The Jeanneau 54, Love is in the Air (part 1)

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Encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century, the old city of Dubrovnik is rich in so many ways; beauty, history and lifestyle. It’s almost inconceivable to think that this magnificent city was almost destroyed in 1991 during the Croatian War of Independence.

Located just opposite Italy along the western shore of the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by such countries as Bosnia, Serbia and Slovenia, sits Croatia; a country steeped in a rich history with long mountainous coastlines, sapphire waters, ancient cities and dotted with more than a thousand islands. In short, Croatia is a true cruisers delight and a real gem for anyone who loves and appreciates the sea. And so it was decided that with all this beauty, and all this history, and all the great sailing that can be found here, Croatia would be the spot to introduce for the first time the new Jeanneau 54.

Sailing fast on the heels of the Jeanneau 64 introduced just this time last year, the new 54 comprises the same look and spirit that has made the 64 an instant success throughout the world. In order to do this, the same design team of Philippe Briand and Andrew Winch collaborated on the design of the 54 with Philippe Briand focusing his talents on the boat itself and Andrew Winch bringing his expertise to the elements of the interior.

The Jeanneau 54 struts her stuff off the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia on the Adriatic Sea
The Jeanneau 54 struts her stuff off the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia on the Adriatic Sea

First and foremost, the 54 is a boat designed for on-deck living. The cockpit, like that of the 64 is incredibly large and separated into two zones; the aft section is totally dedicated to the business of sailing while the forward section is set up for simply enjoying the ride. Move to the foredeck and you’ll find a clever feature in the form of a built-in sun lounge complete with awning that folds neatly away when not in use.

Drop-down swim platforms have proven to be extremely popular in recent years and are now found on all Jeanneau models from the Sun Odyssey 349 right up to the 64. But the new 54 goes one step further offering not only a swim platform but an actual terrace of sorts complete with two built-in lounge chairs that lowers and raises at the touch of a button. Check it out!

Below decks, the interior, like that of the 64 is contemporary but not to the point of being cold. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Plenty of bright colors combine with a host of natural light to make the interior of the 54 extremely warm and inviting. Once again Andrew Winch really nailed it!

The main salon of the 54 is separated into two distinct areas, the galley along the port side and the lounge/ dining area along the starboard side.
The main salon of the 54 is separated into two distinct areas, the galley along the port side and the lounge/ dining area along the starboard side.

Something that’s remarkably different about the 54 compared to other models is the large amount of room that has been given over to the cabins. The owner’s cabin for example which is located all the way forward resembles that of a luxury hotel room complete with an awesome centerline queen bed low to the floor and a huge private head and shower compartment. There is a second VIP cabin aft that’s almost as large as the forward cabin plus a third, smaller cabin also aft, on the chance that you end up sailing with a third couple or possibly some kids. All things considered the 54 is a boat that has been designed for her owner.

The owner's cabin is more like a luxury hotel room than a cabin on a cruising sailboat. It's large, beautiful and a total pleasure to hang out in. Step inside and you may not want to leave!
The owner’s cabin is more like a luxury hotel room than a cabin on a cruising sailboat. It’s large, beautiful and a total pleasure to hang out in. Step inside and you may not want to leave!

Officially, the 54 is part of our yacht series along with the 57 and 64. But in many ways, the 54 is in a class all by itself, almost a luxury long-range cruiser for couples looking to chuck it all behind and simply sail away in grand style. Has the cruising lifestyle been whistling a tune in your ear? If so, the new Jeanneau 54 may just be the perfect partner to dance away with. Either way, love is definitely in the air this summer, especially in Croatia and especially aboard the new Jeanneau 54.

On we go…

P.S. Stay tuned for more on the 54 including my day on the water with Jeanneau 64 owner, Andrew Winch himself.

