Paul Fenn

The Jeanneau 64 – A Champagne Toast to Trois Vignes

Coming down the dock and seeing Trois Vignes for the first time, a brand new Jeanneau 64, I found myself smiling and muttering the words, “we shall sell no wine before its time.” Elegantly dressed all in black with brilliant-white spars, white cabin top and honey-colored teak decks, Trois Vignes, which is French for three vines, looked stunning and ready for a glamorous evening out on the town.

The honey-colored teak deck really pops against the jet-black cap rail. If it's a yacht, and the 64 is, you gotta have teak decks. And why wouldn't you, they're gorgeous!
The honey-colored teak deck really pops against the jet-black cap rail. If it’s a yacht, and the 64 is, you gotta have teak decks. And why wouldn’t you, they’re gorgeous!

For John and Kris Palmer, the owners of Trois Vignes, their journey started 18 months ago in 2013 at the Annapolis Sailboat Show when they sat down with their dealer, Bob Reed of St. Clair Sailboat Center and Erik Stromberg, Jeanneau’s Sailboat Product Director to discuss the Jeanneau 64 in detail. I say in detail but at that time the details were in short supply since a boat had yet to actually be built. But Erik, in his usual good and informative style, along with some great artist renderings, was able to paint a clear picture as to what the 64 was all about. This, along with the fact that John and Kris were not new to Jeanneau, having owned a Jeanneau 54DS (also a Trois Vignes) for ten years, gave them the confidence that the Jeanneau 64 was ultimately going to be a very special 64 footer. Soon after this initial meeting, John laid down a deposit to reserve a hull and immediately listed his 54DS for sale.

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The original Trois Vignes, a 54DS anchored in the North Channel. The 54DS was an amazingly popular boat. Almost 400 were produced between 2002 – 2009. John and Kris bought theirs in 2003 and lovingly sailed it with their 3 children on Lake Michigan for 10 years before selling it to buy the 64. It now lives in California.

The first 64 to be built began production in November 2013. By April it was in the water and by July it was in Corsica where I had the pleasure of spending a week aboard it and helped to sail it to Marseille on the southern coast of France.

Living large aboard the Jeanneau 64 in Corsica during the official photo shoot. It's a rotten job but someone has to do it right?
Living large aboard the Jeanneau 64 in Corsica during the official photo shoot. It’s a rotten job but someone has to do it right?

It was in Marseille where John, Kris and their 3 kids saw the completed boat for the first time. I still remember the look of total astonishment wash across John’s face as he stood in the main salon for the first time. He only uttered a single word,“WOW.” Over the course of the next 8 months, John made several trips to the factory to meet with Erik Stromberg and check on the progress of his boat, hull #4. During these trips he experienced firsthand the complexity and the detailed engineering that goes into such a project. It’s truly mind-boggaling. By December, the new Trois Vignes was floating in the test tank and then just last week, after a visit to the paint shed, the Palmer’s new Jeanneau 64 was launched in the port of Les Sables d’Olonne in the Bay of Biscay on France’s west coast. It was a longtime coming, pretty much 18 months from concept to reality. But as Andrew Winch, the interior designer told me, “details make the project a success and details take time.”

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Aboard Trois Vignes, John Palmer (L) and Andrew Winch (R) talk about the details incorporated into the Jeanneau 64. As a side note, Andrew is getting his own 64 which is in production now. He has hull #11 which ironically is the same number that John’s 54DS was. Go figure right?

There is something completely and utterly rewarding about seeing the owner of a new boat step aboard it for the first time, especially when the boat we’re talking about is a 64 footer. So often they approach it slowly and with caution; taking it all in bit by bit so as not to miss anything. So was the case today when we welcomed John and Bob Reed aboard. It was a great moment. It had taken some time to get it right but we got there. And as we raised our glasses of real French Champagne to toast this new elegant lady, I once again found myself saying to myself, “we shall sell no wine before its time.” And with a name like Trois Vignes, that saying seems most appropriate.

