If ever there was a year not to go to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), this year is it. Or is it? Yes, the BVI got trounced by Hurricane Irma back in September. Yes, there was a huge number of boats lost. And yes, many of the areas best known resorts such as The Bitter End Yacht Club and Peter Island Resort and Spa, have been forced to close their doors and sit out the season until repairs are made. Despite all this, the British Virgin Islands are still the world’s #1 charter destination, offering awesome sailing, plenty of great anchorages, beautiful white-sand beaches, plenty of good snorkeling, and of course, the world’s best Painkillers!
And there’s another reason to go to the BVI this year and that is, the Islands need us. More than anything, what the BVI could really use right now are visitors, especially sailors. While some of the larger resorts are closed, most of the smaller ones such as Foxy’s, the Soggy Dollar, Cooper Island Beach Club, and the Anagada Reef Hotel are open and ready for business. Nothing cures a quiet bar faster than a bunch of thirsty sailors! And, it’s the sailors, us, who can have the greatest impact on the BVI’s recovery right now.
And so, on March 10th, a group of us will be boarding a plane and heading to Tortola in the BVI to pick up our boats from our friends at Sunsail. The weather in the BVI is currently 81 degrees with blue skies and winds out of the Southeast at 10-15. Can’t ask for better conditions than this.
We know the BVI will be quieter this year than in the past. And we understand we will see some leftover damage from Hurricane Irma. But we also know the sailing will be great as always, the water as blue as ever, the air will be warm, and the people of the British Virgin Islands will be glad to see us. It’s going to be great!
“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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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:)
Yesterday was one of those perfect summer days; zero humidity, crystal blue skies, plenty of sunshine, a nice breeze and a lovely 75 degrees. The Chesapeake Bay just outside of Annapolis harbor was a sea of white sails while the Severn River just off my community beach played host to a myriad of watercraft from speedboats to jet skies to kayaks to rowboats to small day-sailors. A small fleet of Sunfish sailboats with their distinctive brightly colored sails could be seen in the distance battling around the race course. The tide in the late afternoon was well above the average high tide making for great swimming and diving off our community pier. Yep, it was one of those rare, perfect summer afternoons that make you want summer to last forever.
As I sat on the beach, cold beer in one hand, summer novel in the other, it suddenly hit me that the day felt a lot more like the end of the year than December 31st ever did. There would of course be no wild, late-night New Year’s Eve parties, not on this new, modified New Year’s Eve of mine. Nor would there likely be many champagne corks popping later tonight. There would be no ball drop in Time Square, no funny hats, no noise makers and no hugs and kisses at midnight. Instead, given that tomorrow was the first day of school, the evening was destined to be a quiet one. Friends and neighbors would head home early to prepare for an early start to the day tomorrow. Dinner would be served earlier than normal, bedtime would hopefully follow shortly thereafter. Tomorrow we would rise early and rush around like a litter of blind cats in an effort to organize ourselves for the day ahead. There would undoubtedly be lots of yelling over such things as lost socks, having no “good” cereal to eat and there being no hot water left but we would eventually pull it all together and get ourselves out the door. By 7:30 we would all be gone and Smokey, our faithful hound would be left alone to look after the house until our return. And while there would still be some warm days ahead I know, it won’t change the fact that the summer of 2014 was toast and a new year was about to begin.
The more I thought about this idea of celebrating New Year’s Eve in August, the more I liked it. From both a practical and psychological standpoint, it makes a heck of a lot more sense to my wondering mind to start the new year on September 1st as opposed to January 1st. By September 1st summer is over, America is headed back to work and a new school year has begun. Life is suddenly very different today than yesterday; something good is over and something exciting and new is about to begin. And isn’t that what celebrating New Year’s is all about? Happy New Year everyone and here’s to singing Auld Lang Syne in August!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
Last Father’s Day I wrote a blog titled Father’s Day, It’s More Important than You Think that was inspired by a young neighbor of mine (Cameron) who lost his father at age 51 after a long battle with cancer. I was luckier than Cameron, my father lived to be 93 and essentially died of natural causes this past January. I haven’t talked with Cameron since this time last year but I imagine that he is thinking about his father this Father’s Day as I am thinking about mine.
My dad was born in 1920 in Boston, MA. His father, my grandfather was a professor of physiology at the University of Rochester. When my dad was in high school, his parents bought a summer place on Canandaigua Lake in up-state New York where he learned to sail. Like his father and grandfather, he attended Harvard College where he played lacrosse and eventually became the captain of the team. He graduated with a degree in Biology in 1942 and like all young men of that time went off to fight in World War ll. He joined the Army Air Corps and was sent to the Philippines where he became a radar countermeasures officer. Radar was in its infancy in those days and my dad flew in the nose of a B-29 looking for enemy outposts. It was a dangerous job and at least once they took a bullet or two through the engine of their plane. He told me that they were lucky because the engine kept running and they landed safely. After the war he went back to school at Rensselaer Politechnic Institute and earned a second degree in electrical engineering. He married my mother in 1947 and soon after had two daughters, my sister’s Bonnie and Betsy. I came along in 1959.
