12 years ago today, just about now, Mollie Fenn slipped into the world with all the innocence that comes with drawing your first breath of life. Up until the time she was actually born, my wife Kim and I didn’t know if Mollie would actually be a Mollie or someone else like a Ben or a Jack or maybe a James. Surprises after all can be a nice thing so why spoil the moment by finding out ahead of time if you’re getting a boy or girl is the way we looked at it. After all, you don’t open Christmas presents in June right?
I remember very clearly that despite the fact that we were now only moments away from having someone new join our growing family we were not firm on a girl’s name if in fact we should get a girl. Mollie or Molly was always on our short list but it hadn’t been sitting at the top of the list for some time. But moments before Mollie was born, and I do mean moments, there was a staffing change. Very quickly, the old team of nurses headed out and the new team headed in. The new head nurse introduced herself (I don’t remember her name) then introduced her intern, “this is Molly, she’ll be assisting today.” I knew in a second that it was a good omen and thankfully Kim agreed and so we decided right there and then that should we end up with a girl, her name would be Molly; although Kim wanted to spell it with an “ie” at the end instead of the more common way with a “y”. I’m not really sure why she wanted the “ie” version but one thing you don’t do is to get into an argument with a pregnant woman who’s in full-tilt labor. No more than 10 or 15 minutes later, Mollie was born.
Today is Mollie’s birthday, she’s 12. Like all parents, I stand in awe and wonder at where the time has gone. One day, not so long ago, she was just a little squirt covered in gook. Today, she is on the threshold of becoming a young lady; her final days of pure innocence. It’s a little bittersweet. In one sense you want her to grow into the amazing adult you know she is destined to be but in another, you cherish the child that has been ever-present since the very beginning.
It’s not always easy being a parent but knowing what I know now, it would be much harder not being a parent and missing out on all the joy and wonder that comes from raising children. So Happy Birthday Mollie Rhodes, life is yours for the taking. Be all that you can be… I love you:)
Unlike last year when one week out I really had no idea what my two-week summer vacation was going to look like, this year I got on the ball early and made a firm commitment to once again sail Chase n’ Grace, a Jeanneau 53 from Annapolis to New England for her owner, Glenn Winter of Riverside Yachts in New Jersey. Initially, this would be an all boys trip consisting of my 13-year-old son Will, 9-year-old son Graham, my friend Matt Reed and his 10-year-old son Mitch. Normally a crew like this might be headed for an adventure more conservative like an overnight camping trip to a nearby state park but we were looking for something bolder and thankfully the mothers on both sides had confidence in Matt’s and my abilities to let us go so like all good adventurers, we went for it.
Getting off the dock is always the hardest part of any voyage, there always seems to be one more thing to load aboard or one more thing to do before casting off. At some point you just have to look at the clock and say, “C’mon we have to go, untie that line.” Such was the case when leaving Annapolis. We finally got underway about 2pm.
For the first leg up the Chesapeake it would just be Will and me. The other boys would meet us first thing in the morning in the C&D Canal after the local swim meet finished up. There was a bit of a breeze as Will and I slipped under the Bay Bridge and sailed north. I’ve always treasured my one on one time with my children and today was no exception. At 13 years of age, Will is no longer a kid, he’s a young man with ideas of his own. Girls are now important along with a host of other things that come with growing up. I felt fortunate that it was just the two of us for this first day underway, even if he did spend a good deal of it playing on his iPhone. I hate those things!
Our initial plan was to make it all the way to the Canal but because of the late start we decided to toss the hook at the beginning of the Elk River and spend the night there. It had been a good first day and we would be in no rush in the morning since the rest of the troops would not be ready to be picked up until 12:00 or 1:00 in the afternoon and Summit North Marina where we arranged to meet, was only a short distance away.
Chase n’ Grace was well provisioned with a ton of food including a bunch of Omaha steaks, burgers, wine and a couple of bottles of the all essential Mount Gay Rum. Will and I opted for a couple of burgers which we grilled up on the back of the boat and enjoyed eating in the cockpit as the sun sank slowly into the west. It had been a good first day.
