Paul Fenn, Take a Shot Media

Graham Turns 10

10 years ago today on May, 29 2006, the morning sun shone brightly. The sky was robin-blue, and the temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees. It was the start, of what would turn out to be, a beautiful three-day Memorial Day Weekend.

My wife Kimberlee was extremely pregnant. Not just a little pregnant but about ready to pop pregnant. Officially she wasn’t due until May 31st but having been pregnant twice before, she was eager to put these final days of pregnancy behind her and move on to the motherhood phase.  And so with this in mind, she had climbed out of bed that morning bound and determined to have a baby.

SCAN0017
Graham along about the age of 2 riding on my shoulders. I always liked those glasses but they disappeared like all good glasses do. Bummer!

Somewhere around 10am Kim announced she was having labor pains and we should head to the hospital. “Are you sure” I said? It’s such a nice day, maybe we should head down to the beach and sit for a while just to be sure?” Kim was not known for giving birth quickly or on time. Our first son Will, had come 10 days late and had to be blasted out with the help of a stick of dynamite disguised as a drug called Pitocin. It had been a long poke before Will actually made his debut (he’s been late ever since, stubborn too). Mollie had come along about on schedule but still had taken her own sweet time before actually making her own grand entrance. So with this sort of track record, I wasn’t overly optimistic that things were really in motion. And while I was almost as eager as Kim was to have this baby, the thought of spending the entire Memorial Day Weekend in the hospital instead of out in the sun wasn’t something I was overly thrilled about. But Kim assured me that she was truly in labor and so after making arrangements for Will and Mollie, we threw a bag together and headed to the hospital.

DSC00236
Graham about the age of 6 sailing off to some great spot, probably Block Island, RI

Sure as shooting, no sooner had we checked in then Kim’s labor pains stopped. The doctor (Dr. Wells) told us that things were definitely in motion though and that we should sit tight. The hours ticked by and soon morning gave way to the afternoon and the afternoon to evening. Somewhere around 6:30 or 7:00, I decided to run home, check on the dog and get something to eat. I tossed a frozen pizza into the oven and shortly thereafter my phone rang. It was Kim although Kim wasn’t on the line, Dr. Wells was. “Hello, anyone home? Care to join us?  You know we’re having a baby over here.” So as soon as the pizza was done, I slid it onto a plate and jumped back in the car. I made it back to the hospital just in time, pizza in hand. Moments later, at 8;02pm, Graham Austin Fenn was born. And somewhere around 8:30, I finally got the chance to eat my pizza. It had been a long day, especially for Kim who had done all the work.

DSC00325
Graham and me building a fire on the beach. We had the place all to ourselves!

Today, we are celebrating Graham’s 10th birthday in the exotic Seychelles Islands just off the east coast of Africa, go figure. As with all my kids, I stand in awe at how fast the years have flown by. Will is starting high school in the fall, Mollie is heading into 7th grade and Graham, the baby of the family, is heading into 5th grade, his last year of elementary school. Time certainly does fly.Thankfully, at least for a few more years, we are all still flying together. Happy Birthday Graham. I’m so glad you came along.

On we go…

Note: Kim and I never found out ahead of time if we were getting boys or girls. We always enjoyed the suspense of wondering who was coming to join our family. We have always enjoyed surprises 🙂

Farewell Valerie Toomey and Bon Voyage

022113PLSO-9523
Valerie Toomey at the helm of the Jeanneau 509 crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas for a 2013 photo shoot

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.

Pirate Night during the 2014 BVI Owner's Rendezvous (L-R: Rosie Rigaux, Catherine Guiader and Valerie)
Pirate Night during the 2012 BVI Owner’s Rendezvous (L-R: Rosie Rigaux, Catherine Guiader and Valerie Toomey)

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!

Valerie and her girls at the close of the 2013 Annapolis Sail Boat Show
Valerie and her girls at the close of the 2013 Annapolis Sailboat Show

On we go…

This is What it’s All About

The Sun Odyssey 469 and 509 lay along the seawall in No Name Harbor moments before departing for a sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas
The Sun Odyssey 469 and 509 lay along the seawall in No Name Harbor prior to departing for our sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. It was an awesome trip!

A year ago last February, just after the close of the Miami boat show, we had the idea of sailing Jeanneau’s newest model at the time, the Sun Odyssey 469 and her big sister, the Sun Odyssey 509 from Miami to the Bahamas for a photo shoot. Actually, this had been arranged before the Miami show but it was all scheduled to take place immediately after the show ended. The trip was meant to serve two purposes. The first was to capture some great pictures of the 469 in a great location, the Bahamas. The second objective was to have a magazine editor come along for the ride to review the boat, by putting it through its paces and publish the findings. With this in mind, we would be joined by well-known marine photographer Billy Black and his assistant Megan as well as Herb McCormick, Cruising World Magazine’s senior editor. We also needed a few people to help sail the boats so we ended up with a good chunk of the Jeanneau America staff coming along including Jeanneau’s product development manager, Erik Stromberg as well as yours truly. But wait, can’t very well have a photo shoot without having a few good looking models on board so, we were “forced” to bring along with us some cute females to help fill the frame of Billy’s camera and to help the boats shine as bright as possible.