The Jeanneau 64 – A Champagne Toast to Trois Vignes

Coming down the dock and seeing Trois Vignes for the first time, a brand new Jeanneau 64, I found myself smiling and muttering the words, “we shall sell no wine before its time.” Elegantly dressed all in black with brilliant-white spars, white cabin top and honey-colored teak decks, Trois Vignes, which is French for three vines, looked stunning and ready for a glamorous evening out on the town.

The honey-colored teak deck really pops against the jet-black cap rail. If it's a yacht, and the 64 is, you gotta have teak decks. And why wouldn't you, they're gorgeous!
The honey-colored teak deck really pops against the jet-black cap rail. If it’s a yacht, and the 64 is, you gotta have teak decks. And why wouldn’t you, they’re gorgeous!

For John and Kris Palmer, the owners of Trois Vignes, their journey started 18 months ago in 2013 at the Annapolis Sailboat Show when they sat down with their dealer, Bob Reed of St. Clair Sailboat Center and Erik Stromberg, Jeanneau’s Sailboat Product Director to discuss the Jeanneau 64 in detail. I say in detail but at that time the details were in short supply since a boat had yet to actually be built. But Erik, in his usual good and informative style, along with some great artist renderings, was able to paint a clear picture as to what the 64 was all about. This, along with the fact that John and Kris were not new to Jeanneau, having owned a Jeanneau 54DS (also a Trois Vignes) for ten years, gave them the confidence that the Jeanneau 64 was ultimately going to be a very special 64 footer. Soon after this initial meeting, John laid down a deposit to reserve a hull and immediately listed his 54DS for sale.

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The original Trois Vignes, a 54DS anchored in the North Channel. The 54DS was an amazingly popular boat. Almost 400 were produced between 2002 – 2009. John and Kris bought theirs in 2003 and lovingly sailed it with their 3 children on Lake Michigan for 10 years before selling it to buy the 64. It now lives in California.

The first 64 to be built began production in November 2013. By April it was in the water and by July it was in Corsica where I had the pleasure of spending a week aboard it and helped to sail it to Marseille on the southern coast of France.

Living large aboard the Jeanneau 64 in Corsica during the official photo shoot. It's a rotten job but someone has to do it right?
Living large aboard the Jeanneau 64 in Corsica during the official photo shoot. It’s a rotten job but someone has to do it right?

It was in Marseille where John, Kris and their 3 kids saw the completed boat for the first time. I still remember the look of total astonishment wash across John’s face as he stood in the main salon for the first time. He only uttered a single word,“WOW.” Over the course of the next 8 months, John made several trips to the factory to meet with Erik Stromberg and check on the progress of his boat, hull #4. During these trips he experienced firsthand the complexity and the detailed engineering that goes into such a project. It’s truly mind-boggaling. By December, the new Trois Vignes was floating in the test tank and then just last week, after a visit to the paint shed, the Palmer’s new Jeanneau 64 was launched in the port of Les Sables d’Olonne in the Bay of Biscay on France’s west coast. It was a longtime coming, pretty much 18 months from concept to reality. But as Andrew Winch, the interior designer told me, “details make the project a success and details take time.”

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Aboard Trois Vignes, John Palmer (L) and Andrew Winch (R) talk about the details incorporated into the Jeanneau 64. As a side note, Andrew is getting his own 64 which is in production now. He has hull #11 which ironically is the same number that John’s 54DS was. Go figure right?

There is something completely and utterly rewarding about seeing the owner of a new boat step aboard it for the first time, especially when the boat we’re talking about is a 64 footer. So often they approach it slowly and with caution; taking it all in bit by bit so as not to miss anything. So was the case today when we welcomed John and Bob Reed aboard. It was a great moment. It had taken some time to get it right but we got there. And as we raised our glasses of real French Champagne to toast this new elegant lady, I once again found myself saying to myself, “we shall sell no wine before its time.” And with a name like Trois Vignes, that saying seems most appropriate.