My wife Kim along with my daughter Mollie delivered Matt, Mitch and Graham right on schedule and after topping off the diesel tank, we said our farewells and off we went. Our plan after leaving the C&D was to head straight down the Delaware Bay hitting the entrance just before midnight. Last year when we did this trip we spent the night in Cape May but this year we would keep on moving and head straight offshore to Block Island, about 210 nautical miles to the northeast of Cape May.
We hit the mouth of the Delaware about on schedule and as soon as we felt we were a safe distance offshore, we turned left and settled in on our course of 60 degrees magnetic. Matt and I decided that I would take the first watch while he stretched out in the cockpit. Graham did his best to join me but it had been a long day for a 9-year-old and once he slid into his sleeping bag he was toast. Mitch, age 10, lasted a bit longer but soon he too was off sailing with the Sandman instead of with yours truly.
I should stop right here and state clearly that sailing offshore is not something that should be taken lightly. As long as the weather is calm everything normally goes smoothly. But things can go south quickly when the weather worsens and when it does, it’s always nice to have a solid and substantial craft under your feet to keep you safe when the wind decides to blow and the sea begins to boil. At 53 feet and 39,000 pounds, the Jeanneau 53 is a big, solid boat that provides plenty of security but is not so big that it’s difficult to manage by a small crew. For me, the Jeanneau 53 is the perfect sized boat for my family of 5.
Somewhere around 3am, Matt opened one eye and said “ready for a break?” For which I promptly replied, “thought you’d never ask.” So Matt roused himself up and took over the duties of keeping us safe and headed in the right direction. The boat is on autopilot most of the time so actually steering the boat isn’t necessary but it’s important to keep a sharp lookout for other boats to make sure they don’t run into us and us them; hence the use of the word “watch” as in “be sure to watch where you’re going.” We were trying to stay on a watch schedule of 3 hours on and 3 hours off. Matt’s watch from 3-6 is a nice one because you have the great joy of watching the morning sunrise which for me is always a great treat when at sea.
Our young crew who had the luxury of being in their bunks all night, began arriving on deck somewhere around 7am in search of breakfast. We had made good headway during the night consistently averaging 7 knots since making the turn at Cape May and were now a solid 50 nautical miles along our track which was taking us farther and farther away from land. Some people get very freaked out when they can’t see land but this was not the case with our crew. For these boys, being at sea surrounded by nothing but salty water seemed as natural as walking down the street. It was a nice thing to see and be a part of.
One might think it’s boring being at sea but there is always something to do to occupy your time such as reading or navigating or playing cards or having conversations or simply scanning the horizon to see what’s out there. One of the most exciting things that can happen is spotting a pod of whales or dolphins which we were lucky enough to do. More than once, we were visited by dolphins who road our bow wave for several minutes allowing us to get a really good look at them and shoot a little video as well.
One of the benefits to having started our ocean passage at night was that it allowed us to begin crossing the busy shipping lanes that run in and out of New York during the day. Last year when we made this trip, we headed out of Cap May in the morning which meant that by the time we were off New York it was dark, making the trip across the shipping channels more difficult and more tense simply because things are not as clear at night as they are during daylight hours.
We hadn’t done much sailing so far but we were making great time thanks to our nice big diesel engine. The 110hp engine can easily push Chase n’ Grace at 9 knots but at this speed it burns a lot of fuel, probably 3 gallons per hour. Since the fuel tank wasn’t overly large, we opted to slow things down and run at just 7 knots which we figured allowed us to burn more like 2 gallons per hour or perhaps a little less. The trip from Cape May to Block Island would take us roughly 30 hours and hence about 60 gallons of fuel. At this rate we wouldn’t have a lot of fuel left over but we would make it.
Before the sun dropped out of sight we decided we would take advantage of the calm weather and grill up a few of those prime Omaha steaks we had on board. And since a good steak is simply not the same without some mashed potatoes to go along with it, we whomped up some in a pot as well as some fresh broccoli. Dinner was served in the cockpit under the setting sun surrounded by the salty Atlantic Ocean. Decadence at sea suddenly took on a whole new meaning.