Valerie Toomey of Jeanneau with Meagan Beauchemin and Stefanie Gallo relaxing while sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas on the Jeanneau 509.
Valerie Toomey of Jeanneau with Meagan Beauchemin and Stefanie Gallo relaxing while sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini on the Jeanneau 509. Billy Black never stops, he’s always shooting.

Pulling all this together required a fair bit of coordination which we were a little shy on come takeoff time. There were a myriad of little problems, all of which caused us to get underway much later than expected and which you can read about and amuse yourself with by reading about them in a previous post of mine titled, High and Dry in No Name Harbor followed by the sequel, Unstuck and Underway. All of this being said, at the end of the day our trip across the Gulf Stream and back was a huge success and was a lot of fun for all involved. So, where am I going with all this, why am I bringing this up?

The answer is this, after the trip we thought it would be fun to make a video of our adventure; a transparent, behind the scenes view of a photo shoot in the Bahamas. We did this and it has been happily living on YouTube ever since. And, at the time of this writing, is close to having had 30,000 views; close to 30,000 views but not quite. But wait, there’s more. During the Annapolis boat show this year, I ran into a customer who recently purchased a Jeanneau 509. He told me that while he had considered other boats, he had decided on the 509 after watching a video of the boat sailing in the Bahamas as part of a photo shoot. Specifically he said, “there was a scene right at the end when the crew is bringing the boats back across the Gulf Stream and the sun is going down and the guy sailing the boat (that’s me by the way) says, “this is what it’s all about, being out here with the sun going down and the moon coming up behind us, it’s so nice being out here.” And I thought to myself, this could be me.”

Yours truly with Stefanie by my side just before sunset on our way back across the Gulf Stream to Florida.
Me with Stefanie by my side just before sunset on our way back across the Gulf Stream to Florida.

After the boat show, I went back and watched the video a few more times and was reminded of how much I liked it and what a good time we all had making it. I was also impressed that it had been viewed almost 30,000 times (29,793 to be exact). The fact that someone had liked it enough to inspire them to buy a boat was real icing on the cake. And so I thought I would blog about this a bit and include it here for all to enjoy. And, to ask a favor of you, that if you like it, let me know by giving it a thumbs up and help send it on its way to reaching 30,000 views and more. Better yet, go buy your own boat, set the sails and take an awesome journey. After all, this is what it’s all about.

Enjoy the show!

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.

IMG_0547
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.

DSC02003
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…

 

The Great Thanksgiving Day Massacre

Now it all started a few Thanksgiving’s ago, that’s a few years ago on Thanksgiving (as Arlo Guthrie would say), when my cousin Tom invited my wife and I along with our three kids to join his family for Thanksgiving dinner. Tom lived a few hours south of us near Norfolk, VA. He and I spent many summers together at our grandparent’s place on Canandaigua Lake in up-state New York since the time we could crawl, so we knew each other well to say the least.

We jumped in the car early Thanksgiving Day morning and blasted down Route 301 towards Norfolk. In addition to our three kids, we had with us our long-time, 4-legged companion, Alee. Alee  looked like a young black lab but was actually a mix of lab and beagle with perhaps a little cocker spaniel thrown in for good measure. Alee was a great dog and like all good dog lovers, we took her everywhere. She was a spirited dog who loved the woods and took great pleasure in chasing squirrels, cats and the occasional stray deer although to the best of our knowledge she never caught much of anything with the exception of an old tennis ball once and awhile.

Alee1Now one thing I have learned is that there are people in this world who are true dog lovers and there are others who are not;  and the ones who are not, are really not. And I get it, dogs smell and sometimes slobber on you and jump on your clean pants and bark at strangers and poop in the yard and even pee on your floor now and then. In short, they can be a nuisance. But dogs are also truly man’s best friend. They are always happy to see you, always want to be with you, are incredibly loyal and once they are part of your life, they are hard not to love. Unfortunately, My cousin Tom and his wife were not dog lovers. They weren’t dog haters but they definitely were not dog lovers, so when we showed up with Alee in tow, I think it’s safe to say they were less than thrilled. But, be this as it may, they were happy to see us and welcomed us into their home, dog and all.

Tom took us on a tour of his property which backed up to a small creek that was not overly large but big enough to launch a row boat and go fishing if you were so inclined. It was a nice place surrounded by lots of trees and wildlife. And while Tom and his family may not have been dog lovers, their daughter Teresa was definitely an animal lover and was enjoying raising guinea pigs. She had a large pen out behind the house where she currently had upwards of a dozen guinea pigs, many of them babies.

Black Dog with Guinea PigsNow, as you can probably imagine, Alee was mighty interested in the guinea pigs. So much in fact that we quickly threw a leash on her and were going to put her in the car when Tom says “Oh don’t worry about her, nothing can get in this cage, we have all sorts of animals around here; foxes, muskrats, raccoons, all kinds of things. This baby is more secure than Fort Knox.” “OK I said, if you’re sure?” “Yep, I’m sure” Tom said, “nothing to worry about.” With that said, we let her go and off we went in search of some afternoon libations.

