Chase’n Grace from Annapolis to Block Island – Part 1

Chase n' Grace

I have to admit it and say I’ve never been very good at planning ahead. But lately, I’ve been worse than ever about coming up with a plan and sticking to it. So was the case when trying to lay out a plan for this year’s summer vacation. Here I was just a few days away from starting a 2 week vacation, and my wife and I were still batting around various ideas of where to go and what to do. Thankfully, an impromptu dinner-date with my friend and good Jeanneau dealer, Glenn Winter of Riverside Yachts, provided me with the solution of what to do and where to go. His idea surfaced somewhere close to the bottom of a good bottle of Pinot Noir when he suddenly said, “Why don’t you and Kim sail Chase’n Grace to New England for me? You could sail it up, cruise around for a while and when you’re done, Lynn and I will come up and get it.” Now this sounded like my kind of vacation! It’s a little bit of a slug to get up to New England from Annapolis but if the weather was good it could be a nice trip. And once there, cruising around to such places as Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Newport and Martha’s Vineyard would be nothing short of fantastic! And so as the last drops of vino were being drained from the bottle, I suddenly found myself with, believe it or not, a plan. My wife Kim and I would sail Chase’n Grace, a 2013 Jeanneau 53, to New England and after cruising around for a bit, we would leave the boat in Mystic, CT for Glenn to retrieve when he was ready.

The only real issue that came to mind was finding someone to join us for the actual trip north. My three kids, Will, Mollie and Graham were all away at summer camp in Vermont and while I was sure that my wife and I could handle the boat on our own, having a couple of extra people on board would help when it came to making the offshore passage from Cape May to Block Island. Luckily, my friend and fellow sailor, Matt Reed and his wife Jen responded favorably to the idea (despite the short notice) and before we knew it we were underway up the Chesapeake Bay along with Matt and Jen’s  two kids, 10-year-old Natalie and 9-year-old Mitch. It was unfortunate that Will, Mollie and Graham were missing out on this grand adventure but sometimes that’s just the way the anchor sets.

The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau's yacht series. It's big, strong and fast. The perfect boat to take offshore to New England with.
The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau’s yacht series. It’s big, strong and fast. The perfect boat to take offshore to New England.

Before I go to much further, I should say a few things about the boat itself. The Jeanneau 53 is a true yacht in every degree. It’s big, it’s heavy, it sails great; especially in heavy air, and is extremely elegant above and below decks. The sail plan consists of a furling mainsail, 130% genoa, and a cruising spinnaker. All the winches are electric, making it a piece of cake to trim in and out. In terms of creature comforts, Chase’n Grace carries plenty of water so a hot shower, even at sea is not a problem. She’s fitted with a generator too so there’s always plenty of juice to charge batteries, run the hot water heater and even run the air conditioner if need be. In short, she’s one comfortable cruising machine.

There are basically two approaches when heading north to New England from the Chesapeake Bay. The first is to put the pedal to the metal and just keep going day and night until you get to where you want to go. The second approach is to take your time and stop for the night before making the jump from Cape May offshore to Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island. Since we were in no real rush, we opted for the more leisurely approach.

We didn’t have a whole lot of wind so it was pretty much an all day motor trip up the Bay to the Elk River and the beginning of the C&D canal. The tide was with us however and it was a nice sunny day so despite there being no real wind in which to sail with, it was a delightful first day. The sun was just dropping over the horizon at about the same time we were dropping anchor in Chesapeake City located at the beginning of the C&D Canal.

Chesapeake City just off the C&D is a popular place to stay when moving north and south.
Chesapeake City just off the C&D is a popular place to stay when moving north and south.

Chesapeake City is a popular stop-over for cruisers transiting north and south through the canal. It’s also a popular party destination for small powerboats on weekends. The result is that there’s plenty of good places to eat and fun things to do here. Because we had just provisioned the boat with fresh food and plenty of good wine to drink (for the adults), and we wanted to get an early start in the morning, we elected to eat on board and enjoy each other’s company and Chesapeake City swinging on the hook.That and we were entirely to lazy to launch the dinghy, mount the outboard, and go to shore. It was a good decision!

The next morning Matt and I reluctantly arose early. With sleep still in our eyes, we cranked up the engine, hauled the anchor and continued our journey east though the canal. Getting underway early is always helped by good weather and several cups of good coffee. Thankfully we had both and with a little help from a few warm blueberry muffins, we were feeling good and underway in good style!

