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Meet Shari and Amos Zolna of Zolna Yachts in Harbor Island

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shari and Amos Zolna.

Amos and Shari moved from New York City to San Diego in 1995. They have a beautiful daughter, Annabelle, who has become a fantastic First Mate and crews on many of their charters when she comes back from college on breaks from UC Santa Cruz. They have a rescued German shepherd, coincidentally named “Bella” whom they still foster after having successfully found “fur-ever” homes for her 10 gorgeous pups.

Amos and Shari instantly fell in love with everything San Diego has to offer. From the sea, to the mountains, to the desert wildflower explosions, they found San Diego to be so much more than a city. Then to discover the Gas Lamp District, Little Italy, and a multitude of cultural venues and events, the Zolna’s knew this was the place for them.

It was easy to acclimate to San Diego’s great year round climate, and they were especially drawn to its unique coastal way of life. After many years of owning vacation rental properties on the island of Maui, Amos came up with the idea to combine their knowledge of the vacation rental business with their passion for boating. And so they did. In March of 2007, they opened Zolna Yachts, a unique San Diego business offering lodging and charters aboard a yacht. Soon after, they added another credential to their resumes “United States Coast Guard Captains”.

Their yacht lodging business evolved into a full service yachting company that offers customers a fantastic fleet of privately owned yachts for overnight lodging and charter. Zolna Yachts is now the go-to company in San Diego for private charters, being recommended by the San Diego Concierge Association and a network of businesses all over Southern California. Many of Zolna’s five star customer reviews can be seen on their website, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google Business, Facebook, VRBO and many other travel and social media websites.

In addition to Zolna’s growing charter business, and what separates them from anyone else in the Yachting Industry, is their Yacht Management Services which have been instrumental in helping yacht owners afford and maintain yacht ownership. When a yacht owner adds their vessel to their fleet, they can be assured that their yacht will be immaculately maintained and they can even make a financial profit at the end of each month.
Zolna puts it this way – “We make it very easy for a ‘regular’ person to own a yacht.”

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Not too many entrepreneurs can say they’ve experienced smooth sailing from day one, including us. The first challenge was to find a marina that would let us operate our business there. We started at the Sheraton Marina and eventually moved to Marina Cortez, where we keep a small fleet of yachts and a houseboat.

We knew the vacation rental business, but not the charter business, so we went through a learning curve to get the appropriate insurance and port of San Diego authorizations. Since cruising on the yacht was a high priority, Amos and I decided to get our Captain’s licenses so we could legally drive our charter yachts. That was a huge undertaking and challenge for us both.

Marketing a small business wasn’t as easy 12 years ago as it is now. There were no review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc., so we had challenges getting the word out. Amos and I did everything back in the beginning from cleaning the yacht, crewing on charters, marketing, answering the phones and emails, meeting customers at check-in, and all the bookkeeping to name just a few. It was a labor of love, and still is.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Zolna Yachts is a unique company specializing in private yacht charters, overnight lodging, yacht brokerage and management services on the San Diego Bay. We have revolutionized the way San Diego visitors and locals alike look at vacation rentals, yachts and houseboats. We provide a truly unique and wonderful way for all our guests to experience San Diego.

At Zolna Yachts, you’re able to stay aboard a luxurious yacht or a houseboat on San Diego Bay for a similar cost as a hotel room. Enjoy the views of downtown San Diego without the congestion and relax in true style.

We have 3 yachts that are licensed for up to 12 people for bay cruises. Our newest addition to the fleet, our latest labor of love which we are so very proud of, is the “Nerissa”.

Nerissa is a 73ft Bonner Navigator motor yacht whose total reconstruction is now complete. There’s nothing like her in all of San Diego or Southern California. She will be certified for 49 passengers by February 2018, was professionally designed with a stunning contemporary feel with details that include walnut woodwork throughout, a lighted quartzite bar, contemporary furnishings, a fantastic sound system, multiple outdoor sun decks and even a “Bull Frog” hot tub!

There are a few 49 passenger vessels on the bay, but nothing like Nerissa. This is truly a luxury, larger capacity motor yacht.

What were you like growing up?
Amos grew up in Israel with his adoptive mom and dad and was an only child. He was an athlete that excelled in soccer, but had a father who wanted him to be a classical pianist. He played piano until about age 16, but never had the passion to become a pianist. He loved cars and bicycles, which his family never owned, and learned how to be a master mechanic. Between high school and joining the military he lived on a kibutz where he met other teens from all over the world. He joined the Israeli army at 17 years old, stayed for the mandatory time then moved to the United States.

Shari grew up in Worcester, MA with her parents, a brother and a grandmother. She took up dance as a young child which would eventually lead her to New York City. As a kid she was always talking and giggling and spent as much time as possible with her friends. She has always loved to exercise, swim, bike and just move which has never changed to today.

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