By nightfall, our GPS was telling us that we were only 56 miles from the entrance to Block Island. At this rate, we would be in with our anchor down before dawn. Somewhere around midnight, we picked up the lighthouse on the tip of Montauk. and while it appeared to be close enough to practically touch, it took us a good three hours to actually reach it. The boys had long ago succumbed to a long day spent at sea and were all below happily sleeping the night away as we slid past Montauk Point in the predawn hours of our second night at sea.
Growing up sailing on Long Island Sound, I have made tons of trips to Block Island over the years so navigating the channel into Great Salt Pond at night was not a problem. I had rousted Will out of bed just before making our final approach. I did this for two reasons; first, I wanted him to help with the anchor but more importantly, I wanted him to appreciate what it was like to have to haul yourself out of a warm bed and onto a cold deck when there was work to do. It was still dark and the air heavy with dew as we made our way down the channel and into the harbor. As soon as we cleared green can #11, we swung ourselves to port and into the back of the anchorage. Once we found a spot with plenty of swinging room, I gave a thumbs-up to Will to drop the anchor. Anchoring in Block Island is always a little dicey because the water is deep and the holding ground can be poor if you don’t get the anchor really set. Luckily, Chase and Grace carries something like 300 feet of chain plus another 100 feet of nylon rode so anchoring is rarely a problem. Once we were confident that we were set for the night, we shut the engine down, gave ourselves a quick pat on the back and headed below for some sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a big day… after all, we were in Block Island :)
Located just opposite Italy along the western shore of the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by such countries as Bosnia, Serbia and Slovenia, sits Croatia; a country steeped in a rich history with long mountainous coastlines, sapphire waters, ancient cities and dotted with more than a thousand islands. In short, Croatia is a true cruisers delight and a real gem for anyone who loves and appreciates the sea. And so it was decided that with all this beauty, and all this history, and all the great sailing that can be found here, Croatia would be the spot to introduce for the first time the new Jeanneau 54.
Sailing fast on the heels of the Jeanneau 64 introduced just this time last year, the new 54 comprises the same look and spirit that has made the 64 an instant success throughout the world. In order to do this, the same design team of Philippe Briand and Andrew Winch collaborated on the design of the 54 with Philippe Briand focusing his talents on the boat itself and Andrew Winch bringing his expertise to the elements of the interior.
First and foremost, the 54 is a boat designed for on-deck living. The cockpit, like that of the 64 is incredibly large and separated into two zones; the aft section is totally dedicated to the business of sailing while the forward section is set up for simply enjoying the ride. Move to the foredeck and you’ll find a clever feature in the form of a built-in sun lounge complete with awning that folds neatly away when not in use.
Drop-down swim platforms have proven to be extremely popular in recent years and are now found on all Jeanneau models from the Sun Odyssey 349 right up to the 64. But the new 54 goes one step further offering not only a swim platform but an actual terrace of sorts complete with two built-in lounge chairs that lowers and raises at the touch of a button. Check it out!
Below decks, the interior, like that of the 64 is contemporary but not to the point of being cold. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Plenty of bright colors combine with a host of natural light to make the interior of the 54 extremely warm and inviting. Once again Andrew Winch really nailed it!
Something that’s remarkably different about the 54 compared to other models is the large amount of room that has been given over to the cabins. The owner’s cabin for example which is located all the way forward resembles that of a luxury hotel room complete with an awesome centerline queen bed low to the floor and a huge private head and shower compartment. There is a second VIP cabin aft that’s almost as large as the forward cabin plus a third, smaller cabin also aft, on the chance that you end up sailing with a third couple or possibly some kids. All things considered the 54 is a boat that has been designed for her owner.
Officially, the 54 is part of our yacht series along with the 57 and 64. But in many ways, the 54 is in a class all by itself, almost a luxury long-range cruiser for couples looking to chuck it all behind and simply sail away in grand style. Has the cruising lifestyle been whistling a tune in your ear? If so, the new Jeanneau 54 may just be the perfect partner to dance away with. Either way, love is definitely in the air this summer, especially in Croatia and especially aboard the new Jeanneau 54.
On we go…
P.S. Stay tuned for more on the 54 including my day on the water with Jeanneau 64 owner, Andrew Winch himself.
