Paul Fenn, Take a Shot Media

Jeanneau Owners Prepare to Head Back to the BVI – Caribbean Comeback 2018

Jeanneau Owners in 2016 on the beach at Pirate’s Bight on Norman Island

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!

Zanshin, a Jeanneau 57, on the dock at the Peter Island Resort, 2016

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’sthe Soggy DollarCooper 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.

Cheers from Peter Island 2014!

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.

On the dock at the Bitter End Yacht Club in 2014

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 Jeanneau Sunsail 51, chartered by Ian Van Tuyl of Cruising Yachts, swings quietly at anchor in The Bight on Norman Island – 2016

A big thanks to all our sponsors this year including: Cruising World MagazineCanadian YachtingSail MagazineSunsailThe Bitter End Yacht ClubHarkenBlue Water SailingSailing Magazine, the always generous, Helley HansenBVI Tourism, Richard Branson’s organization, Unite BVI,

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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Living the Dream with Dream Yacht Charters – The Seychelles

Located 900 nautical miles off the east coast of Africa, just below the equator in the Indian Ocean, sits the Seychelles Islands. Well known for its pristine beaches, coral reefs, diving, nature reserves, secluded harbors, and rare wildlife such as the giant Aldabra tortoise, the Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands, most of which remain uninhabited. With all that the Seychelles has to offer, it should come as no surprise that when it came time to pick a sailing destination to cruise for a week with my family, the Seychelles were our number one choice.

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Our adventure began by first flying from Washington, DC to Dubai and then to the island of Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles Islands and home to 90% of the nation’s 89,000 citizens. From Mahé, we took a fast-ferry to the island of Praslin where we boarded a beautiful Jeanneau 469 that we chartered from Dream Yacht Charters. Picking the boat up in Praslin was super-convenient as it put us just a few miles from several smaller islands and saved us the 25 mile sail from Mahé.

I should stop right here an explain that there are two distinct seasons or monsoons in the Seychelles, the summer season and the winter season. The summer season (December -May), is high-season with loads of travelers flocking from the north  to escape the winter chill of the northern hemisphere. The summer season, unlike the winter season, offers much calmer, more predictable weather which is ideal for the visiting yachtsman or visitors in general.  The winter season (June-November) is low season and while the sailing is still good, it’s almost too good in the sense that you can easily find yourself having to deal with 25-30 knots of wind which is more than ideal if you’re trying to relax and have a good time.

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Mollie and Graham at home aboard the Jeanneau 469 as we head out of the channel in route to find our first anchorage

As a family, we have never been very good at getting away from the dock early. We always seem to be running around doing this or that or checking on something before getting underway. I think it was close to noon before we finally cast off the dock lines, raised the anchor and headed out the channel of Baie St. Anne. The wind was blowing about 18K from the west, so once out of the channel, we decided to hook left and shoot down Praslin’s east coast in the lee of the island.

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A view of St. Pierre Island from the deck of our Jeanneau 469

Once out of the wind and the lumpy seas of the Indian Ocean, we had a nice reach down Praslin’s eastern shore. Just a few miles down, we decided to make a stop at the tiny island of St. Pierre to take a swim and check out the island’s surrounding reef. We were expecting to find moorings here as you do in the British Virgin Islands but surprisingly enough, moorings are pretty non-existent in the Seychelles, even in the overnight anchorages. We anchored easily in 15 feet of water being careful to avoid the coral reef below, threw on our snorkeling gear and hopped into the warm turquoise water. We circumnavigated the island finding the snorkeling to be exceptional with great visibility and plenty of sea life. It was a well-worth stop for sure.

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My wife Kim enjoying a swim while anchored in Anse Possession

Just a stone’s throw from St.Pierre, we found a nice anchorage in Anse Possession in about 10 feet of water over a sand bottom just on the other side of  Pointe Zanguilles. We didn’t take advantage of it but just a short dinghy ride away, is the four-star waterfront resort, Le Domaine de la Reserve in case you’re looking for an upscale meal along with a little first-class pampering. Other resorts are in this area as well that are just a short walk from the beach.

On day two, after a leisurely start, we slid over to Curieuse Island. Curieuse Island is a bio-reserve that is managed by the Marine Parks Authority of the Seychelles‘ Center for Marine Technology. Here you will find no hotels, no restaurants and from what we could tell, no permanent residents with the exception of the Aldabra tortoises and other wild creatures that roam the island.

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My son Will getting know just one of the many Aldabra tortoises that live on Curieuse Island.

In addition to the tortoises, there is a beautiful walking trail that winds its way through a dense section of Mangrove trees and weather-worn cliffs that leads to the other side of the island. Along the way, there are some beautiful views of the harbor and surrounding islands.

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A view of the harbor including our boat from the top of Curieuse Island.

We stayed two nights in Curieuse before sailing over to the island of Le Digue. Le Digue offers everything that Curieuse does not; hotels, glamorous beaches, restaurants and plenty of entertainment. There is a clearly marked channel that leads into the inner-harbor. Once inside, you need to drop your anchor and tie-up stern-to, to the sea wall. It’s all fairly easy and there are people around to help you get your lines across to the seawall and secured. A big bonus of coming to Le Digue besides the island itself is that dockage is free. That’s right, free as in “no charge!”

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Our Jeanneau 469, securely docked in downtown Le Digue

We stayed three nights in Le Digue for the simple reason that we were enjoying ourselves. We rented bikes and zipped around the island from one end to the other, more than once! We treated ourselves to dinner out and somewhere along the line found this great spot at the top of the mountain that we hiked up to and indulged in some great, all natural, cold tropical drinks. It was terrific as was the view!

