How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Part 1: Annapolis to Block Island)

DSC00657Unlike last year when one week out I really had no idea what my two-week summer vacation was going to look like, this year I got on the ball early and made a firm commitment to once again sail Chase n’ Grace, a Jeanneau 53 from Annapolis to New England for her owner, Glenn Winter of Riverside Yachts in New Jersey. Initially, this would be an all boys trip consisting of my 13-year-old son Will, 9-year-old son Graham, my friend Matt Reed and his 10-year-old son Mitch. Normally a crew like this might be headed for an adventure more conservative like an overnight camping trip to a nearby state park but we were looking for something bolder and thankfully the mothers on both sides had confidence in Matt’s and my abilities to let us go so like all good adventurers, we went for it.

Getting off the dock is always the hardest part of any voyage, there always seems to be one more thing to load aboard or one more thing to do before casting off. At some point you just have to look at the clock and say, “C’mon we have to go, untie that line.” Such was the case when leaving Annapolis. We finally got underway about 2pm.

For the first leg up the Chesapeake it would just be Will and me. The other boys would meet us first thing in the morning in the C&D Canal after the local swim meet finished up. There was a bit of a breeze as Will and I slipped under the Bay Bridge and sailed north. I’ve always treasured my one on one time with my children and today was no exception. At 13 years of age, Will is no longer a kid, he’s a young man with ideas of his own. Girls are now important along with a host of other things that come with growing up. I felt fortunate that it was just the two of us for this first day underway, even if he did spend a good deal of it playing on his iPhone. I hate those things!

Our initial plan was to make it all the way to the Canal but because of the late start we decided to toss the hook at the beginning of the Elk River and spend the night there. It had been a good first day and we would be in no rush in the morning since the rest of the troops would not be ready to be picked up until 12:00 or 1:00 in the afternoon and Summit North Marina where we arranged to meet, was only a short distance away.

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The view looking west from Chase n’ Grace at anchor in the Elk River at the top of the Chesapeake Bay.

Chase n’ Grace was well provisioned with a ton of food including a bunch of Omaha steaks, burgers, wine and a couple of bottles of the all essential Mount Gay Rum. Will and I opted for a couple of burgers which we grilled up on the back of the boat and enjoyed eating in the cockpit as the sun sank slowly into the west. It had been a good first day.

My wife Kim along with my daughter Mollie delivered Matt, Mitch and Graham right on schedule and after topping off the diesel tank, we said our farewells and off we went. Our plan after leaving the C&D was to head straight down the Delaware Bay hitting the entrance just before midnight. Last year when we did this trip we spent the night in Cape May but this year we would keep on moving and head straight offshore to Block Island, about 210 nautical miles to the northeast of Cape May.

We hit the mouth of the Delaware about on schedule and as soon as we felt we were a safe distance offshore, we turned left and settled in on our course of 60 degrees magnetic. Matt and I decided that I would take the first watch while he stretched out in the cockpit. Graham did his best to join me but it had been a long day for a 9-year-old and once he slid into his sleeping bag he was toast. Mitch, age 10, lasted a bit longer but soon he too was off sailing with the Sandman instead of with yours truly.

I should stop right here and state clearly that sailing offshore is not something that should be taken lightly. As long as the weather is calm everything normally goes smoothly. But things can go south quickly when the weather worsens and when it does, it’s always nice to have a solid and substantial craft under your feet to keep you safe when the wind decides to blow and the sea begins to boil. At 53 feet and 39,000 pounds, the Jeanneau 53 is a big, solid boat that provides plenty of security but is not so big that it’s difficult to manage by a small crew. For me, the Jeanneau 53 is the perfect sized boat for my family of 5.

The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau's yacht series. It's a great sailing boat and an ideal cruiser
The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau’s yacht series. It’s a great sailing boat and an ideal cruiser

Somewhere around 3am, Matt opened one eye and said “ready for a break?” For which I promptly replied, “thought you’d never ask.” So Matt roused himself up and took over the duties of keeping us safe and headed in the right direction. The boat is on autopilot most of the time so actually steering the boat isn’t necessary but it’s important to keep a sharp lookout for other boats to make sure they don’t run into us and us them; hence the use of the word “watch” as in “be sure to watch where you’re going.” We were trying to stay on a watch schedule of 3 hours on and 3 hours off. Matt’s watch from 3-6 is a nice one because you have the great joy of watching the morning sunrise which for me is always a great treat when at sea.