A champagne toast with (L-R) Andrew Winch, John Palmer, Bob Reed, Erik Stromberg, and Paul Fenn
A champagne toast with (L-R) Andrew Winch, John Palmer, Bob Reed, Erik Stromberg, and Paul Fenn

Trois Vignes is scheduled to set sail in about a week, first to the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal, then onto the Big Apple. From there, the mast will come out and the boat will travel through the Erie Barge Canal to Lake Ontario. She’ll eventually end up on the west coast of Michigan where she’ll be fondly admired by all who see her. What a life she’ll have!

On we go….

But, before you do, enjoy this short video of our day aboard Trois Vignes.

The Transquadra Race, Where Old Guys Rule

Transquadra 2014-2015

Last Sunday, my 11 year old daughter competed in a local indoor track meet. There were a ton of kids there of all ages competing in everything from the 100 meter dash to the 200 meter relay to the shot put to the long jump to the pole vault. Mollie ran the mile crossing the finish line in 6:35; not too bad considering she hasn’t been training.

The meet was billed as an “all comers” meet meaning that it was open to everyone, kids and adults alike. As a runner myself, I’ve competed in plenty of road-races where it’s common to see people who are well into their 70s and even their 80s truckin’ along in good style. I was surprised however when a group of mature and seasoned hurdlers stepped to the starting line and blasted down the track leaping along like a group of high-schoolers. It was a wonderful thing to see and proves the point that you’re only as old as you feel.

Like those older hurdlers, the Transquadra race is reserved for those sailors over the age of 40 who still lust for adventure and the feeling they get when racing under full sail across the open sea. The other requirement for racing in the Transquadra is that it is only open to those racing either single-handed or double-handed.

The race is broken into 2 legs. The first leg is held in the fall and begins in either St. Nazaire, France or Barcelona, Spain. Both legs finish on the island of Madera. The second leg started earlier this week and will finish on the French island of Martinique, some 3,500 miles away in the Caribbean.

YOLO at the start of the 2nd leg of the Transquadra race from Madera to Martinique.
YOLO at the start of the 2nd leg of the Transquadra race from Madera to Martinique.

Racing this year in the double-handed fleet aboard the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600, YOLO, is my good friend and colleague, Jean-Francois de Premorel. In the first leg from St. Nazaire, Jean-Francois along with the help of Philippe Laperche finished 2nd, only 14 minutes behind the leader and getting 3rd on corrected time; not bad for a couple of old guys in a 7 day race!

“The Sun Fast 3600 proved incredibly stable and powerful in strong winds, and we were able to keep the spinnaker and mainsail under full sail at above 40 knots of wind.  Nothing broke, and we had very good camaraderie aboard, which made for a beautiful first leg of the race!” Jean-Francois de Premorel

YOLO, along with an impressive number of other Sun Fast 3200s and 3600s, left Madera this past Saturday and is currently in 2nd place. They are racing day and night and are due to arrive in Martinique sometime around February 7th. A race like this is not for the weak of heart but just like those older hurdlers racing down the track, they are only as old as they feel and they are going for it and loving every second of their journey.

On we go…

I invite you to track YOLOs progress at www.transquadra.com/positions.php

The Jeanneau 64 – You Gotta See it to Believe it

The Newly painted Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes, sits in the factory Poieter.
Dressed all in black, the newly painted Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes, sits at the factory in Poiré. She is scheduled to sail in mid-March from Les Sables- d’Olonne to Chicago by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Just about a year ago, I took a trip to France to the town of Le Poiré Sur Vie in the Vendee region to see the first 64 being built. As you can easily imagine, building a 64 foot sailing yacht is not exactly a small accomplishment and in fact due to the dip in the economy, the project had been started and stopped more than once. Seeing the boat for the first time had been impressive. Construction had been about two-thirds of the way along and while the deck had not yet been installed, a good part of the interior had been. Seeing the boat at this stage of the build process was ideal because it provided an unobstructed view into the hull and all the equipment that is required on a boat of this size; generator, engine, water-maker, batteries, washer/dryer, wine cooler, etc. It was pretty much all installed and easy to see.

