Why I’ve Decided to Celebrate New Year’s Eve on August 31st

Yesterday was one of those perfect summer days; zero humidity, crystal blue skies, plenty of sunshine, a nice breeze and a lovely 75 degrees. The Chesapeake Bay just outside of Annapolis harbor was a sea of white sails while the Severn River just off my community beach played host to a myriad of watercraft from speedboats to jet skies to kayaks to rowboats to small day-sailors. A small fleet of Sunfish sailboats with their distinctive brightly colored sails could be seen in the distance battling around the race course. The tide in the late afternoon was well above the average high tide making for great swimming and diving off our community pier. Yep, it was one of those rare, perfect summer afternoons that make you want summer to last forever.

Graham Fenn and friends make the best of the final days of summer by taking a dip in the Severn River
Graham Fenn (center) and friends make the best of the final days of summer by taking a dip in the Severn River

As I sat on the beach, cold beer in one hand, summer novel in the other, it suddenly hit me that the day felt a lot more like the end of the year than December 31st ever did. There would of course be no wild, late-night New Year’s Eve parties, not on this new, modified New Year’s Eve of mine. Nor would there likely be many champagne corks popping later tonight. There would be no ball drop in Time Square, no funny hats, no noise makers and no hugs and kisses at midnight. Instead, given that tomorrow was the first day of school, the evening was destined to be a quiet one. Friends and neighbors would head home early to prepare for an early start to the day tomorrow. Dinner would be served earlier than normal, bedtime would hopefully follow shortly thereafter. Tomorrow we would rise early and rush around like a litter of blind cats in an effort to organize ourselves for the day ahead. There would undoubtedly be lots of yelling over such things as lost socks, having no “good” cereal to eat and there being no hot water left but we would eventually pull it all together and get ourselves out the door. By 7:30 we would all be gone and Smokey, our faithful hound would be left alone to look after the house until our return. And while there would still be some warm days ahead I know, it won’t change the fact that the summer of 2014 was toast and a new year was about to begin.

Fenn Kids 2014
Will, Graham and Mollie Fenn reluctantly pose for a photo moments before hopping on the bus for the fist day of school. Notice “Shoeless Joe” who’s clearly not quite ready for show time. Nothing new here!

The more I thought about this idea of celebrating New Year’s Eve in August, the more I liked it. From both a practical and psychological standpoint, it makes a heck of a lot more sense to my wondering mind to start the new year on September 1st as opposed to January 1st. By September 1st summer is over, America is headed back to work and a new school year has begun. Life is suddenly very different today than yesterday; something good is over and something exciting and new is about to begin. And isn’t that what celebrating New Year’s is all about? Happy New Year everyone and here’s to singing Auld Lang Syne in August!

On we go…




Nothing Much Beats Bumming Around on Boats

Last week I was fortunate enough to find myself stepping aboard a brand spanking new Jeanneau 349 at the Vermillion Yacht Club located in the sweet little town of Vermillion, OH. Vermillion, bills itself as a small town on a great lake. Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie between Sandusky and Cleveland, Vermillion has the look and feel of a coastal New England town and is a lighting rod for boaters of all types. It’s also home port to S.O. Bum, the 349 owned by John and Linda Robertson.

Beautiful white houses as viewed from the deck of S.O. Bum, line the channel that leads into the town of Vermillion.
Beautiful white houses as viewed from the deck of S.O. Bum, line the channel that leads into the town of Vermillion.

John and Linda Robertson are no strangers to sailing nor are they strangers to Jeanneau; their previous boat was a Jeanneau 54 DS that they purchased in 2005 and sailed extensively throughout the Great Lakes with their 4 children until 2010 when they sold it to purchase a Sabre 40 (I know, they went to the dark side but at least they picked a classy, good looking, good quality boat!). They upgraded from the 40 to a Sabre 48 in 2013 but John and the rest of his family never lost their love for sailing, hence their decision to purchase the Jeanneau 349.

John and Linda Robertson with daughters Olivia (L) and Victoria (R) and their Sabre 48, Bumboat. This latest Bumboat follows a long tradition of Bumboat’s that the Robertson family have owned and enjoyed over the years including the Jeanneau 54DS.

The air was warm and the sky robin-blue as we climbed aboard the 349, Son of Bum and headed out the channel for Lake Erie. On board was my wife Kim, Rob Morley of Riverside Yacht Sales, John Robertson, and his two daughters, Olivia (24) and Victoria (18) and myself. We were 6 all together. On a normal 34 footer, 6 people in the cockpit may prove to be tight but the 349 has a tremendous amount of beam aft, making for a huge cockpit and plenty of room for everyone.

Olivia and Victoria Robertson hang on the rail aboard the Jeanneau 349
Olivia and Victoria Robertson hang on the rail aboard the Jeanneau 349

As soon as we cleared the channel we hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the 110% genoa. The 349 if offered with your choice of a furling main, traditional or classic main or a performance main. I was happy to learn that John had gone with the performance main which is squared-off on top providing for more sail area and hence better performance, especially in light air. The wind wasn’t overly strong, about 8-10 but despite the somewhat light breeze, the 349 scooted off to windward in good style. A few other notable features of the 349 include the use of twin wheels and twin rudders. The twin wheels allow the helmsman to sail from either the windward or leeward side of the boat while the twin rudders provide for excellent stability by almost completely eliminating the issue of weather-helm even in heavy air.

Yours truly at the helm. I’ve always enjoyed sailing from the leeward side. It puts me close to the water and gives me excellent sight-lines to the telltales on the jib.

Winch placement aboard the 349 is also super convenient with all lines leading aft so the helmsman can tweak the sails to his or her liking. German sheeting is utilized as well allowing for the main to be trimmed from either side of the boat.

DSC02018In lieu of traditional genoa tracks, the 349 utilizes two  friction rings that provide a fair lead for both the main sheet and genoa sheet. This clever system saves both weight and cost and works great.

We were having so much fun sailing the boat we didn’t really spend anytime below but this boat has a ton of interior room for a 34 footer. Son of Bum has a 2 cabin arrangement with 1 extremely large head but a 3 cabin arrangement is also offered.

We sailed for a couple of hours and then unfortunately we had to head back to the dock. It wasn’t such a bad thing however because soon after tying up, a front moved through and dumped a boat-full of rain on us. Timing is everything!

You might be saying to yourself that Bumboat and Son of Bum are peculiar names for a boat, I know I did. When I asked John what the significance of the name Bumboat was, he responded by telling me that it’s a long story but that I could read all about it on his web site, www.bumboat.com. It’s an interesting story so I encourage you to give it a read.

When I was a kid growing up in New England, I spent my summers bombing around on Fisher’s Island Sound off the Connecticut coast in a 13 foot Boston Whaler. Ever since that time, I’ve always loved bumming around on boats. I guess I always will.

On we go…