Happy Birthday Will!

Will Fenn poses for the camera aboard the Jeanneau 409 that we chartered for the 2014 BVI Rendezvous

Like all parents, I remember so clearly the day he was born. And like all parents I am amazed at how fast the years have flown by. My son Will turns 12 today and while I don’t remember having any clear expectations of the kind of person I wanted him to become he seems to be exceeding them all, right before my eyes. It’s not that I don’t want to kill him on occasion and it’s not that he doesn’t drive his siblings (Mollie and Graham) crazy now and again but all and all, Will is a good kid who lives life each day with a smile on his face and plenty of love in his heart.

He started middle school this year and also discovered girls. He suddenly wants to look his best and spends a good deal of time in the bathroom primping and preparing himself before he heads out the door. He goes to bed late and can no longer get up without being dragged from his bed. He’s rarely sick and while he’s not an overly terrific student he rarely misses school; the social aspect, especially the girls might have something to do with this. He’s a good athlete, not a rock star but good. He wrestles, plays baseball and soccer. Living in Maryland, I’d hoped he would take an interest in lacrosse but for whatever reason that hasn’t happened.

A beautiful view of Lake Dunmore from the beach at Camp Keewaydin. Who could ask for more?

If I had to come up with one thing that Will really loves I would have to say camp; not camping but camp. Since he was 8 he has been fortunate enough to spend his summers in Vermont attending an all boys camp called Keewaydin. Keewaydin has been around for over 100 years and operates today much the same as it did when it first opened its tent flaps all those years ago. Here boys are allowed and encouraged to be boys. They build fires, tell stories, rough-house, go on canoe trips, sing songs, shoot arrows, swim, eat bad food, wear the same clothes day after day and learn what it takes to be away from home and to live in a community full of strangers. And best of all, no electronics of any kind are permitted. I love this part!

Last year, Will stayed at camp for the full 8 weeks and became an “Old Timer” since this was his fourth year as a camper. Some parents find it difficult to accept the idea that their child will be gone and away from home for such a long time but the way I see it, I’m preparing my son to be independent and adventurous. He’ll need these skills in our fast-paced, ever-changing world, and camp is a great place for him to gain these skills; it’s a good thing.

A proud father with a 2-day old William Wallace Fenn III
A proud father with a 2-day old William Wallace Fenn III

I started by saying that I had no real expectations of the kind of person I wanted Will to become. In fact, that’s not true. I wanted him to be like my father, his namesake. I wanted him to grow to be honest, to have integrity, to be independent and not follow the herd. To work hard at what’s important, to be a good neighbor and as they say at Keewaydin to “help the other fellow.” As I think about these things, I am lucky because this is pretty much what I got. Parenthood, what a ride. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Happy Birthday Will!

On we go….




Getting by in the BVI – with a Little Help From Our Loyal Customers

It’s a tough job as they say but someone has to do it. And since I couldn’t think of anyone better to do it, I figured I just had to do it myself. Poor me!

Cooper Island
Jeanneau Owners gather on the beach at the Cooper Island Beach Club for a group shot

I just returned from the beautiful British Virgin Islands where I spent a week sailing around with my family on a beautiful Jeanneau 409 chartered from Sunsail Yacht Charters. This was not one of our usual family sailing vacations but rather a company event that we hosted for the owners of our boats. Because space is tight in the British Virgin Islands, we limited the trip to 25 boats and about 125 people. We would have loved to have more boats but when you call up some of these small island resorts and ask them if they can make a dinner reservation for 200 people, they about pass out just thinking about it. And so we limited the trip to 25 boats and that turned out to be the perfect size for this great Caribbean adventure.

Flag Signing
The signing of the Jeanneau flag that’s been    tacked on the ceiling at Foxy’s since 2012

We started out on the island of Tortola and made stops at Cooper Island, The Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda and the very posh Peter Island. The trip lasted a full week which gave folks time on their own to discover other great cruising destinations such as Anagada, Norman Island and the famous Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke. The trip was a complete blast and provided the added benefit of getting to know the owner’s of our boats in a way that we could have never done by talking with them over the phone or running into them at a boat show. No, here in the BVI, under the warm Caribbean sun, cold cocktail in hand, is where you can really get to know your customers. And I did, and my staff did, and my family did and our customers got to know us; what a great time we all had!

Pirate Party
A fantastic Pirate Party held at the Bitter End Yacht Club brought out the best pirates from near and far!

In addition to dropping anchor in some fantastic spots, we also had some awesome events including racing around in our inflatable dinghys on a treasure hunt, a pirate party in full pirate regalia, a number of amazing dinners, a hike up Virgin Gorda and a great talk by author and ocean sailor, John Kretschmer who afterwards, signed copies of his latest book, Sailing a Serious Ocean. All of this together, added up to one great event and the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our customers.

I’ve long been enamored with companies who have manged to make their customers fall in love with them. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Harley Davidson, TOMS, and Apple who’s brand loyalty is through the roof;  It’s a beautiful thing and well deserved for sure. And while I know Jeanneau builds a great boat, I would like Jeanneau to be known for being a great company as well; full of hard working men and women who love what they do and love to see their customers enjoying the boats that they build. And because of this, social events like the 2014 BVI Owner’s Rendezvous will just have to continue. And, It’s a tough job, there’s no denying it. But, since somebody has to do it, that somebody may as well be me; C’est la vie.

Paul Fenn, President of Jeanneau America with Carolyn Schmalenberger, President of Norton Yacht Sales at the 2014 BVI Rendezvous. A tough job but someone has to do it 🙂

On we go…