After a long night at sea, the rising sun is always a treat hat never grows old.
After a long night at sea, the rising sun is always a welcome sight that never grows old.

Our young crew who had the luxury of being in their bunks all night, began arriving on deck somewhere around 7am in search of breakfast. We had made good headway during the night consistently averaging 7 knots since making the turn at Cape May and were now a solid 50 nautical miles along our track which was taking us farther and farther away from land. Some people get very freaked out when they can’t see land but this was not the case with our crew. For these boys, being at sea surrounded by nothing but salty water seemed as natural as walking down the street. It was a nice thing to see and be a part of.

Well rested after a good night's sleep, Graham enjoys a little Honey Nut O's under the morning sun at sea
Well rested after a good night’s sleep, Graham enjoys a little Honey Nut O’s under the morning sun.

One might think it’s boring being at sea but there is always something to do to occupy your time such as reading or navigating or playing cards or having conversations or simply scanning the horizon to see what’s out there. One of the most exciting things that can happen is spotting a pod of whales or dolphins which we were lucky enough to do. More than once, we were visited by dolphins who road our bow wave for several minutes allowing us to get a really good look at them and shoot a little video as well.

One of the benefits to having started our ocean passage at night was that it allowed us to begin crossing the busy shipping lanes that run in and out of New York during the day. Last year when we made this trip, we headed out of Cap May in the morning which meant that by the time we were off New York it was dark, making the trip across the shipping channels more difficult and more tense simply because things are not as clear at night as they are during daylight hours.

We hadn’t done much sailing so far but we were making great time thanks to our nice big diesel engine. The 110hp engine can easily push Chase n’ Grace at 9 knots but at this speed it burns a lot of fuel, probably 3 gallons per hour. Since the fuel tank wasn’t overly large, we opted to slow things down and run at just 7 knots which we figured allowed us to burn more like 2 gallons per hour or perhaps a little less. The trip from Cape May to Block Island would take us roughly 30 hours and hence about 60 gallons of fuel. At this rate we wouldn’t have a lot of fuel left over but we would make it.

Will, Graham and Mitch kill a little time while underway playing a game of cards
Will, Graham and Mitch kill a little time while underway playing a game of cards

Before the sun dropped out of sight we decided we would take advantage of the calm weather and grill up a few of those prime Omaha steaks we had  on board. And since a good steak is simply not the same without some mashed potatoes to go along with it, we whomped up some in a pot as well as some fresh broccoli. Dinner was served in the cockpit under the setting sun surrounded by the salty Atlantic Ocean. Decadence at sea suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

By nightfall, our GPS was telling us that we were only 56 miles from the entrance to Block Island. At this rate, we would be in with our anchor down before dawn. Somewhere around midnight, we picked up the lighthouse on the tip of Montauk. and while it appeared to be close enough to practically touch, it took us a good three hours to actually reach it. The boys had long ago succumbed to a long day spent at sea and were all below happily sleeping the night away as we slid past Montauk Point in the predawn hours of our second night at sea.

Growing up sailing on Long Island Sound, I have made tons of trips to Block Island over the years so navigating the channel into Great Salt Pond at night was not a problem. I had rousted Will out of bed just before making our final approach. I did this for two reasons; first, I wanted him to help with the anchor but more importantly, I wanted him to appreciate what it was like to have to haul yourself out of a warm bed and onto a cold deck when there was work to do.  It was still dark and the air heavy with dew as we made our way down the channel and into the harbor. As soon as we cleared green can #11, we swung ourselves to port and into the back of the anchorage. Once we found a spot with plenty of swinging room, I gave a thumbs-up to Will to drop the anchor. Anchoring in Block Island is always a little dicey because the water is deep and the holding ground can be poor if you don’t get the anchor really set. Luckily, Chase and Grace carries something like 300 feet of chain plus another 100 feet of nylon rode so anchoring is rarely a problem. Once we were confident that we were set for the night, we shut the engine down, gave ourselves a quick pat on the back and headed below for some sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a big day… after all, we were in Block Island 🙂

To be continued…

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 – Almost Home

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The Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes, slices through the water with the greatest of ease. Outfitted with standard furling main and 110% genoa, the 64 is not a yacht that’s afraid to sail.