The true guts of the boat were easy to see and understand at this stage of construction.
The true guts of the boat were easy to see and understand at this stage of construction. You can see much of the front cabin was installed at this point.

Fast forward six months to June 2014 and that same boat, hull #1, was now strutting its stuff around the island of Corsica in the Mediterranee. Once again I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe to see this boat and actually got the chance to help sail it from Corsica to Marseille, about a 24 hour passage. It was an amazing feeling to see and sail the finished product after seeing it on the production line with all its guts hanging out just 6 months before. Right from the beginning I was totally awed by this yacht from her gracious lines to her sailing characteristics to her interior accommodations to her overall quality. It was truly Love at First Sight!

With the light just starting to fade, the Jeanneau 64 sits quietly at anchor off the coast of Corsica
With the light just starting to fade, the Jeanneau 64 sits quietly at anchor in a snug little harbor just off the coast of Corsica.

Fast forward again to last month when I made A Return Trip to Le Poiré to again visit the 64 on the production line. This time, instead of seeing just one boat under production, there were more like four or five. These boats were all in various stages of construction from the very beginnings to pretty much finished and ready to go. What’s more, I learned that 20 boats had already been sold and that the lead-time to get a boat was now stretching out some 18 months. It was also interesting to learn that many of the 64s that have already been sold were going to current Jeanneau owners, especially to owners of the extremely popular Jeanneau 54DS. I found this to be a great testament to the brand, the company, and to the Jeanneau staff. The bottom line is that anyone looking to purchase a 64 foot yacht and spend between one and two million dollars is going to look around at other boats and the fact that so many of these people chose the Jeanneau 64 is really quite a compliment.

The 64 starts life out in the form of 2 separate hull molds. They are each laid up with fiberglass cloth, joined together and infused with resin. The 64 starts life out in the form of 2 separate hull molds. They are each laid up with fiberglass cloth then joined together and infused with resin. From here, the true building begins.
The 64 starts life out in the form of 2 separate hull molds. Each are laid up with fiberglass cloth then joined together and infused with resin. It’s quite a process with first-rate results.

One of the major selling points of the 64 is that the boat has been designed and engineered for choice. What this essentially means is that a number of well-thought-out, highly engineered layouts and features have been pre-designed giving customers a wide choice of interior configurations and options to choose from. And because these were all engineered into the design ahead of time, it literally saves thousands of dollars of expense allowing the boat to be sold at a price well under that of other yachts of this size and quality.

Working for Jeanneau as I do, I have probably visited the factory at least 50 times over the past 18 years. And while seeing a 36 footer roll down the production line is one thing, seeing a 64 go together is quite another. I’m biased I know but I have to say with complete sincerity, the 64 is one impressive machine. But as the title of this story suggests, you gotta see it to believe it.

On we go…

P.S. Stay tuned for more on the 64 when I travel back to France in early March for the christening of the Palmer’s 64, Trois Vignes and her send-off across the Atlantic.

The Fenn Family gets a Lesson in Boat Building 101

Take a stroll to the waters’ edge of any major harbor and you’re sure to see more than a few boats tooling around or sitting at the dock. And while seeing boats on the water is a common sight, seeing them in a production plant is a different story. So when my family and I found ourselves in Florence, SC for the night, just 40 minutes away from the factory that builds four of our boats; the Sun Odyssey 379, 409, 41DS and 44DS, it only seemed logical that we should swing by, say hello to the team and learn a few things about how these babies go together.

