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!
The letter began, “Dearest extended family, colleagues, and friends, as the saying goes, “You can’t control the wind but you can adjust your sails.” As is so predictable in life, the time has come for Ken and I to adjust our sails.” Carolyn Schmalenberger, Co-Owner, Norton Yachts
Norton Yachts began in 1948 by Ed Norton. In 1961 the torch was passed to Billy Norton, Ed’s son, who took over. Billy had a daughter named Carolyn, who grew up watching her father run the boatyard in the little town of Deltaville, VA. Carolyn had a passion for the water and sailing which she carried with her through her adolescence and into adulthood. In her freshman year at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, she met a tall, good-looking Ken Schmalenberger. They were married in 1978 and by 1983 they had returned to Deltaville to work in the family business. In 1995, the torch was passed once again, this time to Ken and Carolyn who have been running the show ever since.
“It is truly an honor to say that not only did I spend 20 years with great business people and owners, but forever friends.”Mike Lynch, Yacht Broker at Norton Yachts
In 2004 after a couple of years of banging on their door and basically being a pest, I finally convinced Carolyn to represent Jeanneau in the lower Chesapeake. Norton Yacht’s had been a longtime Hunter dealer, routinely being honored for their outstanding customer service. I knew they would do equally well for Jeanneau, and of course they did!
“Carolyn and Ken made the process of buying and owning a boat a pure joy, but it was clear I’d made new friends, not just a business relationship.” Baylor Fooks, Jeanneau 349 & Jeanneau 469 owner
“When you purchase a boat from Norton’s you are immediately grafted into Family. We have purchased several (we won’t reveal the number!) from Carolyn and Ken at Norton’s, and each time the idea of Family is reinforced.” Christopher Lindbloom and Nancy Glinn Powell, Jeanneau 469 (Bolero)
Last year on February 16th, life for Ken and Carolyn abruptly changed when Ken had a very serious skiing accident in Utah. While Ken survived the accident, the recovery has been hard and slow and left him unable to work, at least for now. As Carolyn wrote in her letter, “it’s a miracle that Ken survived.”
And so, after a great run of 70 years of Norton Yachts being a true family-owned business, Carolyn decided that it was time to look for a new owner but only if they met three non-negotiable criteria. First, the buyers would make taking care of their beloved customers their #1 priority. Second, the Norton Yachts team would remain intact and members would not face unemployment. And third, the new owner would take the 70 year-strong company into the future with the highest integrity and best business practices.
Enter, Michael Kucera and Anton Webre, the New owners of Norton Yachts. Michael Kucera was raised on the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County and is a lifelong boater. Anton Webre has sailed since he was 5 years old, and has completed both trans-Atlantic, trans-Pacific, as well as numerous trips between the Northeast and Caribbean.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to carry on Norton’s 70-year legacy and build upon the marina’s impeccable reputation. I have known the Schmalenberger family since my childhood, and that makes this endeavor all the more exciting and meaningful.” Michael Kucera
“After a 30 year career on Wall St., I am very much looking forward to producing something real, and helping spread the joy that boating has brought to my life. I feel that we have not just acquired a marina from Ken and Carolyn, but a friendship, and look forward to relying on their wise counsel for years to come.” Anton Webre
Last week, Carolyn cleaned out her desk and officially passed the Norton torch that has burned so brightly for the past 70 years to Michael and Anton. It was bitter-sweet for sure but Carolyn has no regrets. “When it’s time to tack, you tack.”
The letter closed, “As for Ken and myself, we will be cheering for Mike and Anton and are here to provide guidance during the transition as needed. We will continue to work towards Ken’s recovery and spend more time with our children and granddaughter. God willing, on a day when the wind is perfect, we’ll catch a steady breeze and sail wherever the wind blows. Thank you for the best ride of our lives and please stay in touch.” Carolyn Schmalenberger
As for me, I will miss my conversations with Carolyn, brainstorming about marketing, social media, and the importance of always delivering top-notch customer service. And I will miss sharing a cold one with Ken at the end of those long days at the Annapolis Boat Show. But I look forward to working with and getting to know Michael and Anton and someday in the not so different future, I’m going to make it a point to drive down to Deltaville and go for a sail with my dear friends Ken and Carolyn; because that’s what good friends do, they get together, share a cool beverage, do exciting things, laugh, and have fun.
