If ever there was a year not to go to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), this year is it. Or is it? Yes, the BVI got trounced by Hurricane Irma back in September. Yes, there was a huge number of boats lost. And yes, many of the areas best known resorts such as The Bitter End Yacht Club and Peter Island Resort and Spa, have been forced to close their doors and sit out the season until repairs are made. Despite all this, the British Virgin Islands are still the world’s #1 charter destination, offering awesome sailing, plenty of great anchorages, beautiful white-sand beaches, plenty of good snorkeling, and of course, the world’s best Painkillers!
And there’s another reason to go to the BVI this year and that is, the Islands need us. More than anything, what the BVI could really use right now are visitors, especially sailors. While some of the larger resorts are closed, most of the smaller ones such as Foxy’s, the Soggy Dollar, Cooper Island Beach Club, and the Anagada Reef Hotel are open and ready for business. Nothing cures a quiet bar faster than a bunch of thirsty sailors! And, it’s the sailors, us, who can have the greatest impact on the BVI’s recovery right now.
And so, on March 10th, a group of us will be boarding a plane and heading to Tortola in the BVI to pick up our boats from our friends at Sunsail. The weather in the BVI is currently 81 degrees with blue skies and winds out of the Southeast at 10-15. Can’t ask for better conditions than this.
We know the BVI will be quieter this year than in the past. And we understand we will see some leftover damage from Hurricane Irma. But we also know the sailing will be great as always, the water as blue as ever, the air will be warm, and the people of the British Virgin Islands will be glad to see us. It’s going to be great!
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.
“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
“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)
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
“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.”
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.
Located just opposite Italy along the western shore of the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by such countries as Bosnia, Serbia and Slovenia, sits Croatia; a country steeped in a rich history with long mountainous coastlines, sapphire waters, ancient cities and dotted with more than a thousand islands. In short, Croatia is a true cruisers delight and a real gem for anyone who loves and appreciates the sea. And so it was decided that with all this beauty, and all this history, and all the great sailing that can be found here, Croatia would be the spot to introduce for the first time the new Jeanneau 54.
Sailing fast on the heels of the Jeanneau 64 introduced just this time last year, the new 54 comprises the same look and spirit that has made the 64 an instant success throughout the world. In order to do this, the same design team of Philippe Briand and Andrew Winch collaborated on the design of the 54 with Philippe Briand focusing his talents on the boat itself and Andrew Winch bringing his expertise to the elements of the interior.
First and foremost, the 54 is a boat designed for on-deck living. The cockpit, like that of the 64 is incredibly large and separated into two zones; the aft section is totally dedicated to the business of sailing while the forward section is set up for simply enjoying the ride. Move to the foredeck and you’ll find a clever feature in the form of a built-in sun lounge complete with awning that folds neatly away when not in use.
Drop-down swim platforms have proven to be extremely popular in recent years and are now found on all Jeanneau models from the Sun Odyssey 349 right up to the 64. But the new 54 goes one step further offering not only a swim platform but an actual terrace of sorts complete with two built-in lounge chairs that lowers and raises at the touch of a button. Check it out!
Below decks, the interior, like that of the 64 is contemporary but not to the point of being cold. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Plenty of bright colors combine with a host of natural light to make the interior of the 54 extremely warm and inviting. Once again Andrew Winch really nailed it!
Something that’s remarkably different about the 54 compared to other models is the large amount of room that has been given over to the cabins. The owner’s cabin for example which is located all the way forward resembles that of a luxury hotel room complete with an awesome centerline queen bed low to the floor and a huge private head and shower compartment. There is a second VIP cabin aft that’s almost as large as the forward cabin plus a third, smaller cabin also aft, on the chance that you end up sailing with a third couple or possibly some kids. All things considered the 54 is a boat that has been designed for her owner.
Officially, the 54 is part of our yacht series along with the 57 and 64. But in many ways, the 54 is in a class all by itself, almost a luxury long-range cruiser for couples looking to chuck it all behind and simply sail away in grand style. Has the cruising lifestyle been whistling a tune in your ear? If so, the new Jeanneau 54 may just be the perfect partner to dance away with. Either way, love is definitely in the air this summer, especially in Croatia and especially aboard the new Jeanneau 54.
On we go…
P.S. Stay tuned for more on the 54 including my day on the water with Jeanneau 64 owner, Andrew Winch himself.
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!”
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.
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 Behindwhere 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.
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.
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.”
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.
It is said that the true character of a company can be found in the people who work for it. Valerie Toomey joined Jeanneau America in 2010 bringing with her an over abundance of positive energy and a unique style all her own. Now, 5 years later, she leaves us… not for a bigger or better job or to seek out new opportunities, but to do something most of us who love spending time on the water only dream of, going cruising.
Beginning in July, Valerie along with her husband, syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey, and their two children, Madeline age 12 and William age 10, will head to Les Sables-d’Olonne, France where they will move aboard their brand new Lagoon catamaran. From there, they’ll spend the next year (maybe more if Valerie gets her way. And she usually does!) cruising through the Mediterranean and eventually south across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. It will be a grand adventure I’m sure.
“When I started working for Jeanneau, I really wasn’t a sailor but over the past 5 years, after organizing numerous boat shows, photo shoots, owner’s parties and rendezvous’, I have learned a thing or two and discovered that I love sailing and being aboard a boat” Valerie says.
It’s never easy to lose a good employee or say goodbye to a good friend. But the fact that Valerie is headed for an adventure that’s right out of one of our brochures, somehow makes it all a little bit easier to accept. So Bon Voyage Valerie Toomey and thanks for shining your light on Jeanneau. It’s been a great 5 years!