Located in Marion, South Carolina, BGM (short for Beneteau Group Manufacturing) builds both the Beneteau and the Jeanneau brand of sailboats. At one time pretty much 100% of the boats produced here were just for North America but today, a few of the models, such as the Jeanneau 41DS and 44DS are actually produced and exported for the world market.

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My wife Kim with my 3 kids, Graham, Mollie and Will in front of a newly moulded hull outside the cutting room.

 

Since every new boat begins by first moulding a hull, it seemed logical that the mould room is where we should begin our tour. The moulds themselves are extremely expensive to make, like several hundred thousand dollars expensive. The mould has to be perfect because any imperfection in the mould will show up in the finished piece, i.e. the hull. Step one is to coat the inside of the mould with gelcoat. The gelcoat is a very hard, high-quality finish that is what you see on the outside of the boat after the hull comes out of the mould. Once the gelcoat has been applied, pieces of fiberglass cloth and resin are methodically laid out, one on top of the other to form a solid laminate. Once dried, the hull is removed from the mould and voila, you have something that looks pretty much like the beginnings of a boat.

The finished hull is then moved to the cutting room where holes for such things as ports, windows, hatches and thru-hulls are precisely cut for installation of the actual hardware later on in the production process.

Mollie and Graham stand alongside a 44DS where the deck is all staged for being permanently installed.
Mollie and Graham stand alongside a 44DS where the deck is all staged for being permanently installed.

The boat really starts to come together once it moves onto the actual production line. Because it’s here where the real guts of the boat are installed. This includes bulkheads (for structure), plumbing lines, electrical systems, pumps, water heaters, fuel tanks, water tanks, the engine, sound systems, head compartments, galley compartments, and pretty much everything else. It’s a slick system because at this point in the building process the deck is still uninstalled making access into the boat incredibly easy. 20 years ago this was not the case. Back then the deck went on very early in the production process making installations difficult and slow and often resulted in the bulkheads getting damaged in the process.

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Will pauses to check out one of the work stations on the floor of the plant. There is still a lot of handwork done here that takes both skill and experience.

Something important to keep in mind and that we learned during our visit, is before any of the bulkheads can be installed, they first have to be cut, finished and assembled. This is all done on site with the help of some pretty impressive equipment such as the computerized, programmable table saw and automated varnish application machine. In addition, all the equipment to be installed, and I mean everything, has to be properly labeled and on site so the production stays on schedule.

The production line itself is always a beehive of activity with plenty of workers coming and going, installing this and that along the way. Once the installations are complete, the only thing left to do is to drop on the deck. “Wait a minute, where does the deck come from,” asks my 8-year-old son Graham?

Graham Fenn stands along side the computerized table saw that cuts all the interior wood with tremendous precision.
Graham Fenn stands along side the computerized table saw that cuts all the interior wood with tremendous precision.

OK, so while some people are moulding the hull, and other people are cutting and finishing the wood, and others are installing equipment, there are still others constructing the deck. The deck, like the hull is a moulded piece. But, unlike the hull which utilizes a system of “open moulding” the deck takes advantage of a more modern system of “closed moulding.” In a nutshell, the big difference between the two systems is that where open moulding uses just one mould and the resin applied for the most part by hand, closed moulding utilizes a two-part mould and a system know as resin injection where the resin or glue is injected into the mould at great pressure. Once the resin has cured or hardened, the mould is taken apart and what you have is a perfect moulded deck.

Once the deck is on, the boat is pretty close to being ready to go. Before it does that however, it first has to take a swim in the pool to make sure all the systems run correctly. It’s also here that we check for deck leaks by spraying the boat with water for several hours. The last step is to make sure the boat is clean and shines like new so there is a whole team who takes care of detailing the boat from stem to stern before the boat rolls.