About an hour later, I came around the corner of the house, only to find Alee smack dab in the middle of that cage having an absolute field day with those poor guinea pigs. She was jumping up and down on them and picking them up with her mouth and swinging them around; It was a total massacre in the first degree. You can just imagine how my heart jumped right up into my throat upon seeing this scene.”  “Alee” I screamed, “get out of there!. Oh man, this is bad, very bad.”  I muttered to myself. I managed to get ahold of Alee by the collar and quickly tossed her in the car and went off at a jog to find Tom.

Now I don’t mind saying, I was more than a little rattled when I pulled Tom aside and stammered out “Tom, we have a BIG problem!” I proceeded to tell him how Alee had gotten into the guinea pig cage and wiped out the entire family. “Seriously”  he said. “all of them?” “All of them I replied, every last one of them.” The situation was more than a little awkward to say the least.  He was a good sport about it however and suggested that we tell Teresa that something got into the cage but we’re not sure what. Teresa took the news surprisingly well considering her entire brood of guinea pigs had just been slaughtered by an “unknown” wild animal.

200384049-001We managed to make it through Thanksgiving dinner and the rest of the day without any additional major incidences, thank heavens for small miracles. The next day we paid a visit to the local pet store where Teresa picked out two new guinea pigs, one male and one female. Later, as we were saying our goodbye’s, I said to Tom that some day we will look back on all this and laugh. After all it’s not everyday that you invite your cousins to Thanksgiving Day dinner and their dog proceeds to eat your kid’s entire family of guinea pigs. I mean what are the chances? On second thought, I guess you never know, do you you?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Featherless Turkey

Staying Healthy, Angelina Jolie and Living Large

DSC00323

Last August my wife Kim and I took our three kids, Will (10), Mollie (8) and Graham (6) on vacation to the National Lakeshore which runs along the bottom of Lake Superior. We spent the first week sailing in the Apostle Islands which was totally fantastic. The second week we moved west and camped just off the beach with a beautiful view of the lake. During this second week, Kim noticed a small lump in her left breast. I didn’t pay too much attention to this, largely because she was only 43 and in great shape; seriously, she runs, swims, eats well, is a vegetarian, and is not over weight. In short, she’s in good physical condition. What’s more, Kim’s parents are both healthy, so what was there to worry about?

After we got home, Kim went to see her doctor and learned that she had breast cancer. I remember her calling me from our local hospital and saying “you should probably come over here, it’s more serious than they thought it was.”

Over the next several weeks, we learned more than we ever wanted to know about breast cancer and how to treat it. We also learned that even with all the advancement in medicine over say the last thirty years or so, there’s still a lot that is still unknown about breast cancer, especially why some woman get it and some don’t. The latest figures from the American Cancer Society are that 1 in 8 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, that’s a whopping 12%. To put that into perspective, It was estimated that upwards of 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and more in 2012; that’s a boat-load of breast cancer running around!

After wandering around like a couple of deer in the headlights for the better part of September trying to decide on the best course of action to take, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that if we had any chance of licking this thing we needed to go the conventional route which meant surgery followed by chemo therapy or as Kim put it “when in doubt cut it out and then spray RAID on it;” charming thought I know. We decided to go to Johns Hopkins Medical Center which wasn’t far from where we live and where we would have first-rate medical care.

Kim had a total mastectomy on her left side in the last week of October and began the first of four rounds of chemo in November. By December, she had lost all her hair but she never lost her drive or her sense of humor. As a family, we trudged through January. Thankfully our friends and neighbors helped us out and before we knew it, it was suddenly the end of February and her treatments were over. She felt pretty crummy most of March but by early April she was sprouting new hair and beginning to feel like her old self again. She began running a few miles every other day and then at the tail-end of April, with some help from her good friend Margaret Osborne, she ran the Iron Girl Half-Marathon and finished. Two weeks after that, she was back at John Hopkins for reconstruction surgery.

Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon
Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon

Over these past many months, I’ve had a variety of different thoughts and ideas of how we should lead our life so that as a family, we are healthy, happy, and prepared for the unexpected. As a result, I came up with these 10 points:

1. Stay Fit: It’s always amazing to me how many overweight, out of shape people there are in America. Last time I checked exercise wasn’t a dirty word. Granted, it’s not always easy to find the time to get to the gym or to go for a run or take a bike ride but it’s so good for you in so many ways and your body is craving to be worked out on a daily basis. In the best-selling book, Younger Next Year, authors Chris Crowley and Harry S. Lodge state very matter-of-factly that you can turn back your biological clock if among other things, you exercise at least 6 days a week for the rest of your life. I’m game, who’s with me?

2. Eat Healthy: This is easier said then done I know, but for all you people running around slugging down gigantic cheese burgers with extra-large french fries, you’re killing yourself, really! Want the straight dope? It’s simple, eat more fresh fruit, vegetables and grains. The pepperoni pizza with extra cheese is good I know but the question is, is it good for you? Let’s move on.