A champagne toast with (L-R) Andrew Winch, John Palmer, Bob Reed, Erik Stromberg, and Paul Fenn
A champagne toast with (L-R) Andrew Winch, John Palmer, Bob Reed, Erik Stromberg, and Paul Fenn

Trois Vignes is scheduled to set sail in about a week, first to the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal, then onto the Big Apple. From there, the mast will come out and the boat will travel through the Erie Barge Canal to Lake Ontario. She’ll eventually end up on the west coast of Michigan where she’ll be fondly admired by all who see her. What a life she’ll have!

On we go….

But, before you do, enjoy this short video of our day aboard Trois Vignes.

The Jeanneau 64, Love at First Sight – The Conclusion (so, did we sell a boat?)

From a boat builders perspective, certainly one of the most important considerations that goes into the making of a great boat is whether or not when all is said and done, people want to buy it. In order for this to happen, especially with a big boat like a 64 footer, a real balance needs to be struck between the design of the boat, how the boat performs, the look of the boat, the overall quality of the finished product and the always important issue of the final price of the boat. Often times a boat will come along that may have lots of great creature comforts but may not sail very well. Other times, a boat can sail great but not be very comfortable to live aboard. And there are still other boats out there that sail well and are plenty comfortable but cost an arm and a leg to buy so not a lot of them get sold. The bottom line is that it’s a real art to be able to consistently turn out a finished product that encompasses all the essential elements for it to be successful in the market. But, as good as I think Jeanneau is at doing this, we never really know how successful a new model will be until it’s built and presented to the final customer. Until that time comes, we often find ourselves holding our breath and wringing our hands waiting to see if we’ve gotten it right or gotten it wrong.

Jeanneau 64 Artist Rendering
John and Kris Palmer made their decision to sell their 54DS and purchase a 64 largely based on these initial artist renderings of what the boat would actually be like.

John and Kris Palmer were among the first to put down a small deposit towards the purchase of a new Jeanneau 64. This had been done last October based on the initial drawings of the boat and a targeted selling price. Today, the Palmers, along with their three kids, Jack, Julia and Sam would be meeting us in Marseille to see the boat for the first time and either confirm their order or give it a pass.

The Palmers had been sailing a Jeanneau 54DS for the past 10 years and loved it. Any boat, including a new 64 footer would be a tough act to follow. The Jeanneau 54DS was one of the most successful boats ever produced reaching a total production of almost 400 before it was discontinued in 2009. Even today, the 54DS is in high-demand on the secondary market; a real testament to its overall design, build quality and price.

The amazing 54DS was produced from 2002 - 2009. Almost 400 were built. John and Kris bought their's in 2003 and lovingly sailed it on Lake Michigan for 10 years before selling it this past January. It now lives in California.
The amazing 54DS was produced from 2002 – 2009. Almost 400 were built. John and Kris bought their’s in 2003 and lovingly sailed it on Lake Michigan for 10 years before selling it this past January. It now lives in California.

The 64 was in so many ways a very different boat than the 54DS. Of course it was bigger, by a lot! But, is was also a lot more modern and sophisticated. Instead of using traditional teak down below like the 54DS, the 64 utilizes a light oak. The furnishings throughout the 64 are much more contemporary than those found on the 54DS. And yet, as I explained in part 1 of this 4 part story, while the interior of the 64 is very modern, it’s not so modern to be cold and impractical but is in fact, just the opposite. Philippe Briand and Andrew Winch managed to design a very modern, very contemporary looking boat that is extremely warm and comfortable. The question is, would John and Kris like it, now that they saw it in real life?

Great shot taken by Gilles Martin of the Jeanneau 64 running under main and staysail off the coast of Corsica.
Great shot taken by Gilles Martin of the Jeanneau 64 running under main and staysail off the coast of Corsica. What an awesome machine!

