They dated in college but didn’t reconnect until four years ago, after both had been married and divorced.

“We picked up right where it left off, and we were married last July,” Zamora said.

Zamora has gotten more into sailing since being with Becerra, enjoying being out on the ocean, sailing to spots like Cabo San Lucas and taking their three children, Sophia, Nicholas and James, on snorkeling adventures.

“(The boat) is really special,” Zamora said. “Santi always had a dream of having a boat.”

After leaving the video game industry, Becerra had a boat all picked out, but he did not have the funds yet. He called the designer and asked him to send the blueprints, vowing he would buy the boat one day.

The blueprint was framed in his office as he worked on his start-up software development company. When he got lucky and sold the company four years later, he gave the designer a call.

At the time, the designer was building out of a South African shipyard, but it had collapsed because of economic distress. Because it was very expensive to build in the U.S., Becerra suggested a boatyard in Chile.

The boat designer loved the suggestion and paired with the builder in what would be a fruitful relationship: They built eight more boats together after Espiritu Santi was completed in 2007.

The boat has four queen-size berths (bedrooms), two heads (bathrooms), and a fully equipped galley (kitchen and lounge).

“It makes for a very relaxing retreat,” Zamora said. “It’s very comfortable.”

In 2011, Becerra challenged himself by racing in the Transpacific Yacht Club’s Transpac Honolulu Race, an intense 12-day sailing from California to Hawaii, the longest trip he’d ever done. He and his six-member crew ended up winning their class in the race.

In the middle of their increasingly busy lives and raising their children, last year the couple considered selling the boat. They even had a buyer lined up. But at the end of 2014, they had the “a-ha moment” — whenever they took people out sailing, they always had such a great time. Why not consider doing it as a business?

“Having the business will give us a good reason to get out on the boat more often,” Becerra said.

Since January, they have been in the lengthy process of starting the charter business. Becerra had to get his U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License, and Zamora became ordained to do weddings on the boat. “If I can get through it … I might be the one crying!” she said.

To start, they will be limited to six people; but as their certification is completed with the Coast Guard, they will be able to take up to 30 people.

As the business gets ready to launch, interested parties can get on the mailing list and request advance bookings for the summer. For information, visit espiritusanti.com or call 888-488-SAIL.