3. Don’t Smoke: Talk about an easy basket! They put those large warning labels on the side of the cigarette packs for a reason you know, smoke too many of them for long enough and they will KILL you. Breathing fresh air is a gift, don’t squander it by deliberately filling your lungs w/ poison… hello!

4. Watch the Alcohol:  Drinking too much will make you fat, dumb, and lazy. Kim and I love our wine, we admit it. We usually have a couple of glasses of good Cabernet or Pinot Noir every night. I had to fill out a health form recently and there was a question asking me how many glasses of alcohol I drank each week, I lied and put down 14 (It was probably more like 20!). When my doctor saw that he looked at me and said, “WOW, really?” Bottom line, go easy on the booze!

5. Unplug: Too much TV, video games, game-boys, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and handheld electronics in general are a bad idea. It’s a big world out there and most of it is still 100% natural so unplug now and again and live a little. We did this for a week last year while sailing in the Apostle Islands and it changed our life, seriously, try it.

Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started
Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started

6. Take a Break: As Ferris Buhler said, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. “A good vacation away from the stress and strains of the daily grind will put a fresh breeze in your sails and give you a new prospective for what’s really important.

7. Laugh More: We try to laugh a lot in our house and not take ourselves too seriously. I remember one time when Kim was going through chemo, she was taking an excessively long shower. I yelled through the door, “what are you doing in there baking bread?” My daughter Mollie piped up and said “well she’s definitely not washing her hair!” We all cracked up over that one, especially Kim. Bottom line,  “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff.”

8. Marry Well: Like so many people, I was impressed with Angelina Jolie’s New York Time’s article, My Medical Decision which detailed her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.  One of the many good points she made was how important it was to have someone by your side to love you and help you through the storm. When Kim and I got married, we stole a quote from Life’s Little Instruction Book that said “a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.” Having the right person by your side when things go sideways can make all the difference. Choose your life’s partner well and stick with them.

9. Have Kids: Making the decision to have kids was one of the very best decisions Kim and I have ever made. We have three but knowing what we know now, we would have had more. Having kids allows adults to enter into a whole new world that without them you would never be exposed to; dance lessons, baseball games, soccer tournaments, school plays, sleep-overs, pumpkin carvings, father-daughter dances, beanie weenies, it’s all part of a magical ride called parenthood. Go for it!

DSC00346
Mollie, Graham and Will climbing on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island on Lake Superior

10. Live Large: Just before Kim was diagnosed w/ breast cancer, I surprised her w/ the purchase of a 2006, black, BMW convertible with a tan interior and a 5-speed manual  transmission. The car was mint and was exactly what I had been looking for. At first, Kim saw the car as an unpractical, unnecessary addition to the family. And I had to admit that the car did look a little out-of-place parked next to our 2004 minivan and our 1993 Volvo wagon with the dent in the side. However this quickly changed the first time we dropped the top and went humming down the road, shifting through the gears on a perfect summer’s evening. We were living large and knew it. After Kim’s diagnosis, she said that one of the things that she was most thankful for was that we had bought the BMW. It was unpractical for sure, unnecessary no doubt, but it was also fun and if you can’t allow yourself to have fun, what’s left? Live large, especially in small ways.

Jeanneau SO 41 DS sailing in Annapolis, MD.

That’s it, these are my thoughts and the way I see things in this post-cancer world. Will any of these 10 pieces of advice keep you healthy? It’s hard to say but one thing is for sure, if you do get sick or have an accident, you will be much better equipped to deal with things and recover from it, if  you’re in good physical and mental shape and hitting on all cylinders. I have always believed that life is meant to be lived on the balls of your feet. That way, when the unexpected comes your way, you can easily adapt to the new tempo and dance to the new beat wherever it may take you.

On we go….

Staying Healthy, Angelina Jolie and Living Large

DSC00323Last August my wife Kim and I took our three kids, Will (10), Mollie (8) and Graham (6) on vacation to the National Lakeshore which runs along the bottom of Lake Superior. We spent the first week sailing in the Apostle Islands which was totally fantastic. The second week we moved west and camped just off the beach with a beautiful view of the lake. During this second week, Kim noticed a small lump in her left breast. I didn’t pay too much attention to this, largely because she was only 43 and in great shape; seriously, she runs, swims, eats well, is a vegetarian, and is not over weight. In short, she’s in good physical condition. What’s more, Kim’s parents are both healthy, so what was there to worry about?

After we got home, Kim went to see her doctor and learned that she had breast cancer. I remember her calling me from our local hospital and saying “you should probably come over here, it’s more serious than they thought it was.”

Over the next several weeks, we learned more than we ever wanted to know about breast cancer and how to treat it. We also learned that even with all the advancement in medicine over say the last thirty years or so, there’s still a lot that is still unknown about breast cancer, especially why some woman get it and some don’t. The latest figures from the American Cancer Society are that 1 in 8 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, that’s a whopping 12%. To put that into perspective, It was estimated that upwards of 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and more in 2012; that’s a boat-load of breast cancer running around!