It’s a long poke across the Atlantic to the east coast of the United States on a sailboat. And a longer one still going all the way up into the Great Lakes to St. Clair Shores located on the east coast of Michigan. But that’s exactly the trip that the Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes recently completed.

Prior to yesterday, the last time I had seen Trois Vignes was in March, tied to the dock in the port of Les Sables d’Olonne, France. Shortly thereafter, Trois Vignes headed across the Atlantic, first to the island of Madeira off Portugal then to Halifax, Nova Scotia with the idea of reaching the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Unfortunately, although it was the end of April, the St.Lawrence was still chock full of ice forcing the crew to head south to New York where they pulled the mast before heading north through the Erie Canal. It was quite the adventure!

Yesterday, I caught up with Trois Vignes once again. This time in St. Clair Shores, MI where Bob Reed of St. Clair Sailboat Center was putting the finishing touches on her before making the final handover to her owners, John and Kris Palmer. The day was shaping up to be a beauty with partly sunny skies and a nice breeze of 10-15 knots. It would be a perfect day for a sail.

Trois Vignes sat quietly in her slip looking beautiful as my friend and work associate, Catherine Guiader and I climbed aboard eager to get underway. As luck would have it, John Palmer was already on board. He had driven over that morning from his home in Illinois. He wasn’t about to miss this maiden voyage in US waters or allow Catherine, Bob and I to have all the fun, no way!

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Beautifully finished teak decks highlighted against the jet-black cap rail and white cabin trunk really accent the true elegance of what the Jeanneau 64 is all about.

The Jeanneau 64 comes standard with a bow thruster but in addition to this, Trois Vignes is fitted with the optional retractable stern thruster which makes maneuvering easier than falling off a wet log. Once out on the lake, we used the electric cabin-top winch to pull out the main. The genoa followed and once sheeted in, we were soon off on a beam reach at a respectable 8 knot clip. Trois Vignes benefits from the optional Harken electric mainsheet winch that lives below decks and allows the sheeting of the main at the touch of a button right from the helm station. It’s slicker than grease on a doorknob. I can’t imagine why anybody would order the boat without it.

The four of us spent the afternoon reaching back and forth and having a grand time. Lake St. Clair is not an overly large lake, so when a 64 footer goes by dressed all in black, trust me people notice. We saw lots of pointing fingers followed by the words “beautiful” as we charged on past our fellow boaters. It was a good day and we were enjoying every minute of it.

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Trois Vignes charging along on a beautiful close reach with Catherine at the helm.

Once back at the dock, cold chardonnay in hand, we talked about the final leg of the journey. In just a few weeks, after the final finishing touches and tweaks have been made, Trois Vignes will make its way up Lake Huron, over the top of the Mitten, past Mackinac Island, and into Lake Michigan. Her crew will continue to sail south down the lake, past Beaver Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes. When they reach Holland along Michigan’s western coast, they’ll slip past the Big Red Light House that marks the entrance to Lake Macatawa, Trois Vignes’ home port.

It’s a long poke from Les Sables d’Olonne to Lake Macatawa but Trois Vignes has handled it as we knew she would, like the true ocean-going yacht she is. The journey is not quite over but for this Jeanneau 64 it’s close… she’s almost home.

On we go….

P.S. If you missed the beginning of this saga, you can catch the beginning here!

 

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 – You Gotta See it to Believe it

The Newly painted Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes, sits in the factory Poieter.
Dressed all in black, the newly painted Jeanneau 64, Trois Vignes, sits at the factory in Poiré. She is scheduled to sail in mid-March from Les Sables- d’Olonne to Chicago by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Just about a year ago, I took a trip to France to the town of Le Poiré Sur Vie in the Vendee region to see the first 64 being built. As you can easily imagine, building a 64 foot sailing yacht is not exactly a small accomplishment and in fact due to the dip in the economy, the project had been started and stopped more than once. Seeing the boat for the first time had been impressive. Construction had been about two-thirds of the way along and while the deck had not yet been installed, a good part of the interior had been. Seeing the boat at this stage of the build process was ideal because it provided an unobstructed view into the hull and all the equipment that is required on a boat of this size; generator, engine, water-maker, batteries, washer/dryer, wine cooler, etc. It was pretty much all installed and easy to see.