This coming Sunday, June 21st, is Father’s Day. Coincidentally, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s also the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year when the sun reaches its northernmost point of the equator marking the first day of summer. In addition to all this, Sunday is also Summer Sailstice, a world wide celebration of all things sailing.
Summer Sailstice was started by John Arndt back in 2001 as a way to share sailing by getting the whole world sailing on the weekend nearest the solstice. “I’ve sailed my whole life and worked in the sailing business for 30 years.” says John. “And like every sailor I know, I always wanted to share sailing with everyone. Sailing comes in an endless variety of styles – racing, cruising, dinghies, tall ships. The enormous variety makes it very challenging for the world to understand and for sailors to unite around a common event. Yet all these sailors are passionate about sailing and all want to share it with others. The Summer Sailstice sailing celebration gives every sailor a date to participate, to hoist sails, to show off their aspect of sailing and to share it with friends and the rest of the world. It’s growing and we’re looking forward to the day when the whole world sails for Summer Sailstice. And, when it gets big enough, it will become a global 3-day weekend for sailors!”
For me, the fact that Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as the Summer Solstice and Summer Sailstice this year is most appropriate. My dad, who passed away last year at the age of 93 was a huge sailor and a great dad. As a teenager, he learned to sail on Canandaigua Lake in up-state New York where my grandparents had a summer place. Somewhere along the line, my grandfather purchased a beautiful wooden sloop he named the Lorna Doone which my dad lovingly sailed up and down the lake during the long days of summer. Later, when I was a young boy, my dad purchased a wooden racing dinghy called a Jollyboat designed by Uffa Fox. The Jollyboat was an incredibly fast and spirited racing dinghy that often needed 3 or 4 people on the rail to keep the thing from capsizing when the wind piped up. He named the boat Betsey Anne, after my older sister Betsey who was born mentally retarded and never got much of a shot a life.
When I was about 14, my dad bought for the two of us to race on together, one of the first 420’s to find its way into the U.S. from France. We named this boat Quick Step because if you weren’t quick on your feet you could easily find yourself in the drink. This was followed some years later by a Rhodes 22 then finally a Bayfield 36.
Like my friend John Arndt, sailing has always been part of my life; largely because my father introduced me to it at a young age and taught me to love and appreciate the sea.
Last year about this time, in honor of my dad and Father’s Day, I wrote a blog titled, We are Only as Good as that which we Leave Behindwhere I make the point that what’s really important in life is not so much our accomplishments but rather the examples we set, the lessons we pass on and the tone by which we lead our lives. Sailing was a big part of my dad’s life. Turns out, not so surprisingly, it was a big part of John Arndt’s dad’s life too. Summer Sailstice helps to promote the legacy and the love of sailing of those that came before. So here’s to great fathers who loved to sail and do love to sail and perhaps with a little help from the long days of summer, will love to sail. Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere and happy sailing.
It’s a long poke across the Atlantic to the east coast of the United States on a sailboat. And a longer one still going all the way up into the Great Lakes to St. Clair Shores located on the east coast of Michigan. But that’s exactly the trip that the Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes recently completed.
Prior to yesterday, the last time I had seen Trois Vignes was in March, tied to the dock in the port of Les Sables d’Olonne, France. Shortly thereafter, Trois Vignes headed across the Atlantic, first to the island of Madeira off Portugal then to Halifax, Nova Scotia with the idea of reaching the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Unfortunately, although it was the end of April, the St.Lawrence was still chock full of ice forcing the crew to head south to New York where they pulled the mast before heading north through the Erie Canal. It was quite the adventure!
Yesterday, I caught up with Trois Vignes once again. This time in St. Clair Shores, MI where Bob Reed of St. Clair Sailboat Center was putting the finishing touches on her before making the final handover to her owners, John and Kris Palmer. The day was shaping up to be a beauty with partly sunny skies and a nice breeze of 10-15 knots. It would be a perfect day for a sail.
Trois Vignes sat quietly in her slip looking beautiful as my friend and work associate, Catherine Guiader and I climbed aboard eager to get underway. As luck would have it, John Palmer was already on board. He had driven over that morning from his home in Illinois. He wasn’t about to miss this maiden voyage in US waters or allow Catherine, Bob and I to have all the fun, no way!
