Capri duo starts charter sailing business on 40-foot Thunderbird

Ann Hall

There are many familiar stories of people now, and in the past, who have such a love for sailing that they often say, "It's in my blood and in my heart and soul!" This is true of two Capri residents who started their own sailing charter business, Thunderbird Sailing.

This week, the two business partners had a ribbon-cutting ceremony that took their business to another level, joining the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce.

When Christopher Cross sang "Sailing," it is hard to believe he could ever have experienced the likes of what the Thunderbird offers to those lucky enough to take a charter. Sailing on the 40-foot multi-hull, ocean-going sailboat owned and operated by Otis Tavlin and Nancy Anderson is truly a sailing experience.

"It is American designed and built specifically for single-handed ocean racing and is without a doubt one of the safest, most stable and fastest boats afloat today," said Tavlin.

"With 40 feet of length and a 28-foot width, there's plenty of room for you and your family and guests to really stretch out and relax," said Anderson.

The two captains said their Thunderbird sails flat and stable in virtually all conditions, with no "white knuckles" hanging on, even when sailing at close to twice the speed of ordinary sailboats.

"I am 60 years old, and have been sailing for 50 of those years," said Tavlin. "I began sailing in Long Beach, Calif., when I was 10 years old in the city-operated Leeway Sailing Program."

Anderson also started her sailing career when she was only 10. Coming from the suburbs of Chicago, she would spend her summers at a variety of youth sailing camps in Wisconsin.

Tavlin became a world sailor after selling his chain of tool stores in 1995. For five years, he was a non-stop world traveler. His travels even took him to Antarctica, where he worked on an ocean graphic research ice-breaking vessel. He hooked up with friends and sailed around the South Pacific. After his return, he bought the Thunderbird in Florida and moved to this area. At one point, he sailed solo across the Atlantic Ocean on the Thunderbird.

Since moving to the Isles of Capri, Tavlin has worked as a captain for SeaTow, Tow Boat U.S., and the Kahuna, moored at Rose Marina on Marco Island. In addition to his current business, he works in marine electronics and installations, and teaches his customers how to use their equipment. He also teaches sailing.

Anderson also is a world traveler. She studied at the University of Wisconsin, moved to France, and worked in the French government tourist office in Chicago. She is a certified master naturalist and is able to point out the wonders of the environment on the charter tours. Anderson also volunteers for the Rookery Bay Research Reserve, where she offers presentations on manatees. During the charters, Anderson takes photos of the trip that she emails back to customers at no charge.

It was by chance that Anderson would meet Tavlin's sister, Linda, at an Air France directors' party, and within five minutes she would invite Anderson to a Labor Day party at her home three days later. This is where Tavlin and Anderson met.

The two are proud of their new business, and their family pet, Little Girl, has been named their first mate. The pet does not accompany them on any of the charters, but does enjoy family rides when time permits.

"Our pleasure trips are more relaxing because you hear only the sounds of the water and the wind as you stretch out on the large, roomy trampolines. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy sailing across the waters of Naples and Marco Island, and when the breezes in the Gulf of Mexico are up, the Thunderbird sails like a Ferrari across the water," said Anderson.

Thunderbird Charters is available for groups of six. Age is not a factor. Their guests have been as young as 3 years old, and as old as 95.

Contact Ann Hall at

More information or call 239-776-5757.