The true guts of the boat were easy to see and understand at this stage of construction.
The true guts of the boat were easy to see and understand at this stage of construction. You can see much of the front cabin was installed at this point.

Fast forward six months to June 2014 and that same boat, hull #1, was now strutting its stuff around the island of Corsica in the Mediterranee. Once again I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe to see this boat and actually got the chance to help sail it from Corsica to Marseille, about a 24 hour passage. It was an amazing feeling to see and sail the finished product after seeing it on the production line with all its guts hanging out just 6 months before. Right from the beginning I was totally awed by this yacht from her gracious lines to her sailing characteristics to her interior accommodations to her overall quality. It was truly Love at First Sight!

With the light just starting to fade, the Jeanneau 64 sits quietly at anchor off the coast of Corsica
With the light just starting to fade, the Jeanneau 64 sits quietly at anchor in a snug little harbor just off the coast of Corsica.

Fast forward again to last month when I made A Return Trip to Le Poiré to again visit the 64 on the production line. This time, instead of seeing just one boat under production, there were more like four or five. These boats were all in various stages of construction from the very beginnings to pretty much finished and ready to go. What’s more, I learned that 20 boats had already been sold and that the lead-time to get a boat was now stretching out some 18 months. It was also interesting to learn that many of the 64s that have already been sold were going to current Jeanneau owners, especially to owners of the extremely popular Jeanneau 54DS. I found this to be a great testament to the brand, the company, and to the Jeanneau staff. The bottom line is that anyone looking to purchase a 64 foot yacht and spend between one and two million dollars is going to look around at other boats and the fact that so many of these people chose the Jeanneau 64 is really quite a compliment.

The 64 starts life out in the form of 2 separate hull molds. They are each laid up with fiberglass cloth, joined together and infused with resin. The 64 starts life out in the form of 2 separate hull molds. They are each laid up with fiberglass cloth then joined together and infused with resin. From here, the true building begins.
The 64 starts life out in the form of 2 separate hull molds. Each are laid up with fiberglass cloth then joined together and infused with resin. It’s quite a process with first-rate results.

One of the major selling points of the 64 is that the boat has been designed and engineered for choice. What this essentially means is that a number of well-thought-out, highly engineered layouts and features have been pre-designed giving customers a wide choice of interior configurations and options to choose from. And because these were all engineered into the design ahead of time, it literally saves thousands of dollars of expense allowing the boat to be sold at a price well under that of other yachts of this size and quality.

Working for Jeanneau as I do, I have probably visited the factory at least 50 times over the past 18 years. And while seeing a 36 footer roll down the production line is one thing, seeing a 64 go together is quite another. I’m biased I know but I have to say with complete sincerity, the 64 is one impressive machine. But as the title of this story suggests, you gotta see it to believe it.

On we go…

P.S. Stay tuned for more on the 64 when I travel back to France in early March for the christening of the Palmer’s 64, Trois Vignes and her send-off across the Atlantic.

The Jeanneau 64, Love at First Sight – Part 2 (sailing with Philippe Briand)

Whether sitting at anchor or under sail, the Jeanneau 64 is proving to be one sweet ticket to ride!

Our second day in Corsica was met with clear blue skies, plenty of sunshine but not a whole lot of breeze. We had made a plan the night before to rendezvous for lunch. I can tell you that as a long-time member of the Crack of Noon Club, lunchtime worked fine for me. It had been a late night and I for one was still suffering from jet-lag so not having to jump out of bed first thing in the morning was a welcome surprise. We all pretty much hooked up right on schedule and after a nice plate of moules frites (mussels and fries) and a cold Heineken, we were ready for a sail on the Jeanneau 64. We had just cast of the lines and begun to pull away from the dock when who should show up but Philippe Briand. We quickly backed up, hauled Philippe aboard and headed out of the harbor of Porto-Vecchio. Being in Corsica was one thing. Being in Corsica sailing on a brand spanking new 64 footer was even better. But sailing around Corsica aboard a new 64 footer with Philippe Briand the designer of the boat on board? This was pretty much over the top!

The Jeanneau 64 – hull #1, carries two fixed headsails. The outer sail is a 110% genoa on an electric furling system while the inner sail is a 90% self-tacking jib on a manual furling system. This is a very nice setup where the genoa can be used for lighter wind and the self-taking jib for heavy wind and where you find yourself doing a lot of tacking to windward. Hull #1 also has a code 0 which comes in very handy on light-air days when you’re looking for a little extra horsepower.