For the most part, the boating season here on the Chesapeake Bay is pretty much toast. Oh, there are still a few boats running around and of course the diehard racers are still out there but for all practical purposes the season is over. Last week however, we had a nice stretch of indian summer with unseasonably warm temps in the mid-seventies, clear blue skies, and plenty of sunshine. This, along with the fall foliage being just about at its peak, served up the perfect conditions to head out onto The Bay one last time to shoot a few photos of the newly arrived Jeanneau NC 14 with my good friend Billy Black.
Over the years, I have worked many times with Billy, including a great trip we took together a couple of years ago sailing from Miami to the Bahamas aboard the Jeanneau 469. Billy likes to start early and finish late in order to take full advantage of the changing light throughout the day. A day on the water with Billy Black is always a long one and today would be no exception. We headed out about 6:30am and ran up the Severn River to pick up my wife Kim and my three kids; Will, Mollie, and Graham who would serve as our models for the day. None of them were too psyched about getting up so early but that all changed the moment they got aboard the NC 14 and walked into the main salon.
The NC 14 is really designed for great on-board living with special emphasis on interior living. The large sliding door aft, big opening sunroof, and huge windows on either side provide for plenty of sunlight making the main salon toasty warm even on a chilly day.
With the exception of the 2 cabins and 2 heads below, everything else is located on the main deck; good size galley to port, nice dining area to starboard, small convertible dinette forward, and great steering station with plenty of visibility. It’s all there just like an upscale Manhattan apartment complete with a view of the Hudson River.
Now that we had everyone on board, including my dog, we headed further up the Severn River to one of our favorite spots that we refer to as Cocktail Cove; the name pretty much speaks for itself. The morning sun continued to climb, casting a welcome glow on us as we dropped anchor in the northwest corner of the harbor. Here against the backdrop of the changing seasons, Billy circled around us snapping picture after picture.
Earlier, in my haste to get off the dock and meet Billy, I neglected to check to see how much fuel we had. Now I know what you’re thinking, “the dummy didn’t run out of fuel did he?” Well, sort of. I’ve always been fond of the saying, “you expect what you inspect.” Unfortunately, in this case I failed to take my own advice and ended up running out of fuel on the port engine. And while this was not an overly terrific situation, it wasn’t completely tragic either since I still had a bit of fuel in the starboard engine. It would prove just enough to limp up to the local watering hole and fill up.
Founded in 1936, Smith’s Marina is one of those little gems of a place that caters to the family boater, everything from jet skis to bow-riders. In short, it’s about as far away from what a marina looks like in Fort Lauderdale as you can get. Because of this, we got some interesting looks as we slid up to the fuel dock in our brand new, 46 foot, euro-styled motor yacht.
We were greeted by a young dock attendant, Anna, who helped us tie up and then passed us the diesel hose so we could fuel up. While we did this, Billy, camera in hand, went off exploring.
One thing I’ve learned about Billy, and I guess this is true for all photographers, he never stops taking pictures. He was like a kid in a candy store, off wandering the boat yard, looking at this and that, his camera clicking away at anything he deemed interesting, including Anna!
Before too long, we were back underway feeling much more comfortable knowing that we now had full fuel tanks. The day was continuing to warm and Billy got some more great shots of us as we ran down the Severn River towards Annapolis.
All and all, the NC 14 is a pretty awesome machine. It runs fast and easy, is a piece of cake to maneuver because of the twin Volvo IPS engines with joystick control, has plenty of outside living space, and has a killer interior. And once your fuel tanks are full, the NC 14 is good to go, anywhere your dreams take you; comfortably, safely, and in total style.
Located just 95 miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, sits the city of Cadillac, population 10,355. Switching continents, the city of Les Herbiers (pronounced “Laser-B-A”), population 15,500, sits about 45 miles south of France’s fifth largest city of Nantes (pronounced “Naunt”). At first glance, other than population-size, the two cities don’t appear to have a whole lot in common but if you’ll bear with me I’ll explain where I’m going with this.
So in 1957, Henri Jeanneau founded the Jeanneau Shipyard in Les Herbiers, initially producing small wooden runabouts. Five years later in 1962, in the city of Cadillac, the Four Winns brand was founded also building small runabouts. Boat builders tend to stick together and as luck would have it, today, some 55 plus years later, both brands are owned by Groupe Beneteau where not only is experience and technologies shared but production facilities as well.
Groupe Beneteau has a long history of building boats in America going back 30 years with the opening of the factory in Marion, SC in 1986. But up until now, US production has been reserved for only the Beneteau and Jeanneau sailboats. This has now changed with the production of the very popular Jeanneau NC 895 in Cadillac, the very first Jeanneau powerboat to roll down a US production line.
