Paul Fenn, Take a Shot Media

After 70 Years of Sailing Straight and True, Norton Yachts Decides it’s Time to Tack

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Ken and Carolyn Schmalenberger, owners of Norton Yachts pose for a pic during the Annapolis Sailboat Show 2015

The letter began, “Dearest extended family, colleagues, and friends, as the saying goes, “You can’t control the wind but you can adjust your sails.” As is so predictable in life, the time has come for Ken and I to adjust our sails.” Carolyn Schmalenberger, Co-Owner, Norton Yachts

Norton Yachts began in 1948 by Ed Norton. In 1961 the torch was passed to Billy Norton, Ed’s son, who took over. Billy had a daughter named Carolyn, who grew up watching her father run the boatyard in the little town of Deltaville, VA. Carolyn had a passion for the water and sailing which she carried with her through her adolescence and into adulthood. In her freshman year at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, she met a tall, good-looking Ken Schmalenberger. They were married in 1978 and by 1983 they had returned to Deltaville to work in the family business. In 1995, the torch was passed once again, this time to Ken and Carolyn who have been running the show ever since.

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Carolyn Norton Schmalenberger literally grew up on the marina property; work there included selling fuel to boaters, cleaning the bath house, and then graduated to painting boat bottoms,  and prepping teak for the “finish” guy to do his magic.

It is truly an honor to say that not only did I spend 20 years with great business people and owners, but forever friends.” Mike Lynch, Yacht Broker at Norton Yachts

In 2004 after a couple of years of banging on their door and basically being a pest, I finally convinced Carolyn to represent Jeanneau in the lower Chesapeake. Norton Yacht’s had been a longtime Hunter dealer, routinely being honored for their outstanding customer service. I knew they would do equally well for Jeanneau, and of course they did!

“Carolyn and Ken made the process of buying and owning a boat a pure joy, but it was clear I’d made new friends, not just a business relationship.” Baylor Fooks, Jeanneau 349  & Jeanneau 469 owner

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The Schmalenberger family including Ken, Kendall, Whitney and Carolyn at the Peter Island Beach Resort during the Jeanneau Owner’s Rendezvous in the BVI -2014

When you purchase a boat from Norton’s you are immediately grafted into Family.  We have purchased several (we won’t reveal the number!) from Carolyn and Ken at Norton’s, and each time the idea of Family is reinforced.” Christopher Lindbloom and Nancy Glinn Powell, Jeanneau 469 (Bolero)

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“Ken and Carolyn treat us like best family.  They are also family to us. I can sail without worry because the Norton’s crew always fixes any issues and problems.  They are simply wonderful people who have introduced us to the exhilaration of sailing and have expanded our horizons.” Jiho and Joan Han, Jeanneau 509

Last year on February 16th, life for Ken and Carolyn abruptly changed when Ken had a very serious skiing accident in Utah. While Ken survived the accident, the recovery has been hard and slow and left him unable to work, at least for now. As Carolyn wrote in her letter, “it’s a miracle that Ken survived.”

And so, after a great run of 70 years of Norton Yachts being a true family-owned business, Carolyn decided that it was time to look for a new owner but only if they met three non-negotiable criteria. First, the buyers would make taking care of their beloved customers their #1 priority. Second, the Norton Yachts team would remain intact and members would not face unemployment. And third, the new owner would take the 70 year-strong company into the future with the highest integrity and best business practices. 

Enter, Michael Kucera and Anton Webre, the New owners of Norton Yachts. Michael Kucera was raised on the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County and is a lifelong boater. Anton Webre has sailed since he was 5 years old, and has completed both trans-Atlantic, trans-Pacific, as well as numerous trips between the Northeast and Caribbean.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to carry on Norton’s 70-year legacy and build upon the marina’s impeccable reputation. I have known the Schmalenberger family since my childhood, and that makes this endeavor all the more exciting and meaningful.” Michael Kucera

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Anton Webre and Michael Kucera, the proud new owners of Norton Yachts.

“After a 30 year career on Wall St., I am very much looking forward to producing something real, and helping spread the joy that boating has brought to my life. I feel that we have not just acquired a marina from Ken and Carolyn, but a friendship, and look forward to relying on their wise counsel for years to come.” Anton Webre

Last week, Carolyn cleaned out her desk and officially passed the Norton torch that has burned so brightly for the past 70 years to Michael and Anton. It was bitter-sweet for sure but Carolyn has no regrets. “When it’s time to tack, you tack.”

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You can’t control the wind but you can always adjust your sails

The letter closed, “As for Ken and myself, we will be cheering for Mike and Anton and are here to provide guidance during the transition as needed. We will continue to work towards Ken’s recovery and spend more time with our children and granddaughter. God willing, on a day when the wind is perfect, we’ll catch a steady breeze and sail wherever the wind blows. Thank you for the best ride of our lives and please stay in touch.” Carolyn Schmalenberger

As for me, I will miss my conversations with Carolyn, brainstorming about marketing, social media, and the importance of always delivering top-notch customer service. And I will miss sharing a cold one with Ken at the end of those long days at the Annapolis Boat Show. But I look forward to working with and getting to know Michael and Anton and someday in the not so different future, I’m going to make it a point to drive down to Deltaville and go for a sail with my dear friends Ken and Carolyn; because that’s what good friends do, they get together, share a cool beverage, do exciting things, laugh, and have fun.