Jeanneau's Nick Harvey enjoys a spot on the bow of the 64 just in front of the Code 0
Jeanneau’s Nick Harvey enjoys a spot on the bow of the 64 just in front of the Code 0. Note the electric furling unit just behind the anchor which is standard equipment on the boat.

Soon after leaving the harbor we pulled out the main, unfurled the code 0 and went off on a close reach. The 64 has an incredibly big cockpit. In fact at one point, Erik Stromberg and I counted 17 people on board and we still had room for more. Life on deck is essentially separated into two zones with the aft part of the cockpit reserved for the operation of the boat and the forward section reserved for lounging and dining. I did a little bit of both!

Philippe Briand temporarily lost in thought and Jeanneau America's Valerie Toomey put the forward cockpit to good use during our brief but enjoyable sail
Philippe Briand (temporarily lost in thought) and Jeanneau America’s Valerie Toomey put the forward cockpit to good use during our brief but enjoyable sail. Notice how the cockpit tale is down on the port side making for a huge longing area but is up on the starboard side. This arrangement gives you lots of versatility depending on what you’re after at any given time, longing or dining.

The business end of the cockpit is clean and uncluttered. Because the 64 has an arch, the mainsheet traveler is overhead and completely out of the way. Also, trimming of the main benefits from a clever piece of technology in the form of a Harken electric winch that lives below the mast step and does the job of sheeting in and out the main at the touch of a button. Not only does this system make handling the main incredibly easy, it also completely eliminates having yards and yards of mainsheet in the cockpit. It’s really an awesome system!

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Captain Fenn standing at the port helm of the Jeanneau 64. From here, the helmsman has complete control of the vessel whether navigating, trimming sails, motoring or dropping anchor. It can all be done from the vicinity of the duel helm stations.

Philippe Briand on What Makes a Yacht a Yacht:

Because this first sail was just with my fellow Jeanneau colleagues, it made for a very casual and enjoyable setting. It also allowed me some one on one time with Philippe to pick his brain about how the Jeanneau 64 came to be. One of the questions I was most interested in hearing his answer to was “what makes a yacht a yacht and not just another big boat?” When I put this question to him, he smiled broadly and said, “oh, let me think about that for a minute. It’s a good question” You would think that a guy that regularly designs super-yachts between 100′ – 250′ long would have an easy answer to this question but instead, he gave the question serious thought. After a few seconds he said, “a yacht provides the customer with the ability to have his fingerprints on the project. You have to view it more like a villa that is configured and outfitted to the owner’s taste. With a yacht, you have to make accommodations for the owner’s taste by providing more custom options.” “And how do you balance the fact that at the end of the day the 64 is still a production boat and not a custom boat” I asked. “Another good question,” he said. “The great thing about what Jeanneau offers to the customer, is a highly engineered design that allows for a variety of configurations and options that will meet 95% of the customers desires all at a price that doesn’t come anywhere close to a one-off custom yacht. I really think that more than the designers, more than the craftsman, it’s the engineers that should get the credit for the finished product. Without them, the boat would never have been built.” “So it sounds like Jeanneau is on the right track” I said. “Honestly, I think when it comes to modern boat building, it’s the only logical way to go.” Philippe concluded.

Valerie Toomey relaxes on the drop-down swim platform after taking a refreshing dip in the cool Medateranian Sea.
Valerie Toomey relaxes on the drop-down swim platform after taking a refreshing dip in the cool Mediterranean Sea.

We manged to find the time to drop anchor and take a swim before heading back to the dock. After-all, we wanted to test all aspects of the boat. While at anchor, Erik was lamenting to Philippe about how much it had cost him to outfit the boat with high-end pillows and comforters. “This stuff cost a small fortune” Erik said. “Of course” Philippe replied. “What did you expect, it’s A Yacht!” “Oh” I chimed in, “so the real difference between a yacht and a boat is that a yacht cost more?” Philippe smiled and laughed and said, “of course, that’s what makes a yacht so special!” I should have known!

Enjoying a cold Heineken on a beautiful day in Corsica aboard the Jeanneau 64
Just me enjoying a cold Heineken on a beautiful day in Corsica aboard the Jeanneau 64

The story continues at Love at First Sight – Part 3 when we set sail for some of Corsica’s most beautiful harbors for a photo shoot and then head offshore for an ocean passage to Marseille.