“This is such a fantastic opportunity for us to really serve the American market with our powerboats as we have with our sailboats. We are so excited to be working with the our friends in Cadillac.”Nick Harvey, President, Jeanneau America.
It’s a rather big deal to make the commitment to build boats in America. First and foremost it takes a dedicated team with lots of experience and knowhow building quality boats. And while I’m not an overly technical, industrial sort of a guy, after spending a couple of days with the people in Cadillac and touring the factory there, I was pretty impressed. Not just with the work ethic here but the overall spirit. It reminded me of another group of boat builders I know, one that I have worked closely with for the past 20 years, from a city not unlike Cadillac, in France, called Les Herbiers. And you know something, while we may live in a big world, in our world, the world of boats and water, and having fun, in the end, we are not so different, and this to me is pretty cool.
“The opportunity to build the Jenneau NC895 and other models currently built in Europe is an honor and testimonial to the work ethic and the team we have created in Cadillac Michigan.” Rick Videan, VP of Operations Cadillac
The Jeanneau NC 895 will be making the boat show rounds this winter throughout North America. It’s a fantastic boat, so be sure to climb aboard. It will be easy to spot by its sporty looks and twin outboards on the back. Oh and by the large sticker on its side reading, Proudly Built in the USA!
So originally, my plan had been to attend the annual Cannes Yachting Festival in the South of France during the first couple of days the show. But, due to a number of unforeseen factors, including Hurricane Irma, that plan went out the window. Instead, I arrived in Cannes at the tail-end of the show with the idea of staying afterwords in order to test sail the new Sun Odyssey 440 or 490 or both.
Before I go any further, I need to stop right here and explain that both the Sun Odyssey 440 and 490 represent a new generation in Jeanneau’s Sun Odyssey range and feature a host of new and exciting innovations that are definitely worth talking about.
For starters, both boats feature “sloping” side decks which make moving and circulating around the boat truly unique. No longer will you have to step out of the cockpit and onto the actual deck. On this new generation of boats, circulation around the entire deck is continuous.
A new rig design helps as well due to the way the shrouds are positioned with the upper shrouds being attached to the outer most part of the hull and the lower shrouds being attached closer to the cabin top. This provides for plenty of strength and support and also makes for an easy passage along the deck when moving fore and aft.
In the spirit of really maximizing comfort on deck, both models feature very innovative, fold-down coamings, which create massive lounging areas on either side of the cockpit. I mean seriously, this is pretty slick!
OK, back to Cannes and the boat show and my plan to go sailing after the show. As it turned out, both boats, the 440 and 490 were immediately bound for other shows, the 440 to Turkey and the 490 to Genoa. Long story short, I opted for the 95 mile sail along the coast to Genoa aboard the 490.
I would have preferred, and was assuming, we would be leaving early Monday morning but as it turned out, the skipper who was hired to deliver the boat, wanted to leave Sunday night so we would arrive in Genoa early the next morning. So, shortly after the show closed, just about sunset, the skipper, his buddy, and I, climbed on board, fired up the engine and headed out into a choppy Mediterranean Sea.
The wind, which had been blowing hard all day, continued to whistle out of the Southwest, putting it dead astern of us at a solid 25-30 knots. We had started out with a single reef in the main and just a small bit of jib out but soon realized that we still had too much sail up. We quickly tucked in reef #2.
Both the Sun Odyssey 440 and 490 feature twin rudders which make sailing the boat, especially in heavy air, a real delight. Unlike a single rudder boat which can easily round-up when heeling in strong winds, twin rudder boats allow the leeward rudder to sit deep in the water, providing excellent steerage and control.
I’m always careful not to overestimate wave heights and wind strength but I’m confident in saying that the seas were big, like 8, 10, 12 feet big and breaking. Speeds coming down the waves in the following seas were consistently between 15-17 knots, which for a 49 foot cruising boat is FLYING! And, although our autopilot struggled at times, the big 490 tracked straight and true throughout the night, even if at times I did not!
Call me a baby but I have to say, the brightening sky followed by the rising sun was a welcome sight. The wind was still blowing but not quite as hard. And, it had shifted direction so we enjoyed the benefit of being somewhat in the lee of the Italian coast so the seas were a more reasonable size. It was still lumpy but not huge as it had been.