The Jeanneau 64 comes standard with a bow thruster but in addition to this, Trois Vignes is fitted with the optional retractable stern thruster which makes maneuvering easier than falling off a wet log. Once out on the lake, we used the electric cabin-top winch to pull out the main. The genoa followed and once sheeted in, we were soon off on a beam reach at a respectable 8 knot clip. Trois Vignes benefits from the optional Harken electric mainsheet winch that lives below decks and allows the sheeting of the main at the touch of a button right from the helm station. It’s slicker than grease on a doorknob. I can’t imagine why anybody would order the boat without it.
The four of us spent the afternoon reaching back and forth and having a grand time. Lake St. Clair is not an overly large lake, so when a 64 footer goes by dressed all in black, trust me people notice. We saw lots of pointing fingers followed by the words “beautiful” as we charged on past our fellow boaters. It was a good day and we were enjoying every minute of it.
Once back at the dock, cold chardonnay in hand, we talked about the final leg of the journey. In just a few weeks, after the final finishing touches and tweaks have been made, Trois Vignes will make its way up Lake Huron, over the top of the Mitten, past Mackinac Island, and into Lake Michigan. Her crew will continue to sail south down the lake, past Beaver Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes. When they reach Holland along Michigan’s western coast, they’ll slip past the Big Red Light House that marks the entrance to Lake Macatawa, Trois Vignes’ home port.
It’s a long poke from Les Sables d’Olonne to Lake Macatawa but Trois Vignes has handled it as we knew she would, like the true ocean-going yacht she is. The journey is not quite over but for this Jeanneau 64 it’s close… she’s almost home.
On we go….
P.S. If you missed the beginning of this saga, you can catch the beginning here!
The forecast for the 66th running of the Down the Bay Race from Annapolis, MD to Hampton, VA. was for Northwest winds of 15 – 20 knots. The only thing that could possibly have made this forecast any better was for even more wind. As a long-distance ocean racer, the Sun Fast 3600 is deigned to remain safe, stable and fast even when the winds blow hard and the seas build. Because of this, the 3600 is a bit heavy to really get up and move in winds less than 10 knots but when the winds blow, the Sun Fast 3600 is one hard boat to beat.
By the time the starting gun went off at 10:30am Friday morning, the wind, true to the forecast, was blowing pretty much right out of the northeast at a steady 18 knots gusting to upwards of 20. If this held up, it would make for a quick and exciting 120 mile sail down the Chesapeake Bay to Hampton.
I have to admit it right up front and say that my racing experience is limited. It’s one thing to cruise long distance but it’s a totally different ball game when it comes to racing long distance. When you’re racing, it’s game on all the way to the finish. And when I say game on, I’m referring not just to the sailing end of things but the navigation, tactics, and weather forecasting as well. A friend of mine, Lou Sandivol, who had won the Race to Mackinac a number of times once told me, “The Mac Race is won at night.” By this he was referring to the idea that if you let yourself relax during the night, you will make mistakes and lose the race. He was right of course and the same goes for any long distance race where it’s easy to get worn down and over-tired.
With the wind for the most part blowing just off the beam, we were able to fly our reaching spinnaker which generated a consistent speed over the ground (SOG) of between 10-12 knots. Where we got into trouble was when we were forced to head up in order to sail on our rhum line. When we did this, we could no longer carry the asymmetric and had to switch to our working jib. Doing this caused our boat speed to drop by 2 – 3 knots. “What we really need right now” one of the crew members said, “is a code 0.” He was right of course, if we had a code 0 enabling us to sail say 55 or 60 degrees to the wind, we would be on the rhum line and hammering the competition as well. Instead we were sailing as best we could with the working jib and raising our reaching spinnaker when the angle of the wind allowed.
What we lacked in sail inventory we made up for in the makeup of our crew. We were fortunate to have 3 very good sailors aboard whose knowledge of racing and the will to win drove us towards the finish line as fast as we could possibly go. Somewhere around 1:30am, 13 hours and 44 minutes after the start of the race, Invictus crossed the finish line winning first in our class and at least for a while, first overall. In the morning, after the rest of the fleet had finished, we learned that we had lost first place overall to an older Cal 30 by just a little over 3 minutes on corrected time.