The Palmers arrived at the boat about 2:00 in the afternoon and climbed aboard. Watching them standing in the cockpit reminded me of how I first reacted to the boat; they were reserved trying to take it all in. After a few minutes we encouraged them to go below and check it out. The kids, ages 16, 14 and 12 were off like a shot. John and Kris moved more slowly but I could tell they were doing their best to contain their enthusiasm. Soon we were standing in the main salon and I remember the look of total astonishment wash across John’s face. This was followed by him uttering a single word, “WOW.” This is pretty much what we were expecting but to see it, is to believe it!  Now that the initial impressions were over with and thankfully positive, it was time to throw off the lines and go for a sail.

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Kris, Julia and Sam Palmer enjoy their first sail aboard the Jeanneau 64. Julia  is having fun capturing her younger brother on video. I’m just watching to make sure she doesn’t drop the camera since it’s mine!
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Bob Reed with 16-year-old Jack Palmer at the helm off the coast of Marseille

The wind was fairly brisk and the skies overcast when we set sail just outside Marseille Harbor. We spent the better part of an hour taking back and forth. Not unexpectedly, John loved the way the boat sailed and was especially intrigued with the electric mainsail winch that lived below decks and allowed you to sheet in and out with the touch of a button from either helm station. Another feature that is easy to be impressed with is the optional stern thruster. The 64 comes standard with a bow thruster and with the addition of the stern thruster, it instantly makes docking even in the tightest of quarters a snap. We made good use of both as we eased our way between two other large boats and back onto the cement seawall; Mediterranean style!

It had been a great day but no day is complete without a nice dinner with good French wine, especially when in France. So later in the evening, after having a few cocktails on board, we all headed out for dinner in Marseille. And I guess somewhere along the line, it was all just taken for granted that the first 64 headed to the USA would have the Palmers’ name on it, for sure. Anyway that’s how we were treating things because after we all were seated and the wine poured, we raised our glasses high and said, “here’s to a new 64, congratulations!”

The Palmer family (less young Sam) out on the town in Marseille celebrating their purchase of the Jeanneau 64.
The Palmer family (less young Sam) out on the town in Marseille celebrating their purchase of the Jeanneau 64. Photo by Bob Reed of St. Clair Sailboat Center in Michigan.

It’s always fun to sell a boat, especially to repeat customers. And the fact that John and Kris had taken so well to the 64 was, to put it bluntly, flattering. In fact, it was more than that. It was more like love at first sight but then again how could it have been anything else.

On we go…

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!

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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.

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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!

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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…

 

 

Why I Changed My Mind About Social Media

Social Media

One of the many things that come with growing older is the inability to accept new ideas and new ways of doing things. I never really saw myself as falling into this trap but nevertheless, a few years back I viewed the entire concept of “social media” as nothing more than one big gimmick, just a passing fad that would be gone faster than you could say bell-bottom trousers. So what if Facebook has 1.1 billion users, give it a couple of years and it will be out of here like a wet watermelon pit squeezed between two fingers.

Of course social media hasn’t gone away, in fact it’s only gotten stronger. And so I eventually caved in and took the “if you can’t beat them join them” approach. And interestingly enough, I’m glad I did; not only have I found the world of social media rather enjoyable but also a useful and powerful marketing tool. What I really like about it is, it allows people to see our company’s true personality; an ongoing view into our company’s culture and the people who make it up.

I also like it because for the most part, it’s hard to fake what you put on YouTube; what you see is what you get. I think it’s a lot like running a personal ad. If you’re not straightforward and honest with what you’re putting out there, don’t be surprised when the wrong people come knocking on your door.

One of my favorite videos of a sail across the Gulf Stream for a photo shoot in the Bahamas. A fun, casual look at what goes on behind the scenes with the Jeanneau team.

In this global world of ours with increased competition and similar product offerings, I really see social media as being the vehicle to set ourselves apart from everyone else. Our only challenge is to be bold enough to hang ourselves out there and let our charming personality shine through.

On we go….

How Much Value is Created by Providing Exceptional Service to your Customers?