On we go….

The Jeanneau 64, Love at First Sight – Part 1

Corsica
Corsica is a rugged and an amazingly beautiful island. Although not part of the original plan, I’ll end up spending 10 days here sailing aboard the new Jeanneau 64

We landed on the French island of Corsica at 10:30 at night. Located about 200 miles south of the French mainland and just west of Italy, Corsica is one of those quintessential Mediterranean Islands that rises up out of the sea like a rough-cut diamond. Lonely planet describes Corsica as “an island designed for beach lovers, culture buffs, hikers, and divers. It combines vast stretches of shoreline with the beauty of the mountains, plenty of activities for your body and some rich history to engage your mind.” I along with my two associates, Valerie Toomey and Jeff Jorgensen, have come for a different purpose, to see, sail and help launch the Jeanneau 64, the new flagship of the Jeanneau range.

I had seen the 64 while under construction back in December. And, while my friend and colleague Erik Stromberg, did his usual great job walking me through the boat and describing what the finished product would eventually look like, artist renderings and imagination can only get you so far. Now it was time for seeing and believing.

Jeanneau 64 at night
The Jeanneau 64 sits stern to in downtown Porto-Vecchio. While it may not be the largest yacht in town, it’s impressive none the less.

By the time we arrived at our hotel it was late. But we had no sooner gotten out of the car and headed to check in when out on the water under a bright canopy of stars, came the Jeanneau 64 gliding by in all its brilliance headed for the marina. My first thought was “where is she coming from and why is she out so late?” My second thought was, “wow, this boat looks awesome.” The 64 sports a triple spreader rig and this specific boat (hull #1) has the optional double headstay with a 110% genoa on the outer stay and a smaller, self-tacking jib on the inner stay. The combination of the white painted mast, triple spreaders and double headstay, immediately left me with the impression that the 64 was much more than just a big boat, it was a true yacht.

Since the marina was just a few steps from the hotel, Valerie, Jeff and I quickly dropped our bags and made a bee-line for the boat. I was excited to find on board a bunch of my friends from Jeanneau including Erik Stromberg who I have worked with now for 15 or 16 years. Erik welcomed us on board and handed each of us a glass of red wine. We all made our way below and stood for a while in the main salon. “Well, what do you think” said Erik. My initial response was “don’t rush me, I’m taking it all in.” And I was, this was a lot of boat. Huge master cabin aft, two guest cabins forward, a fourth cabin to starboard with upper and lower berths, beautifully appointed galley to port, and a main salon that screamed “come on in, sit down and enjoy yourself… all of you!”

DSC01875
A view of the dining table in the main salon. Notice the light oak wood with off-white leather upholstery. Large hull ports bring in plenty of natural light and provide for a view to the sea while seated

The red wine continued to flow as did the conversations. Those of us who hadn’t seen the boat before took ourselves on a self-guided tour. Some of us first went forward while others started aft. Some hung in the galley, others stretched out in the owner’s aft cabin. Soon we all settled around the table in the main salon. “Well?” Erik said. “Really comfortable” I replied. “It just feels really warm and comfortable” I added.

The interior of the Jeanneau 64 is a lot more than just big. It’s also extremely well proportioned, things just fit together nicely. The seating for example around the dining table is super comfortable, it’s just the right height. You feel like you can sit there for hours just hanging out with friends, wine glass in hand, solving the problems of the world. The colors and choice of materials go together extremely well. For example the wood that is used is a light oak while the color of the salon floor is dark, almost an ebony. Dark leather is used to accent the light oak as well. The contrast is amazingly nice. And while the interior is definitely modern, it’s not so modern to be impractical or cold. In fact it’s just the opposite. It feels very practical and very warm.  Andrew Winch, the interior designer on the project really nailed it.

Paul on 64
Yours truly seated at the aft end of the main salon enjoying a fine glass of Bordeaux shortly after my arrival in Corsica

It’s easy to be impressed by a big boat, especially one that’s 64 feet. The Jeanneau 64 is a lot more than just a big boat however, it’s a real yacht. And what makes a yacht a yacht? Follow more of the story at Love at First Site – Part 2, when I go sailing with the designer Philippe Briand, and ask him that very question.

On we go…