Freetime: Larry Holtzman, SouthEast LINK
By Gretchen Roufs
Thirty years ago, Larry Holtzman went to the boat show in Atlanta and bought a 25-foot sailboat. His next purchase: a “how to sail” book.
Larry, chairman and CEO of SouthEast LINK, a distributor in Atlanta, took his new boat and book to Lake Lanier and learned to sail. Today, Larry and his wife Toby have a 42-foot sea-going sailboat, the SEA-LINK, which is kept at Amelia Island in Florida. The boat can sleep six people, has a full array of navigation equipment, including an autopilot, GPS and chartplotter, and is stocked with Jimmy Buffett albums.
“When I take kids sailing, I meet them at the dock with Ziploc bags, and have them put their video games, cell phones, and other electronic equipment in the bags, because when we’re on the water, we sail boats and we listen to Jimmy Buffett,” says Larry.
Larry’s favorite sailing destination is the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.
“It’s about a week’s sail to get there,” he says. “We head to West Palm Beach, cross the Gulf Stream to West End in the Bahamas where we clear Customs and Immigration, and then on to Marsh Harbor in the Abaco Islands. The Abacos are out-of-the-way, small islands, where the people are very laid back.”
A few years ago, Larry took six Eagle Scouts and their Scoutmasters to the Abaco Islands. Boy Scouts from the Atlanta area competed via a letter-writing contest to participate in the sailing adventure. The winners went to “sailing school” at Larry’s house every Sunday for two months. At the end of the course the boys had to pass a final exam. Those who did then spent a long weekend on the SEA-LINK doing sea trials.
For the actual journey, three scouts and the Scoutmaster sailed with Larry to the Abaco Islands from Florida. Another group of three scouts and the Assistant Scoutmaster flew to Abaco and sailed the boat back home.
The return trip turned out to be a little more adventurous than the departure.
“We were struck by lightning while sitting at a dock waiting for a storm to pass. Lightening hit the mast, and because I was lying in my bed next to the mast, the lightening hit me on the face, came down to my elbow, and knocked me off the bed,” says Larry. “All of our electrical equipment was immobilized, so we sailed home the old fashioned way using a compass and a sextant. But, we weren’t in any danger.”
Larry has a 100 Ton Master captain’s license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, which means that he is qualified to operate much bigger boats (such as charter boats, small ferries, dinner boats and whale watch vessels).
“I am a qualified Merchant Marine captain, which means that if there would be a war, technically I could be called to serve,” says Larry.
Having the appropriate licensing also means that Larry can serve as a Delivery Captain. Along with a friend, Larry delivers boats for people.
“We each charge $1 per trip, and require that before we set sail, we get the dollar with the owner’s signature, boat name and date. We will only deliver a boat if three conditions are met: we have to like the boat, like the destination and not have a delivery deadline,” says Larry.
Larry keeps all of his one-dollar bills in a cigar box. It cost Larry $1,200 to take the course for this particular license.
“It will be a long time until I see $1,200 in that cigar box,” he says.
Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at Gretchen@GretchenRoufs.com.