One of the truly great perks that has come from working for Jeanneau for the past 17 years, has been exposing my young family to the exciting world of boats, boating, boat shows, cruising and sailing in general. We have sailed through the tropical islands of the Caribbean, cruised through the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. sailed off the New England Coast, cruised through Key West and across Tampa Bay, and explored the unspoiled Apostle Islands on Lake Superior. We are lucky for sure. And now, thanks to the hardworking people in Marion, we also have a new appreciation of how these beautiful boats come together and all the care that goes into building them. To everyone at BGM, thanks for all you do!

On we go…

Underway on the Chesapeake Bay aboard the Jeanneau 41DS
The Fenn family underway on the Chesapeake Bay aboard the Marion built, Jeanneau 41DS.

This is What it’s All About

The Sun Odyssey 469 and 509 lay along the seawall in No Name Harbor moments before departing for a sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas
The Sun Odyssey 469 and 509 lay along the seawall in No Name Harbor prior to departing for our sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. It was an awesome trip!

A year ago last February, just after the close of the Miami boat show, we had the idea of sailing Jeanneau’s newest model at the time, the Sun Odyssey 469 and her big sister, the Sun Odyssey 509 from Miami to the Bahamas for a photo shoot. Actually, this had been arranged before the Miami show but it was all scheduled to take place immediately after the show ended. The trip was meant to serve two purposes. The first was to capture some great pictures of the 469 in a great location, the Bahamas. The second objective was to have a magazine editor come along for the ride to review the boat, by putting it through its paces and publish the findings. With this in mind, we would be joined by well-known marine photographer Billy Black and his assistant Megan as well as Herb McCormick, Cruising World Magazine’s senior editor. We also needed a few people to help sail the boats so we ended up with a good chunk of the Jeanneau America staff coming along including Jeanneau’s product development manager, Erik Stromberg as well as yours truly. But wait, can’t very well have a photo shoot without having a few good looking models on board so, we were “forced” to bring along with us some cute females to help fill the frame of Billy’s camera and to help the boats shine as bright as possible.

Valerie Toomey of Jeanneau with Meagan Beauchemin and Stefanie Gallo relaxing while sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas on the Jeanneau 509.
Valerie Toomey of Jeanneau with Meagan Beauchemin and Stefanie Gallo relaxing while sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini on the Jeanneau 509. Billy Black never stops, he’s always shooting.

Pulling all this together required a fair bit of coordination which we were a little shy on come takeoff time. There were a myriad of little problems, all of which caused us to get underway much later than expected and which you can read about and amuse yourself with by reading about them in a previous post of mine titled, High and Dry in No Name Harbor followed by the sequel, Unstuck and Underway. All of this being said, at the end of the day our trip across the Gulf Stream and back was a huge success and was a lot of fun for all involved. So, where am I going with all this, why am I bringing this up?

The answer is this, after the trip we thought it would be fun to make a video of our adventure; a transparent, behind the scenes view of a photo shoot in the Bahamas. We did this and it has been happily living on YouTube ever since. And, at the time of this writing, is close to having had 30,000 views; close to 30,000 views but not quite. But wait, there’s more. During the Annapolis boat show this year, I ran into a customer who recently purchased a Jeanneau 509. He told me that while he had considered other boats, he had decided on the 509 after watching a video of the boat sailing in the Bahamas as part of a photo shoot. Specifically he said, “there was a scene right at the end when the crew is bringing the boats back across the Gulf Stream and the sun is going down and the guy sailing the boat (that’s me by the way) says, “this is what it’s all about, being out here with the sun going down and the moon coming up behind us, it’s so nice being out here.” And I thought to myself, this could be me.”

Yours truly with Stefanie by my side just before sunset on our way back across the Gulf Stream to Florida.
Me with Stefanie by my side just before sunset on our way back across the Gulf Stream to Florida.