A few days after the race, I received a phone call from a fellow by the name of Bill Wagner of the Annapolis Capital Gazette who was interested to know how it felt to have lost first place by just a little over 3 minutes after racing for almost 14 hours. I thought for only a second and said “Abu Dhabi lost to Dongfeng in leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race also by just a little over 3 minutes. The difference is that their race lasted 17 days and 9 hours. I’m sure that losing that race for the crew of Abu Dhabi hurt a lot more than it hurt our crew aboard Invictus.” In short I said, “it felt alright.”
Today, Invictus is in Newport, RI after sailing from Hampton, VA, some 370 nautical miles in just 48 hours. Other races lie ahead but for now, the crew of Invictus is happy to be in the center of the winner’s circle where we have no doubt we will be again.
Yesterday, my son Will celebrated his 13th birthday. Like all parents, I can remember so clearly the day he was born. Then a decade went whizzing by and before I knew it he was 10. And now, I have a teenager on my hands. Wow, time certainly does move along.
Totally by coincidence, I had a call from an old customer of ours, Charlie Forsdick, and learned that Will was not the only one having a 13th birthday, Voyager, a Sun Odyssey 43 was also turning 13. Charlie and Terry Forsdick had taken delivery of their new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43 in the Spring of 2002 in Westbrook, CT. Charlie was planning on retiring soon and he and Terry were itchy to throw off the lines and go cruising. “We must have looked at 25-30 boats before deciding to buy the SO 43″ Charlie told me. “Ted Novakowski, who originally sold us Voyager, really did a great job finding us the right boat” he added.
“This was a big project” Ted Novakowski recalls. “Charlie had thought through all the systems vital to the cruising program he was looking to do and given plenty of consideration to comfort aboard over extended periods. The radar arch/dinghy davits was one of the earliest projects to be tackled. There were considerations in both functionality and appearance. Additions and adaptations were managed as the installation progressed. I remember an inch here and a degree there… it was a bit of trial and error but in the end I think the function was just what was hoped for and the appearance was really complimentary to the lines of the boat. I still remember the christening. Charlie and Theresa know how to throw a party and the christening was no exception. Voyager was showcased in a slip outside the marina clubhouse, visible from the street, docks, and water. We all enjoyed a great occasion with food, drink and friends. With the boat as the centerpiece of the day, this really celebrated the beginning of the cruising lifestyle Charlie and Theresa had planned for years.”
A few years went by. Then in 2006, true to their plan, Charlie retired and off they went, full-time… first to the North to explore old haunts; Block Island, Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, Cutty Hunk, Nantucket and then to the south to sit out the winter months in the Bahamas. They did this for many years, up north to New England for the summer, down south to the Bahamas in the winter. A few years ago, they bought a place in Ft. Pierce, FL that they now call home. They continued to cruise however, exploring both coasts of Florida, the Panhandle and the Gulf of Mexico.
Charlie and I spent a good bit of time on the phone reminiscing and talking about all the adventures he and Terry have had over the past 13 years. “It’s really been great Paul. My experience with the boat and the people at Jeanneau has really been wonderful. Unfortunately, I’m not as young as I used to be and well, Terry is suffering from some memory loss and it’s not as easy for her to get around, so as much as I hate to do it, I think it’s time that Voyager find a new home.” I could tell that Charlie wasn’t overly excited by this dose of reality but like all good sailors, he was making the best of a situation that was less than perfect.
As we were wrapping up our conversation, I commented that while it’s sad to be forced to sell Voyager at least you bought her in the first place, outfitted her with the best gear possible, threw off the lines and realized your dream of going cruising; so many people never get that far. He agreed with me but I couldn’t help hear a little disappointment in his voice.
There’s an old saying that’s been around forever that the two best days in a boat owner’s life is the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. It’s a humorous saying but for those us us who really love the lifestyle, it simply isn’t true. The story of Voyager is one of both the bitter and the sweet. Thankfully, there’s a lot more sweet than bitter and that has made all the difference.