Tom Berton’s New York sailing odyssey began more than two decades ago, when he discovered the joys of plying the harbor’s waters under sail aboard the legendary Petrel and its equally legendary captain, Nick van Nes, who pioneered public and charter sailing in the city. When van Nes packed up and retired to Martha’s Vineyard in 2000, Tom didn’t hesitate long (by his standards anyway). Leaving behind a successful career in real estate, Berton bought the Shearwater in early 2001 and reached out for the Petrel’s baton. The tests to his will and resilience as a new small-business owner came fast and furious: the boat, its crew and the operation barely survived the horrors of 9/11 despite having set up shop at the foot of the towers. Berton—a member of that rare breed, the born and reared Manhattanite—has, like his city, persevered and prospered since, creating New York’s most unique, personable and fun harbor-tour business. The proud father of two beautiful young girls, Berton lives with his wife Ewa in lower Manhattan.
Captain Chris is Manhattan By Sail’s resident iron man in both size, stature and general get-it-done competence. A ship captain, marine mechanic and unparalleled story-teller, van Nes is the reason our fleet of old boats run like clockwork every day. As capable in the engine room as behind the wheel, van Nes comes from a family of tough-as-nails mariners who trained their young progeny early. Over the years, he’s sailed the finest wood and steel crafts around, including Pilot, Nina, Petrel, Yankee and Shearwater. This season, Captain Chris—a three-time N.Y. Harbor’s Funniest Storyteller champion—can be found behind the helm of Clipper City, or quite possibly, down in its engine room.
Captain Z is also not as serious as he looks, though all things being equal, he’s probably a little more serious than Captain Matt. Manhattan by Sail’s resident perfectionist, Zimmerman grew up sailing on the Hudson and has worked on traditionally-rigged boats since he was 15. One of Shearwater’s primary captains since 2007, Zimmerman previously spent six years working on the South Pole. An accomplished musician, he knows how to sing and play more songs on the guitar than anyone we’ve ever met.
David Critchell is one of the captains of the Shearwater. A New York native, David grew up sailing in Long Island Sound and NY Harbor. A Manhattan by Sail fixture for the last five plus years, David got his captain’s license a few winters ago. In a former life he was a freelance magazine journalist, a career he only sometimes misses.