Paul Fenn

Father’s Day Sails into the First Day of Summer Side by Side with Summer Sailstice

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The author, yours truly, at the helm of the Jeanneau 349 on Lake Erie. As I’m always fond of saying, “Life’s too short to sit at the dock.”

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!”

My dad and my Aunt Ruth sailing on Canandaigua Lake aboard the Lorna Doone about 1938. Dad loved to sail and always tried to get all that he could out of the boat and the conditions. I love this picture with his leg draped over the side in an effort to keep the boat sailing flat.
My dad and my Aunt Ruth sailing on Canandaigua Lake aboard the Lorna Doone about 1938. Dad loved to sail and always tried to get all that he could out of the boat and the conditions. I love this picture with his leg draped over the side in an effort to keep the boat sailing flat.

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.

My dad and my Uncle Dave aboard the Betsey Anne in 1970 just before the start of the Nationals on Lake Erie. My older sister Bonnie is also aboard but somewhere in the bilge out of sight.
My dad and my Uncle Dave aboard the Betsey Anne in 1966 just before the start of the Nationals on Lake Erie. My older sister Bonnie is also aboard but somewhere in the bilge out of sight.

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 Behind where 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.

On we go…

P.S. Interested in sailing on the Summer Solstice? Hop on board at www.summersailstice.com and enjoy the ride.

John Arndt:
John Arndt: “A picture of 2 of my brothers and a friend of ours in our first ‘”family boat.” I’m in blue and my youngest brother is doubled up w/the life jacket and inner tube. This is where it all began!

The Jeanneau 64 – Almost Home

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The Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes, slices through the water with the greatest of ease. Outfitted with standard furling main and 110% genoa, the 64 is not a yacht that’s afraid to sail.

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!

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Beautifully finished teak decks highlighted against the jet-black cap rail and white cabin trunk really accent the true elegance of what the Jeanneau 64 is all about.

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.

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Trois Vignes charging along on a beautiful close reach with Catherine at the helm.

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!

 

A Race Down the Bay Lands Invictus Squarely in the Center of the Winner’s Circle

Invictus sailing about 11 knots with the A1.5 reaching kite set.
Invictus sailing about 11 knots with the A1.5 reaching kite set.

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.

The Sun Fast 3600 can be had with tillers or wheels. For Invictus, we chose the wheels which make for easy control when sailing with a crew
The Sun Fast 3600 can be had with tillers or wheels. For Invictus, we chose the wheels which make for easy control when sailing with a crew

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.”

Invictus with the reaching kite up and pulling.
Invictus with the reaching kite up and pulling.

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.

On we go…

Learn more about the Sun Fast 3600 at: www.jeanneau.com/boats/Sun-Fast-3600.html