After wandering around like a couple of deer in the headlights for the better part of September trying to decide on the best course of action to take, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that if we had any chance of licking this thing we needed to go the conventional route which meant surgery followed by chemo therapy or as Kim put it “when in doubt cut it out and then spray RAID on it;” charming thought I know. We decided to go to Johns Hopkins Medical Center which wasn’t far from where we live and where we would have first-rate medical care.

Kim had a total mastectomy on her left side in the last week of October and began the first of four rounds of chemo in November. By December, she had lost all her hair but she never lost her drive or her sense of humor. As a family, we trudged through January. Thankfully our friends and neighbors helped us out and before we knew it, it was suddenly the end of February and her treatments were over. She felt pretty crummy most of March but by early April she was sprouting new hair and beginning to feel like her old self again. She began running a few miles every other day and then at the tail-end of April, with some help from her good friend Margaret Osborne, she ran the Iron Girl Half-Marathon and finished. Two weeks after that, she was back at John Hopkins for reconstruction surgery.

Over these past many months, I’ve had a variety of different thoughts and ideas of how we should lead our life so that as a family, we are healthy, happy, and prepared for the unexpected. As a result, I came up with these 10 points:

Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon
Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon

1. Stay Fit: It’s always amazing to me how many overweight, out of shape people there are in America. Last time I checked exercise wasn’t a dirty word. Granted, it’s not always easy to find the time to get to the gym or to go for a run or take a bike ride but it’s so good for you in so many ways and your body is craving to be worked out on a daily basis. In the best-selling book, Younger Next Year, authors Chris Crowley and Harry S. Lodge state very matter-of-factly that you can turn back your biological clock if among other things, you exercise at least 6 days a week for the rest of your life. I’m game, who’s with me?

2. Eat Healthy: This is easier said then done I know, but for all you people running around slugging down gigantic cheese burgers with extra-large french fries, you’re killing yourself, really! Want the straight dope? It’s simple, eat more fresh fruit, vegetables and grains. The pepperoni pizza with extra cheese is good I know but the question is, is it good for you? Let’s move on.

3. Don’t Smoke: Talk about an easy basket! They put those large warning labels on the side of the cigarette packs for a reason you know, smoke too many of them for long enough and they will KILL you. Breathing fresh air is a gift, don’t squander it by deliberately filling your lungs w/ poison… hello!

4. Watch the Alcohol:  Drinking too much will make you fat, dumb, and lazy. Kim and I love our wine, we admit it. We usually have a couple of glasses of good Cabernet or Pinot Noir every night. I had to fill out a health form recently and there was a question asking me how many glasses of alcohol I drank each week, I lied and put down 14 (It was probably more like 20!). When my doctor saw that he looked at me and said, “WOW, really?” Bottom line, go easy on the booze!

5. Unplug: Too much TV, video games, game-boys, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and handheld electronics in general are a bad idea. It’s a big world out there and most of it is still 100% natural so unplug now and again and live a little. We did this for a week last year while sailing in the Apostle Islands and it changed our life, seriously, try it.

Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started
Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started

6. Take a Break: As Ferris Buhler said, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. “A good vacation away from the stress and strains of the daily grind will put a fresh breeze in your sails and give you a new prospective for what’s really important.

7. Laugh More: We try to laugh a lot in our house and not take ourselves too seriously. I remember one time when Kim was going through chemo, she was taking an excessively long shower. I yelled through the door, “what are you doing in there baking bread?” My daughter Mollie piped up and said “well she’s definitely not washing her hair!” We all cracked up over that one, especially Kim. Bottom line,  “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff.”

8. Marry Well: Like so many people, I was impressed with Angelina Jolie’s New York Time’s article, My Medical Decision which detailed her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.  One of the many good points she made was how important it was to have someone by your side to love you and help you through the storm. When Kim and I got married, we stole a quote from Life’s Little Instruction Book that said “a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.” Having the right person by your side when things go sideways can make all the difference. Choose your life’s partner well and stick with them.

9. Have Kids: Making the decision to have kids was one of the very best decisions Kim and I have ever made. We have three but knowing what we know now, we would have had more. Having kids allows adults to enter into a whole new world that without them you would never be exposed to; dance lessons, baseball games, soccer tournaments, school plays, sleep-overs, pumpkin carvings, father-daughter dances, beanie weenies, it’s all part of a magical ride called parenthood. Go for it!

DSC00346
Mollie, Graham and Will climbing on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island

10. Live Large: Just before Kim was diagnosed w/ breast cancer, I surprised her w/ the purchase of a 2006, black, BMW convertible with a tan interior and a 5-speed manual  transmission. The car was mint and was exactly what I had been looking for. At first, Kim saw the car as an unpractical, unnecessary addition to the family. And I had to admit that the car did look a little out-of-place parked next to our 2004 minivan and our 1993 Volvo wagon with the dent in the side. However this quickly changed the first time we dropped the top and went humming down the road, shifting through the gears on a perfect summer’s evening. We were living large and knew it. After Kim’s diagnosis, she said that one of the things that she was most thankful for was that we had bought the BMW. It was unpractical for sure, unnecessary no doubt, but it was also fun and if you can’t allow yourself to have fun, what’s left? Live large, especially in small ways.