The Reed family (Jen, Natalie, Matt and Mitch) underway through the C&D Canal
The Reed family (Jen, Natalie, Matt and Mitch) underway through the C&D Canal aboard the Jeanneau 53, Chase’n Grace.

Once out of the C&D, we made a sharp right turn onto the Delaware Bay and headed south towards the mouth and Cape May. Cruising down the Delaware isn’t exactly like cruising through the Caribbean or New England but still, when the sun is high in the sky, the air warm as toast and you’re aboard a 50 foot yacht… things could be worse. But then again, it’s just about 60 nautical miles from the C&D to Cape May which makes for a long day when you’re making just 6 or 7 knots (like 9-10 hours long!).  So like a long car ride down I95, we played cards, had long philosophical discussions, listened to good music like “Knee Deep” by The  Zac Brown Band, and enjoyed each other’s company. We even sailed though a pod of gray Bottle-Neck Dolphins. Who would have thunk!

Before we knew it, along about three o’clock, we found ourselves rounding the corner of Cape May and heading into the channel. We had called ahead and made reservations to stay on the dock at South Jersey Marina. South Jersey Marina turned out to be a great place to tie up for the night. Here we picked up fresh water and fuel and while we elected to eat dinner aboard rather than venturing out for dinner, we couldn’t resist heading into town for a little ice cream before turning in.

Tomorrow, providing the weather forecast holds true, we will make the jump offshore to Block Island, about a 35 hour trip. It will be great I am sure.

The story continues, read more!

Getting by in the BVI – with a Little Help From Our Loyal Customers

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!

Cooper Island
Jeanneau Owners gather on the beach at the Cooper Island Beach Club for a group shot

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.

Flag Signing
The signing of the Jeanneau flag that’s been    tacked on the ceiling at Foxy’s since 2012

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!

Pirate Party
A fantastic Pirate Party held at the Bitter End Yacht Club brought out the best pirates from near and far!

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.

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Paul Fenn, President of Jeanneau America with Carolyn Schmalenberger, President of Norton Yacht Sales at the 2014 BVI Rendezvous. A tough job but someone has to do it 🙂

On we go…

 

 

Annapolis Sailboat Show, A Growing Family Affair

A great areal shot of last year's Jeanneau display featuring 9 boats. This year we're shooting for 12 boats!
A great aerial shot of last year’s Jeanneau display featuring 9 boats. This year we’re shooting for 12 boats including the new Sun Odyssey 349 and Sun Fast 3600.

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. Because of this, the show is big, attracting upwards of 50,000 sailboat enthusiasts from all over the United States, Canada and many European and South American countries as well; it is a true international all-sail show and it’s great!

Jeanneau's Catherine Guiader, Valerie Toomey and Will Fenn are all smiles during the 2013 Annapolis Sailboat Show.
Jeanneau’s Catherine Guiader, Valerie Toomey and Will Fenn are all smiles during the 2013 Annapolis Sailboat Show.

For those of us here at Jeanneau, Annapolis is a lot more than a show, it is a real production. This year we will show 12 boats from our new 34 footer to the Jeanneau 57. All 12 of them are brand spanking new which means they will first need to be rigged, launched and prepared for the show. Then comes the fun, the Jeanneau staff will enlist family and friends to help load the boats and move them across the harbor and into position. Flags will be hoisted, carpet laid, tents raised and the boats will be washed, waxed and polished to perfection. It is a lot of work but also good work as it represents a great team effort by all involved.

Young and old, everyone on the Jeanneau team turns out in force to lend a hand building the display. Team Building at its best!!
Young and old, everyone on the Jeanneau team turns out in force to lend a hand building the display. Team Building at its best!!

Over the years as my three kids have gotten older, they have become more involved in preparing and breaking down the show. They help move boats, coil lines, polish stainless and lug gear. For the Fenn family, the Annapolis show has become a real family affair. 

Will and Catherine hard at work on the building of the display
Will and Catherine hard at work on the building of the display
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The girls at Jeanneau run the show!

This year the fun begins on October 6th when we move our boats into the show . We will work on building the display for the next two days. On Wednesday, Jeanneau dealers from throughout North America will arrive in town to help with the finishing touches. And on Thursday, darned in our best duds, we will stand on the transoms of our freshly polished vessels, welcome the public to our display and be happy to be in Annapolis for such an exciting event. 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.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at this year’s Annapolis Show!

On We Go….