On we go…

 

 

 

 

 

My Day on the Water Aboard the Jeanneau NC 14 with Marine Photographer, Billy Black

A story of fun, adventure and a bit of mishap

For the most part, the boating season here on the Chesapeake Bay is pretty much toast. Oh, there are still a few boats running around and of course the diehard racers are still out there but for all practical purposes the season is over. Last week however, we had a nice stretch of indian summer with unseasonably warm temps in the mid-seventies, clear blue skies, and plenty of sunshine. This, along with the fall foliage being just about at its peak, served up the perfect conditions to head out onto The Bay one last time to shoot a few photos of the newly arrived Jeanneau NC 14 with my good friend Billy Black.

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The NC14 slips quietly into Cocktail Cove on the Severn River – Annapolis, MD

Over the years, I have worked many times with Billy, including a great trip we took together a couple of years ago sailing from Miami to the Bahamas aboard the Jeanneau 469. Billy likes to start early and finish late in order to take full advantage of the changing light throughout the day. A day on the water with Billy Black is always a long one and today would be no exception. We headed out about 6:30am and ran up the Severn River to pick up my wife Kim and my three kids; Will, Mollie, and Graham who would serve as our models for the day. None of them were too psyched about getting up so early but that all changed the moment they got aboard the NC 14 and walked into the main salon.

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The idea behind the interior of the NC 14 is to bring the outside in by way of having lots of big windows, light colors and a large, open floor plan

The NC 14 is really designed for great on-board living with special emphasis on interior living. The large sliding door aft, big opening sunroof, and huge windows on either side provide for plenty of sunlight making the main salon toasty warm even on a chilly day.

With the exception of the 2 cabins and 2 heads below, everything else is located on the main deck; good size galley to port, nice dining area to starboard, small convertible dinette forward, and great steering station with plenty of visibility. It’s all there just like an upscale Manhattan apartment complete with a view of the Hudson River.

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Mollie camps in the sun in the forward dinette which also converts to a great lounge area

Now that we had everyone on board, including my dog, we headed further up the Severn River to one of our favorite spots that we refer to as Cocktail Cove; the name pretty much speaks for itself. The morning sun continued to climb, casting a welcome glow on us as we dropped anchor in the northwest corner of the harbor. Here against the backdrop of the changing seasons, Billy circled around us snapping picture after picture.

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It was a chilly start to the day here in Cocktail Cove but the beautiful fall colors surrounding us more than made up for it
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My wife Kimberlee finding her place in the sun enjoying her morning Starbucks

Earlier, in my haste to get off the dock and meet Billy, I neglected to check to see how much fuel we had. Now I know what you’re thinking, “the dummy didn’t run out of fuel did he?” Well, sort of. I’ve always been fond of the saying, “you expect what you inspect.” Unfortunately, in this case I failed to take my own advice and ended up running out of fuel on the port engine. And while this was not an overly terrific situation, it wasn’t completely tragic either since I still had a bit of fuel in the starboard engine. It would prove just enough to limp up to the local watering hole and fill up.

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Filling up and hanging out at Smith’s Marina

Founded in 1936, Smith’s Marina is one of those little gems of a place that caters to the family boater, everything from jet skis to bow-riders. In short, it’s about as far away from what a marina looks like in Fort Lauderdale as you can get. Because of this, we got some interesting looks as we slid up to the fuel dock in our brand new, 46 foot, euro-styled motor yacht.

We were greeted by a young dock attendant, Anna, who helped us tie up and then passed us the diesel hose so we could fuel up. While we did this, Billy, camera in hand, went off exploring.

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Established in 1936, Smith’s Marina is the one and only full-service marina on the Severn River

One thing I’ve learned about Billy, and I guess this is true for all photographers, he never stops taking pictures. He was like a kid in a candy store, off wandering the boat yard, looking at this and that, his camera clicking away at anything he deemed interesting, including Anna!

Before too long, we were back underway feeling much more comfortable knowing that we now had full fuel tanks. The day was continuing to warm and Billy got some more great shots of us as we ran down the Severn River towards Annapolis.

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Back on the water, running down the Severn River to Annapolis

All and all, the NC 14 is a pretty awesome machine. It runs fast and easy, is a piece of cake to maneuver because of the twin Volvo IPS engines with joystick control, has plenty of outside living space, and has a killer interior. And once your fuel tanks are full, the NC 14 is good to go, anywhere your dreams take you; comfortably, safely, and in total style.

Enjoy the ride!

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