Jeanneau SO 41 DS sailing in Annapolis, MD.That’s it, these are my thoughts and the way I see things in this post-cancer world. Will any of these 10 pieces of advice keep you healthy? It’s hard to say but one thing is for sure, if you do get sick or have an accident, you will be much better equipped to deal with things and recover from it, if  you’re in good physical and mental shape and hitting on all cylinders. I have always believed that life is meant to be lived on the balls of your feet. That way, when the unexpected comes your way, you can easily adapt to the new tempo and dance to the new beat wherever it may take you.

On we go….

Rush Towards the Ball, Rush Towards Life

DSC01068So last night, my son Will had a baseball game, he turns 11 next Monday, April 29th. This year he moved up from the Minors to the Majors and is now playing with 11 and 12 year olds. Most, if not all of these kids, have been playing baseball for several years and at this point are pretty good. In fact, I was surprised at just how much more intense the level of play was with this older group compared to last year’s younger group. Gone are the days of teaching the kids how to throw, catch and bat and teaching them the love of the game. Now it’s all about how to play well and win games. If a kid isn’t qualified to play first base then he plays some other position, like left field or maybe third base. Will is not a first basemen but he has a decent arm and is fairly good at getting his glove on the ball so he often plays second or third base or sometimes shortstop, occasionally he’ll also play in the outfield.

Will is also a decent batter. He doesn’t have a lot of power but his accuracy is pretty good and when he connects, he usually manages to get the ball over the heads of the infielders and out to the outfield. His real talent however is as a base-runner. Will is fast and willing to take risks which makes him the ideal player when it comes to stealing bases. And, since Will loves to be on stage and the center of attention, stealing bases to great applause is right down his alley!

DSC01064A team is only as good as the coach and this year the coach is especially good. For one thing, he’s especially good at being in charge and giving the boys clear direction of how to do things or how to do things better the next time around. He has a knack for using just the right amount of sarcasm to make his point without going so far as to embarrass the kids. For example, “Billy, don’t you think you would have a better chance of stopping that ground ball if you put your glove down?” “Yea” says Billy in a not-so-sure voice. “Well get it down then, glove in the dirt, glove in the dirt” he’ll shout. Or, “You know, we’d have a much better chance of winning if you guys would actually catch the ball instead of letting it hit the ground!” My favorite however was directed at Will on the first day of practice when he said, “Hey Will, is that a batting stance you have there or are you planning to take a dump on home plate?” All of us parents standing along the baselines that day got a real kick out of that one, especially me!

So the game is underway and our team, the Philly’s, are playing pretty well. Will’s first time to bat results in a walk,  From there he goes on to steal second and third base and then steals home. As I said, Will loves to be the center of attention and there simply is no better way to do this in baseball than hitting a home run or stealing home plate so Will is now in his glory with lots of yelling and screaming and back slapping from his teammates.

Sometime in the 5th inning, a kid from the opposing team knocked the ball out of the infield but well in front of the guys playing in the outfield. The coach was immediately on his feet shouting “don’t just stand there, rush towards the ball, rush towards the ball.” I started thinking about this statement, which was really more of a command, and it struck a chord with me. “Rush towards the ball” I repeated to myself “rush towards the ball.” 

As a marketing guy trying to push high-priced yachts in a tough economy, this concept of rushing towards the ball or in my world, rushing towards the customer or the market, makes complete sense. In a tough market such as we have had for the past few years, the only effective way I could see to possibly win the game was to tune up my advertising, marketing and sales program and run full steam ahead towards the market with the enthusiasm and the attitude that screams, “we’re your guys, buy from us.”

Rushing towards the market, especially a slow one, is not always easy or instinctive. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. One reason for this is that it’s not always clear how to reach the market or more difficult still, what it will take to capture the market. Another reason is that to capture the market and catch the customer, means spending precious resources which you either don’t have in the first place or are unwilling to spend in the second place, especially when there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful. And lastly, it’s always easier and safer to stay put and let the market come back to you rather than for you to venture out into the field to get it. Unfortunately, the problem with playing it safe is that by doing nothing, you run the risk that your competition might be going with a more aggressive game plan and taking your customers and the market.

It’s not always clear what course to take but history has shown time and time again that those companies that turn up the heat during slow times always come out ahead when better times return. In other words, those companies that rush towards the ball do better than those companies that don’t. For me, the time to rush forward and discover what lies ahead is now.

By the way, during the last inning of the game, Will managed to get a solid hit that was good enough for a stand-up double. One of his teammates got on base with a single and while he was doing that, Will stole third. Another teammate hit a nice fly ball that went deep into center field but unfortunately was picked off by a tall lanky kid on the opposing team. The kid knew what he was doing and immediately threw the ball to the second baseman who managed to tag out the runner coming from first. While the opposing team was busy dealing with the runner at second, Will, who had been leading off third, ran back, tagged the bag and made a beeline for home. All of a sudden there were lots of cries of “he’s going, he’s going, throw it home!” Will dug hard as the second baseman wound up and fired the ball towards home plate. “Slide” the coach yelled, “slide!!” Will did slide, in fact it was pure textbook. That catcher did a fine job and he almost got him but just as the ball was about to hit his glove, Will slid neatly under the catchers arm and got his toe on home plate. “SAFE” the umpire said as he waved his arms over the plate. Again there was lots of screaming and back slapping and “way-to-go” being yelled. The coach just smiled and shook his head. It was a fun moment for sure.