After the boat show, I went back and watched the video a few more times and was reminded of how much I liked it and what a good time we all had making it. I was also impressed that it had been viewed almost 30,000 times (29,793 to be exact). The fact that someone had liked it enough to inspire them to buy a boat was real icing on the cake. And so I thought I would blog about this a bit and include it here for all to enjoy. And, to ask a favor of you, that if you like it, let me know by giving it a thumbs up and help send it on its way to reaching 30,000 views and more. Better yet, go buy your own boat, set the sails and take an awesome journey. After all, this is what it’s all about.

Enjoy the show!

Chase’n Grace, Annapolis to Block Island – Part 2

Leaving Cape May in route to Block Island
Natalie and Mitch sit on the bow as we leave Cape May in route to Block Island

The morning sprang to life like a crop of green summer corn. After a night on the dock, we were rested and ready to go. So after a few cups of good coffee and something to eat, we shook off the dock lines, stowed them away and headed out the channel to the Atlantic. A look at the weather forecast told us that we were looking at light but fair winds for the next few days so a straight shot offshore all the way to Block Island made sense. As a bonus, the moon was quickly working its way towards being full so we would have good company along the way. It would be just about a 200 mile trip or about 30-35 hours. Our course would take us away from the New Jersey coast, across the shipping channels into New York and eventually past the tip of Long Island to Block Island. It would be a long but enjoyable trip full of adventure.

I had planned on being away from the dock fairly early but it was after 9am before we found ourselves leaving the channel and settling on our course to Block Island. In reality, if you’re in no rush to make landfall, it doesn’t really matter what time you leave. At the end of the day, you will be underway for a full day, a night and most of the next day too depending on the wind and how fast you go.

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AIS or Automatic Identification System allows a vessel such as Chase’n Grace to see a host of information about other vessels around it including its speed and course. It’s awesome!

Chase’n Grace has a full host of navigation equipment fitted on board including radar and GPS. It’s also setup to receive AIS information which allows me to see and identify on the chartplotter, other vessels such as large ships and fishing vessels. Having AIS on board takes a lot of angst out of sailing at night especially in areas where’s there’s likely to be a high concentration of traffic such as the shipping lanes going in and out of New York. The other piece of navigation equipment that I like is the Navionic’s iPad app. For about $50 you can download this slick piece of software, instantly giving you your own personal chartplotter complete with GPS right on your iPad or iPhone. It’s great value and because it’s portable, you can set it anywhere that’s convenient. And, because it’s mine, I don’t have to go through the pains of learning a new system every time I step aboard a new boat.

Due to the light winds, we were forced to motor-sail for most of the morning but sometime around lunchtime, the wind filled in from the northwest allowing us to kill the engine and sail along on a beam reach. Not everyone likes ocean sailing but for me there’s something strangely soothing about being off the grid and being surrounded by nothing but water. I always breathe easier once I’m away from shore with plenty of water beneath me and nothing to hit. It’s a great feeling.

My wife Kim and me early on in our trip from Cape May to Block Island.
My wife Kim and me early on in our trip from Cape May to Block Island.

The wind came and went this first day at sea and before we knew it, the New Jersey coast disappeared over the transom and we were alone. You do a lot of reading on trips like this. You also play a lot of cards and other games that keep you entertained along the way. Spending time at sea can almost be too quiet at times but I’ve never been bored, especially if you have good company aboard, and we did.

Along about midnight, we started to cross the shipping lanes that run in and out of New York. There are three sets of channels that serve New York with each one having an inbound and an outbound lane. This is always a busy spot, especially at night when there are always a myriad of ships coming and going. The good news is that the course these ships are on are always fairly predictable. The bad news is, they’re big and they don’t alter their course much for the likes of some 53 foot blow-boat crossing in front of them. This is where AIS really comes in handy, allowing you to alter your course just enough so you don’t end up as road-kill.

Cape May to BI

We set two watches for the night with Kim and Matt on one watch and Jen and I on the other. Regardless of whether you’re on watch or off watch, I always find it hard to get any real sleep the first night out. With the moon almost full, it was not a night to spend sleeping away anyway. As a bonus, we were visited by a pod of dolphins sometime around 1am which we couldn’t really see but we could clearly hear as they came up for a breath of air. They stayed with us for several minutes riding our bow wave under our starboard running light. It’s always a treat to be visited by dolphins during a passage!