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Mollie and Kim sip their drinks while enjoying the view over the beautiful Indian Ocean

There are many other islands worth exploring but the wind continued to blow fairly hard for my young crew so we opted to keep things simple and head back down the coast of Praslin to Baie of Chevalier and Anse Lazio. Voted by Trip advisor as the 6th best beach in the world, anchoring off Anse Lazio is quite simply hard to beat.

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When it comes to beaches, Anse Lazio on the tip of Praslin is pretty much second to none

When all was said and done, we didn’t put a whole lot of water under our keel and didn’t get to as many islands as we would have liked to. But, we had a terrific time exploring the islands and harbors we did get to and decided as a family that we’ll just have to come back and visit those islands a little further off the beaten path the next time around.

For now, it’s off to Botswana in Southern Africa for a safari adventure, then onto Phuket, Thailand for some more sailing with our friends from Dream Yacht.

On we go…

Annapolis Sailboat Show – Still Growing, Still Very Much a Family Affair

In September of 2013 I published a blog titled, Annapolis Sailboat Show, A Growing Family AffairIt started like this:

“As my children have gotten older, they have come to realize that October is a fun and exciting time of the year. Not because of Halloween which is what all kids look forward to in October but because of the Annapolis Sailboat Show. For those of us who make their living in the boating business, the Annapolis Sailboat Show is a big deal. Not only is it the largest all-sail show in North America but it’s also the only show where all the new models from the various manufacturers are introduced for the first time.”

Young and old, everyone on the Jeanneau team turns out in force to lend a hand building the display. Team Building at its best!!
The Jeanneau America team in October 2012 following the close of the show along with my 3 kids: Graham (6), Mollie (9), and Will (10)

Fast forward to October 2016 and for the most part, not a lot has changed over the past 4 years. Well, that’s not entirely true. The Jeanneau team is bigger now since Jeanneau has gown significantly since 2012. I am no longer President having passed that honor onto my friend Nick Harvey a couple of years ago. But for the most part, the important elements of what makes the Annapolis show truly great remain the same.

Annapolis is still the largest all-sail show in North America, attracting sailors from all 50 states and every province in Canada. It’s still the  only show where you’re guaranteed to find all the manufactures with all their new models for the coming year on display in one place. And for me, it’s still very much a growing family affair. And not just my immediate family, but the larger family of Jeanneau owners as well.

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Yours truly with a now 13 year old Mollie Fenn working the reception desk at this year’s Jeanneau Yachts display

This year the show kicked off under brilliant blue skies on October 6th. We displayed an impressive lineup of 10 boats from 34-58 feet. More than 50,000 people attended the show and more than 200 Jeanneau owners attended the annual Jeanneau party making this year’s Annapolis Sailboat Show one of our best ever.

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The annual Jeanneau Owner’s Party now exceeds more than 200 and continues to be one of the highlights of the Annapolis show

In 2012 I wrapped up the Annapolis show blog this way:

“Not everyone has the luxury of enjoying what they do to make a living but thankfully I do and as an added bonus, I get to bring my family and friends along for the ride.”

Since these words still ring true for me and still seem a fitting conclusion to my brief tale here. I am going to be rather unimaginative and end the same way. With the exception of adding, I look forward to seeing you at next year’s Annapolis show. Let the fun continue!

Happy Birthday Mollie Rhodes

One of my all time favorite pictures of Mollie taken on a New England beach when she was about 18 months old.

12 years ago today, just about now, Mollie Fenn slipped into the world with all the innocence that comes with drawing your first breath of life. Up until the time she was actually born, my wife Kim and I didn’t know if Mollie would actually be a Mollie or someone else like a Ben or a Jack or maybe a James. Surprises after all can be a nice thing so why spoil the moment by finding out ahead of time if you’re getting a boy or girl is the way we looked at it. After all, you don’t open Christmas presents in June right?

I remember very clearly that despite the fact that we were now only moments away from having someone new join our growing family we were not firm on a girl’s name if in fact we should get a girl. Mollie or Molly was always on our short list but it hadn’t been sitting at the top of the list for some time. But moments before Mollie was born, and I do mean moments, there was a staffing change. Very quickly, the old team of nurses headed out and the new team headed in. The new head nurse introduced herself (I don’t remember her name) then introduced her intern, “this is Molly, she’ll be assisting today.” I knew in a second that it was a good omen and thankfully Kim agreed and so we decided right there and then that should we end up with a girl, her name would be Molly; although Kim wanted to spell it with an “ie” at the end instead of the more common way with a “y”. I’m not really sure why she wanted the “ie” version but one thing you don’t do is to get into an argument with a pregnant woman who’s in full-tilt labor. No more than 10 or 15 minutes later, Mollie was born.

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Out on a boat of course along about 7 years old. I should have collected royalties from West Marine!

Today is Mollie’s birthday, she’s 12. Like all parents, I stand in awe and wonder at where the time has gone. One day, not so long ago, she was just a little squirt covered in gook. Today, she is on the threshold of becoming a young lady; her final days of pure innocence. It’s a little bittersweet. In one sense you want her to grow into the amazing adult you know she is destined to be but in another, you cherish the child that has been ever-present since the very beginning.

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All dressed up and ready for 6th grade picture day. October 2015

It’s not always easy being a parent but knowing what I know now, it would be much harder not being a parent and missing out on all the  joy and wonder that comes from raising children. So Happy Birthday Mollie Rhodes, life is yours for the taking. Be all that you can be… I love you:)

On we go…

Staying Healthy, Angelina Jolie and Living Large

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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!

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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…