SliderAfter the game, one of the other fathers came up to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Wow, Will sure does like to take risks.”  “Yes he does” I replied; then added, “He always has and I hope he always will.” “Rush towards the ball,” I thought. “Rush towards life.”

On we go…

Unstuck and Underway – The Story Continues

Jeanneau 469 in No Name Harbor, Miami FL.

The tide rose high enough to float the Sun Odyssey 509 off the bottom of No Name Harbor about 2:30am. I am sure about the time because this is when my cell phone rang waking me out of a dead sleep. I was happily stretched out flatter than a corpse in the forward cabin of the 469 when Jeff Jorgensen called to report that they were unstuck and eager to set sail for the Bahamas. I on the other hand was not so eager to go anywhere except back to sleep so my message to Jeff was short and simple, “go to bed, we’ll leave in the morning.” I no sooner hung up the phone when it rang again, it was Jeff. Looking out the port I could see his red port running light staring in at me like some evil-looking prehistoric cyclops. “We’re going” Jeff said. “Fine” I replied, “we’ll meet you there, we’ll be a few hours behind you.” With that said, the bloodshot eye of the 509 drifted away and I happily drifted back to sleep.

It was still dark as Egypt’s night, when my alarm went off at 5:00am. I grudgingly climbed out of the sack and headed aft. I met Erik Stromberg at the foot of the companion-way stairs and with just a few words exchanged between us, we climbed into the cockpit, fired up the engine, hauled the anchor and headed out the channel bound for the Bahamas.

Soon after clearing green flasher #1, we set our sails, killed the engine and headed off in a southerly direction. We settled on a course of about 135 degrees magnetic in order to compensate for the strong currents of the Gulf Stream that would be sweeping us north for the next 50 miles. Life for me is always better after Starbucks and thankfully, Valerie had the good sense to send us off  with some of Starbucks’ instant coffee. While not quite the same as a steaming hot latte, in a pinch it is totally acceptable. So with the help of the generator and the microwave oven, we made ourselves a couple of cups; then along around 6:30 the sun began to rise giving way to a picture-perfect start to the day. Life at that moment was pretty nice!

Sunrise sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas on the Jeanneau 509.

Herb McCormick of Cruising World Magazine appeared on deck sometime around 8:00am. By then the sun was up and so was the breeze. Our speed through the water was an impressive 7 knots but over the bottom, because we were bucking the current, we were only making about 4 knots of real progress. We sailed along like this for a good part of the day but then tacked over and headed off on a more north-easterly course. The wind was of course blowing directly from the direction we wanted to go but with the current of the Gulf Stream now behind us we were making upwards of 10 knots over the bottom in a direction that we more or less wanted to go.

Meanwhile aboard the 509, Jeff and his crew, which included marine photographer Billy Black and all the cute women, were making good time and closing in on making landfall in Cat Cay, a small private island on the western most edge of the Bahamas. I should stop right here and restate that our primary objective for making this trip was first, to give Herb McCormick the opportunity to really put the new Sun Odyssey 469 through its paces and secondly for Billy Black to capture the entire adventure on film, hence the need for cute women!

022113PLSO-9947

After a long day on the water which included several more tacks, we finally reached Cat Cay and rendezvoused with the 509. After clearing in with the Bahamian officials, we treated ourselves to a great dinner with plenty of wine. Afterwards, since we were all pretty toasty from an early start to the day followed by a long day on the water, we actually made the prudent decision and turned in early. I know, we’re in the Bahamas, with a great group of fun-loving people ready to party, and we decide to turn in early… go figure right? OK, well in our defense, we were there to work and the day was to start at 5:30am with a full-on photo shoot. Plus, we had gotten a very early start to the day, plus we had drunk far too much wine at dinner and so there you go… give us a break.

The air was warm with just the slightest hint of a breeze when we left the dock and headed out to catch the sunrise. We anchored the 469 in a small cove surrounded by an outcropping of rocks. Billy went straight to work as the eastern sky began brighten.

Stefanie Gallo onboard the Jeanneau 469 in Bimini, Bahamas

We spent several hours following Billy’s direction. If he told us to jump off the boat, we jumped. If he told us to sip wine and look sophisticated, that’s what we did. When he told us to set sail, we set sail and reached back and forth like we owned the place. It was hard work trying to look relaxed. I can’t remember the exact number but Billy shot thousands of pictures that day.

The original plan if you remember was to spend two nights in the Bahamas. But, we had lost a full day screwing around in Miami trying to get our act together and now our time here was cut short. As I stood on the deck surrounded by turquoise water, I could feel the spirit of the Bahamas pulling me east across the shallow waters of the Bahamas bank and further into the island chain. It would be so easy, just sail east and keep going. Unfortunately, schedules and commitments were already nagging at us to get back to reality so although none of us were ready to leave, we pointed the bows of the 469 and the 509 to the west and began making our way back to Miami.