With the summer days being so long, night soon gave way to the warm glow of a rising sun. A new day had begun and with any luck, before it was over, Chase n’ Grace would be swinging on the hook in Great Salt Pond on Block Island.

We had good breeze through most of the morning of this second day but by early afternoon we were forced to crank up the D-Sail to be assured of reaching Block Island by late afternoon. We had been without cell coverage for the past 12 hours or so but as soon as we began to get close to Montauk Point, the text messages and emails came pouring in with all their pings and dings reminding us that civilization was not far away. We rode the incoming tide past Montauk picking up a nice 3 or 4 knot lift through Block Island Sound. By 4;30 we found ourselves rounding the red bell #2 and sailing into the channel of Great Salt Pond.

Block Island Arrival
Chase’n Grace at the entrance of Great Salt Pond, the primary harbor on Block Island.

By 5pm we had the hook down and our rum and tonics in hand. We ended up staying in Block Island for several days enjoying this quintessential New England island. Our friends, Matt and Jen along with their kids Natalie and Mitch, stayed with us until the weekend and then took the ferry back to New London, Connecticut where they picked up a rental car and drove back to Annapolis.

Block Island SunsetAs I stated in the beginning of this tale, it can be a bit of a poke getting all the way from Annapolis to New England but it can also be a great adventure. And once you’re there? Well, when it’s just the two of you on a 50 foot boat, it’s a whole new adventure just waiting to be experienced. For me, Chase’ n Grace from Annapolis to Block Island will always be worth the trip!

On we go…

PS: If you missed reading part one of this fantastic yarn, catch it here and enjoy!

Chase’n Grace from Annapolis to Block Island – Part 1

Chase n' Grace

I have to admit it and say I’ve never been very good at planning ahead. But lately, I’ve been worse than ever about coming up with a plan and sticking to it. So was the case when trying to lay out a plan for this year’s summer vacation. Here I was just a few days away from starting a 2 week vacation, and my wife and I were still batting around various ideas of where to go and what to do. Thankfully, an impromptu dinner-date with my friend and good Jeanneau dealer, Glenn Winter of Riverside Yachts, provided me with the solution of what to do and where to go. His idea surfaced somewhere close to the bottom of a good bottle of Pinot Noir when he suddenly said, “Why don’t you and Kim sail Chase’n Grace to New England for me? You could sail it up, cruise around for a while and when you’re done, Lynn and I will come up and get it.” Now this sounded like my kind of vacation! It’s a little bit of a slug to get up to New England from Annapolis but if the weather was good it could be a nice trip. And once there, cruising around to such places as Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Newport and Martha’s Vineyard would be nothing short of fantastic! And so as the last drops of vino were being drained from the bottle, I suddenly found myself with, believe it or not, a plan. My wife Kim and I would sail Chase’n Grace, a 2013 Jeanneau 53, to New England and after cruising around for a bit, we would leave the boat in Mystic, CT for Glenn to retrieve when he was ready.

The only real issue that came to mind was finding someone to join us for the actual trip north. My three kids, Will, Mollie and Graham were all away at summer camp in Vermont and while I was sure that my wife and I could handle the boat on our own, having a couple of extra people on board would help when it came to making the offshore passage from Cape May to Block Island. Luckily, my friend and fellow sailor, Matt Reed and his wife Jen responded favorably to the idea (despite the short notice) and before we knew it we were underway up the Chesapeake Bay along with Matt and Jen’s  two kids, 10-year-old Natalie and 9-year-old Mitch. It was unfortunate that Will, Mollie and Graham were missing out on this grand adventure but sometimes that’s just the way the anchor sets.