Growing up my dad was always there for me. Like all good dads he taught me right from wrong. He taught me how to sail and how to tie a bowline at a young age. He taught me how to handle a jack-knife and how to split and stack wood. He taught me how to change a flat tire, use a power mower and run an outboard engine. Somewhere along the way by way of example, he taught me how to be a good husband and a father to my three children.
This is my first Father’s Day without a father to give a gift to or make a phone call to. But thankfully, my memories of my dad are clear and happy ones. More and more I am struck by the idea that we are only as good as that which we leave behind. Not so much by our accomplishments but rather by the examples we set, the lessons we pass on and the tone by which we lead our lives. Perhaps this is why we are here.
Like all parents, I remember so clearly the day he was born. And like all parents I am amazed at how fast the years have flown by. My son Will turns 12 today and while I don’t remember having any clear expectations of the kind of person I wanted him to become he seems to be exceeding them all, right before my eyes. It’s not that I don’t want to kill him on occasion and it’s not that he doesn’t drive his siblings (Mollie and Graham) crazy now and again but all and all, Will is a good kid who lives life each day with a smile on his face and plenty of love in his heart.
He started middle school this year and also discovered girls. He suddenly wants to look his best and spends a good deal of time in the bathroom primping and preparing himself before he heads out the door. He goes to bed late and can no longer get up without being dragged from his bed. He’s rarely sick and while he’s not an overly terrific student he rarely misses school; the social aspect, especially the girls might have something to do with this. He’s a good athlete, not a rock star but good. He wrestles, plays baseball and soccer. Living in Maryland, I’d hoped he would take an interest in lacrosse but for whatever reason that hasn’t happened.
If I had to come up with one thing that Will really loves I would have to say camp; not camping but camp. Since he was 8 he has been fortunate enough to spend his summers in Vermont attending an all boys camp called Keewaydin. Keewaydin has been around for over 100 years and operates today much the same as it did when it first opened its tent flaps all those years ago. Here boys are allowed and encouraged to be boys. They build fires, tell stories, rough-house, go on canoe trips, sing songs, shoot arrows, swim, eat bad food, wear the same clothes day after day and learn what it takes to be away from home and to live in a community full of strangers. And best of all, no electronics of any kind are permitted. I love this part!
Last year, Will stayed at camp for the full 8 weeks and became an “Old Timer” since this was his fourth year as a camper. Some parents find it difficult to accept the idea that their child will be gone and away from home for such a long time but the way I see it, I’m preparing my son to be independent and adventurous. He’ll need these skills in our fast-paced, ever-changing world, and camp is a great place for him to gain these skills; it’s a good thing.
I started by saying that I had no real expectations of the kind of person I wanted Will to become. In fact, that’s not true. I wanted him to be like my father, his namesake. I wanted him to grow to be honest, to have integrity, to be independent and not follow the herd. To work hard at what’s important, to be a good neighbor and as they say at Keewaydin to “help the other fellow.” As I think about these things, I am lucky because this is pretty much what I got. Parenthood, what a ride. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Happy Birthday Will!
It’s a tough job as they say but someone has to do it. And since I couldn’t think of anyone better to do it, I figured I just had to do it myself. Poor me!
I just returned from the beautiful British Virgin Islands where I spent a week sailing around with my family on a beautiful Jeanneau 409 chartered from Sunsail Yacht Charters. This was not one of our usual family sailing vacations but rather a company event that we hosted for the owners of our boats. Because space is tight in the British Virgin Islands, we limited the trip to 25 boats and about 125 people. We would have loved to have more boats but when you call up some of these small island resorts and ask them if they can make a dinner reservation for 200 people, they about pass out just thinking about it. And so we limited the trip to 25 boats and that turned out to be the perfect size for this great Caribbean adventure.
We started out on the island of Tortola and made stops at Cooper Island, The Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda and the very posh Peter Island. The trip lasted a full week which gave folks time on their own to discover other great cruising destinations such as Anagada, Norman Island and the famous Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke. The trip was a complete blast and provided the added benefit of getting to know the owner’s of our boats in a way that we could have never done by talking with them over the phone or running into them at a boat show. No, here in the BVI, under the warm Caribbean sun, cold cocktail in hand, is where you can really get to know your customers. And I did, and my staff did, and my family did and our customers got to know us; what a great time we all had!
In addition to dropping anchor in some fantastic spots, we also had some awesome events including racing around in our inflatable dinghys on a treasure hunt, a pirate party in full pirate regalia, a number of amazing dinners, a hike up Virgin Gorda and a great talk by author and ocean sailor, John Kretschmer who afterwards, signed copies of his latest book, Sailing a Serious Ocean. All of this together, added up to one great event and the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our customers.
I’ve long been enamored with companies who have manged to make their customers fall in love with them. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Harley Davidson, TOMS, and Apple who’s brand loyalty is through the roof; It’s a beautiful thing and well deserved for sure. And while I know Jeanneau builds a great boat, I would like Jeanneau to be known for being a great company as well; full of hard working men and women who love what they do and love to see their customers enjoying the boats that they build. And because of this, social events like the 2014 BVI Owner’s Rendezvous will just have to continue. And, It’s a tough job, there’s no denying it. But, since somebody has to do it, that somebody may as well be me; C’est la vie.