Sailing onboard the Jeanneau 469 offshore from Bimini, Bahamas to Miami FL.

The low-lying islands of the Bahamas quickly disappeared from view behind us. The sun, low in the sky now, would soon drop below the horizon and it too would be gone.

We had a beautiful sunset and later the moon hung high in the sky behind us lighting up the cockpit as we sailed through the night across the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. For awhile, the two boats sailed along in tandem but somewhere in the night, we lost site of the 509 after Jeff tacked away to the north. We eventually caught up with her again just as we both were approaching the channel leading back to Biscayne Bay and No Name Harbor.

022213PLSO-9785

In the end, what can I say, it was a great trip! We had accomplished all that we had set out to do. We had gotten ourselves to the Bahamas, had a great photo shoot with Billy Black, had gotten Herb McCormick behind the wheel of the new 469 for a real ocean voyage and somewhere along the line, managed to have a heck of a great time; tough to ask for more than that.

On we go….

P.S. For an enjoyable look behind the scenes of more of our adventure and photo shoot, check out this fun video we made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_VRUg7Ne5E

High and Dry in No Name Harbor

I’ve been around boats all my life and the one constant that I have always found to be true is that it’s never easy getting off the dock and underway. It’s always something, “we just have to get some ice,  I just need to stop and top off the fuel tank, I’m just going to grab another case of beer, do we have enough rum, maybe we should stop and get another bottle?” It simply takes forever and a day to actually cast of the docklines and leave!” So was the case with us when we tried to get not one boat but two boats off the dock and underway to the Bahamas.

Sailing onboard the Jeanneau 469 to No Name Harbor in Miami, FL.
Crossing the Gulf Stream can be as easy as sailing on a duck pond or as wild as shooting rapids on the Colorado River.

The original plan was to leave Miami early in the morning on Wednesday with the new Jeanneau 469 and big sister 509 and sail across the Gulf Stream to Cat Cay on the western edge of the Bahamas, arriving late Wednesday afternoon. We would spend Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Bahamas and sail back to Miami first thing Friday morning. Sailing with us would be Senior Editor, Herb McCormick of Cruising World Magazine, marine photographer Billy Black and his assistant, Megan, crew member Stefanie Gallo, and Jeanneau staff members, Valerie Toomey, Jeff Jorgensen, Erik Stromberg and myself. In theory, this was a reasonable plan but from a practical standpoint it had “not a snowball’s chance in hell” of actually working.

Jeanneau 469 sailing in Miami, FL.
The Sun Odyssey 469 doing sea trials off Miami.

The wheels really came off the wagon on Tuesday when we had over committed doing test sails aboard the 469 which we had just introduced at the Miami show. We then got hung up in customs Wednesday morning trying to clear out of the US. Then there was the usual delays trying to get everyone on board and settled. The long and the short of it all was that by the time the last boat left the dock it was close to 4pm in the afternoon and we still needed to pick up diesel fuel.

Jeanneau crew relaxing on the 509 and 469 in No Name Harbor, Miami FL.
The Sun Odyssey 509 and 469 laying on the Sea Wall in No Name Harbor.

We decided to opt for plan B which was to spend the night in No Name Harbor on the southern end of Key Biscayne and depart at first light for the Bahamas. So we parked the 469 and the 509 on the seawall, shot a few pictures, had a few cocktails, and headed up to the Boater’s Grill for dinner. We were all feeling pretty relaxed now having finally left the dock and having been properly watered and fed;  then, somewhere along the way, there was a movement to go back to the boats and immediately set sail for the Bahamas.This idea had a certain amount of merit, if we left now, we could make the 50 mile trip across the Gulf Stream at night, arriving in the Bahamas at dawn to catch the morning sunrise and make up for the time already lost. So we gathered ourselves up, paid the bill and headed back to the boats.

022013DSFL-6124
Jeff Jorgensen tries every trick in the book to get the 509 floating again including swinging the boom out to the side and bouncing on the end of it.

Initially,  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the sailing at night plan, primarily because I was tired and was really looking forward to looking at the inside of my eyelids rather than at a compass all night. But, the thought of sailing under the almost full moon across the Gulf Stream in tandem with the other boat was suddenly exciting to me and I found myself walking along the seawall with a renewed sense of energy, eager to  hop on board and cast off.  However, as we approached the boats, we noticed that the 509 was sitting at an awkward angle, with the bow being unusually high and the stern being unusually low. We gave the 509 a wiggle but got no movement. The boat was clearly aground in a very large way. Our attention quickly fell to the 469 and thankfully, although she too was aground, we were able to get her moving with the help of some strong hands and the diesel engine moving in full reverse.

As we moved the 469 away from the dock and into the anchorage, we looked back to see Jeff Jorgensen and the crew of the 509 earnestly trying to get the boat unstuck. They would labor on for a while longer before they would eventually give up and give into the idea that the best solution was to wait for the tide to come back in and float them off. For now, they would be left sitting high and dry with Billy Black who continued snapping pictures throughout the ordeal. The Bahamas would have to wait just a little longer.

KokapelliTo Be Continued…..