The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau's yacht series. It's big, strong and fast. The perfect boat to take offshore to New England with.
The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau’s yacht series. It’s big, strong and fast. The perfect boat to take offshore to New England.

Before I go to much further, I should say a few things about the boat itself. The Jeanneau 53 is a true yacht in every degree. It’s big, it’s heavy, it sails great; especially in heavy air, and is extremely elegant above and below decks. The sail plan consists of a furling mainsail, 130% genoa, and a cruising spinnaker. All the winches are electric, making it a piece of cake to trim in and out. In terms of creature comforts, Chase’n Grace carries plenty of water so a hot shower, even at sea is not a problem. She’s fitted with a generator too so there’s always plenty of juice to charge batteries, run the hot water heater and even run the air conditioner if need be. In short, she’s one comfortable cruising machine.

There are basically two approaches when heading north to New England from the Chesapeake Bay. The first is to put the pedal to the metal and just keep going day and night until you get to where you want to go. The second approach is to take your time and stop for the night before making the jump from Cape May offshore to Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island. Since we were in no real rush, we opted for the more leisurely approach.

We didn’t have a whole lot of wind so it was pretty much an all day motor trip up the Bay to the Elk River and the beginning of the C&D canal. The tide was with us however and it was a nice sunny day so despite there being no real wind in which to sail with, it was a delightful first day. The sun was just dropping over the horizon at about the same time we were dropping anchor in Chesapeake City located at the beginning of the C&D Canal.

Chesapeake City just off the C&D is a popular place to stay when moving north and south.
Chesapeake City just off the C&D is a popular place to stay when moving north and south.

Chesapeake City is a popular stop-over for cruisers transiting north and south through the canal. It’s also a popular party destination for small powerboats on weekends. The result is that there’s plenty of good places to eat and fun things to do here. Because we had just provisioned the boat with fresh food and plenty of good wine to drink (for the adults), and we wanted to get an early start in the morning, we elected to eat on board and enjoy each other’s company and Chesapeake City swinging on the hook.That and we were entirely to lazy to launch the dinghy, mount the outboard, and go to shore. It was a good decision!

The next morning Matt and I reluctantly arose early. With sleep still in our eyes, we cranked up the engine, hauled the anchor and continued our journey east though the canal. Getting underway early is always helped by good weather and several cups of good coffee. Thankfully we had both and with a little help from a few warm blueberry muffins, we were feeling good and underway in good style!

The Reed family (Jen, Natalie, Matt and Mitch) underway through the C&D Canal
The Reed family (Jen, Natalie, Matt and Mitch) underway through the C&D Canal aboard the Jeanneau 53, Chase’n Grace.

Once out of the C&D, we made a sharp right turn onto the Delaware Bay and headed south towards the mouth and Cape May. Cruising down the Delaware isn’t exactly like cruising through the Caribbean or New England but still, when the sun is high in the sky, the air warm as toast and you’re aboard a 50 foot yacht… things could be worse. But then again, it’s just about 60 nautical miles from the C&D to Cape May which makes for a long day when you’re making just 6 or 7 knots (like 9-10 hours long!).  So like a long car ride down I95, we played cards, had long philosophical discussions, listened to good music like “Knee Deep” by The  Zac Brown Band, and enjoyed each other’s company. We even sailed though a pod of gray Bottle-Neck Dolphins. Who would have thunk!

Before we knew it, along about three o’clock, we found ourselves rounding the corner of Cape May and heading into the channel. We had called ahead and made reservations to stay on the dock at South Jersey Marina. South Jersey Marina turned out to be a great place to tie up for the night. Here we picked up fresh water and fuel and while we elected to eat dinner aboard rather than venturing out for dinner, we couldn’t resist heading into town for a little ice cream before turning in.

Tomorrow, providing the weather forecast holds true, we will make the jump offshore to Block Island, about a 35 hour trip. It will be great I am sure.

The story continues, read more!

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