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!

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.

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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…..

Don’t Forget to Unplug Before Leaving the Dock

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A beautiful view of the unspoiled Apostle Islands located on the western end of Lake Superior.

This past summer my wife Kim and I chartered a 40 foot sailboat on Lake Superior and cruised through the unspoiled and mostly deserted Apostle Islands with our three kids, Will, Mollie, and Graham. We had never sailed in this area before and although eager to experience all that the islands had to offer, we were also nervous that our kids, ages 10, 9 and 6 would get bored with no on-shore activities to entertain them. This is rather a pathetic statement I know, but let’s face it, kids today and even us adults have come to expect being entertained in one fashion or another every minute of every waking day. Because of this, and because we didn’t want our vacation ruined by cranky kids whining about their being nothing to do, we literally left the dock with three laptop computers, one Itouch, one Ipad, an Android smart phone, my old Blackberry, and plenty of movies to watch. The one thing that we forgot to bring however was a 12 volt/ 110 volt inverter. In short, we had no way to charge all that we had brought so once the batteries ran out, we’re talking game over.

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Our beautiful Jeanneau 409 that we chartered from Superior Charters out of Bayfield, WI

We had a smoking good sail the first day before dropping the hook (that’s nautical lingo for anchor) just off the beach of Stockton Island. The day slipped away into a clear, beautiful, star-lit night and after dinner Kim and I sat in the cockpit sipping our wine and taking it all in. Our kids on the other hand sat down below fighting over which movie they would watch, where they would watch it, and who would hold the computer. We spent two nights in Stockton Island before sailing onto Raspberry Island about 12 miles to the west. One of the great things about sailing in the Apostle’s is that the islands are close together making for quick passages between harbors. We set our anchor in a well-protected cove just off the sandspit in about 15 feet of clean, clear-blue water. It was a sweet spot for sure and we made the most of it by swimming and diving off the back of the boat. But once the sun went down, there were all three of my kids once again glued to the screen of the Ipad, the last remaining device with any juice left. Then a funny and unexpected thing happened almost immediately after the Ipad gasped its final breath and the light faded from its screen. Will appeared in the cockpit with a deck of cards in his hand and said “anyone interested in playing a game of Michigan Rummy?”

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My oldest son Will discovered this great spot to jump into the water from. The water was cool and deep. We all had a blast jumping off!

From that point forward the trip took on a whole new feel, a real feel, one without beeps, clicks, electronic tones, or video games. From that point forward we spent our time combing the shore for cool looking stones and driftwood. At night we made fires on the beach, told stories and sang songs. We played cards, board games and read books. We did all those things that families used to do before the invasion of portable, hand-held electronics. No one was fighting that they couldn’t see or couldn’t hear. No one was arguing over which movie to watch or who would hold the computer. All that was gone.

We spent several more days on the boat cruising from one island to the next. They were all beautiful, unique and for the most part deserted. And while there was no commercial entertainment to be found, we never lacked for being entertained. It was all there just as it was for our parents and grandparents, simple entertainment but oh so much better than what we have today.

My youngest Graham and  me building a fire on the beach of Bear Island. We had the place all to ourselves!
My youngest Graham and me building a fire on the beach of Bear Island. We had the place all to ourselves!

After we got home, we called our cable company and disconnected our TV. We still have the internet and the kids still play too many video games when we’re not looking but there’s also more chess and scrabble being played; there’s more music flowing through the house, more family conversations and a few more fires burning in the fireplace at night; all good things.

Mollie, Graham and Will climb on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island
Mollie, Graham and Will climb on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island

This Christmas, Santa brought us a new tent and we’ve started looking at the idea of buying an Airstream trailer and doing a little camping. We’re not sure exactly where we’ll go but one thing is for sure, when we do go, we’ll be sure to unplug, leave the electronics behind and experience all that life has to offer, for real.

On we go…

P.S. Interested in exploring the Apostle Islands for yourself? Contact Superior Charters at www.superiorcharters.com. They have a great fleet of Jeanneau sailboats to choose from and are a treat to deal with.