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!