DSC00515The other day I had a nice surprise when out of the blue, through my office door marched 6 very nice bottles of wine, sent to me by an old customer, Kim and Gary Baright. Kim and Gary had purchased a Prestige 46 from us back in 2007; it may have been the first one sold in the USA. I remember them well, they fell in love with their boat right from the start and named it “Our Three Buoys” after their three sons. My first thought was, wow this is a pretty nice gift, ideally suited for someone who firmly believes that life is too short not to finish the bottle. My second thought was, what had I done to deserve something as nice as being given 6 bottles of good quality vino, especially from someone who had purchased a boat 6 years ago? I hadn’t talked with Gary and Kim in some time but it made me happy to know that they were still enjoying their boat and more importantly, still satisfied customers.

We talk a lot in our office about customer service and what we can do to be more customer-centric. I happen to be one of those people who really love being a satisfied customer. I know that sounds simplistic and obvious, but I really do. And, when I am made to feel special, I become extremely loyal to those companies and brands who made me feel that way.

A favorite company of mine is Southwest Airlines. I love these guys, they make air travel simple, easy and manage to throw a little fun into the mix along the way. I remember one time I was taking a 6 am flight out of Detroit back to Baltimore specifically so I could make it to my office by 9. It was the first flight to go, hence no reason for any delays right? Unfortunately, not this time.

It was February and it had snowed during the night. Our plane had not been parked at the gate the night before but rather left out in the field somewhere. When they went to move it to the gate, they learned that they were stuck and needed help getting unstuck. This took some time and caused the first of many delays.

Once on board and settled, the pilot hustled us over to the de-icing station but because we were now off-schedule, we found ourselves in a long line of other planes also waiting to be de-iced. OK I thought, this is taking longer than expected but if we can get out of here in the next 15 minutes or so, I can still make it to the office by 10 am. Finally, after more like 30 minutes, the guys with the guns started hosing us down. By this time, we were easily an hour behind schedule and although some of the passengers were growing impatient, the flight attendants (always good-natured) were doing a great job of keeping everyone as happy as possible.

SWA SnowSo the guys with guns are outside shooting away when all of a sudden, “boom” everything shuts down; the engines, the air conditioning, the lights, everything. Everything goes down and we are left sitting quietly in the dark.

The pilot comes out and has to shout to be heard because the intercom has also gone out. “No need for concern folks” he said. “It seems one of the guys outside got a little over zealous with his de-icing gun and managed to fire some de-icing agent up our tail pipe which knocked out our computer system. Just as soon as we re-boot the system, which will only take a few minutes, we’ll be on our way to Baltimore.” By this time, the situation had become completely humourous with many of the passengers actually laughing out loud.

After several minutes, with still no power, the pilot sheepishly comes out to once again, address the troops. “Folks” he says, “we’ve been trying to re-boot the system but haven’t been able to, so we have a service crew on their way out to essentially give us a jump.” These words are met with true side-splitting laughter at what has now become a scene right out of Candid Camera. It was truly priceless!

We eventually made it off the ground and back to Baltimore. All together, we arrived 3 hours or so behind schedule. The next day, I received an e-mail from Southwest that read something like this:

“We would like to begin by apologizing for the trouble we may have caused you and your fellow passengers on your recent flight with us. While some of the problems were weather related, others were clearly ours and we should have done better. To make it up to you, we would like to present you with the attached voucher good for a free SWA flight.”

SWA Mission

I was completely blown away by Southwest’s level of customer service in an effort to make me happy. In my view, it was completely unnecessary since I viewed the entire mishap to be weather related and out of Southwest’s control. Their gesture cost the company a lot of money and believe me it didn’t go unnoticed. As a result, I always fly Southwest, always!

So, how much value is created by providing exceptional service to your customers? I guess I answered my own question, A LOT! And, if you’re lucky and play your cards right, your customers might just surprise you and send you a really nice collection of good wine!

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….

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…..