By 10am or so we were firmly on the dock in Genoa. My shipmates, who I really didn’t spend a lot of time chatting with, quickly packed their bags and disappeared. I on the other hand, was in no real rush. I kicked back in the cockpit, closed my eyes, and remembered that great line from Captain Ron, “The best way to find out Kitty, is to get her out on the ocean. If anything is going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.” And I smiled of course and laughed and thought to myself, he’s right. Just make sure when you’re “out there” and it “happens,” you have a good boat under you like the all new Sun Odyssey 490.
Located 900 nautical miles off the east coast of Africa, just below the equator in the Indian Ocean, sits the Seychelles Islands. Well known for its pristine beaches, coral reefs, diving, nature reserves, secluded harbors, and rare wildlife such as the giant Aldabra tortoise, the Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands, most of which remain uninhabited. With all that the Seychelles has to offer, it should come as no surprise that when it came time to pick a sailing destination to cruise for a week with my family, the Seychelles were our number one choice.
Our adventure began by first flying from Washington, DC to Dubai and then to the island of Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles Islands and home to 90% of the nation’s 89,000 citizens. From Mahé, we took a fast-ferry to the island of Praslin where we boarded a beautiful Jeanneau 469 that we chartered from Dream Yacht Charters. Picking the boat up in Praslin was super-convenient as it put us just a few miles from several smaller islands and saved us the 25 mile sail from Mahé.
I should stop right here an explain that there are two distinct seasons or monsoons in the Seychelles, the summer season and the winter season. The summer season (December -May), is high-season with loads of travelers flocking from the north to escape the winter chill of the northern hemisphere. The summer season, unlike the winter season, offers much calmer, more predictable weather which is ideal for the visiting yachtsman or visitors in general. The winter season (June-November) is low season and while the sailing is still good, it’s almost too good in the sense that you can easily find yourself having to deal with 25-30 knots of wind which is more than ideal if you’re trying to relax and have a good time.
As a family, we have never been very good at getting away from the dock early. We always seem to be running around doing this or that or checking on something before getting underway. I think it was close to noon before we finally cast off the dock lines, raised the anchor and headed out the channel of Baie St. Anne. The wind was blowing about 18K from the west, so once out of the channel, we decided to hook left and shoot down Praslin’s east coast in the lee of the island.
Once out of the wind and the lumpy seas of the Indian Ocean, we had a nice reach down Praslin’s eastern shore. Just a few miles down, we decided to make a stop at the tiny island of St. Pierre to take a swim and check out the island’s surrounding reef. We were expecting to find moorings here as you do in the British Virgin Islands but surprisingly enough, moorings are pretty non-existent in the Seychelles, even in the overnight anchorages. We anchored easily in 15 feet of water being careful to avoid the coral reef below, threw on our snorkeling gear and hopped into the warm turquoise water. We circumnavigated the island finding the snorkeling to be exceptional with great visibility and plenty of sea life. It was a well-worth stop for sure.
Just a stone’s throw from St.Pierre, we found a nice anchorage in Anse Possession in about 10 feet of water over a sand bottom just on the other side of Pointe Zanguilles. We didn’t take advantage of it but just a short dinghy ride away, is the four-star waterfront resort, Le Domaine de la Reserve in case you’re looking for an upscale meal along with a little first-class pampering. Other resorts are in this area as well that are just a short walk from the beach.
On day two, after a leisurely start, we slid over to Curieuse Island. Curieuse Island is a bio-reserve that is managed by the Marine Parks Authority of the Seychelles‘ Center for Marine Technology. Here you will find no hotels, no restaurants and from what we could tell, no permanent residents with the exception of the Aldabra tortoises and other wild creatures that roam the island.
In addition to the tortoises, there is a beautiful walking trail that winds its way through a dense section of Mangrove trees and weather-worn cliffs that leads to the other side of the island. Along the way, there are some beautiful views of the harbor and surrounding islands.
We stayed two nights in Curieuse before sailing over to the island of Le Digue. Le Digue offers everything that Curieuse does not; hotels, glamorous beaches, restaurants and plenty of entertainment. There is a clearly marked channel that leads into the inner-harbor. Once inside, you need to drop your anchor and tie-up stern-to, to the sea wall. It’s all fairly easy and there are people around to help you get your lines across to the seawall and secured. A big bonus of coming to Le Digue besides the island itself is that dockage is free. That’s right, free as in “no charge!”
We stayed three nights in Le Digue for the simple reason that we were enjoying ourselves. We rented bikes and zipped around the island from one end to the other, more than once! We treated ourselves to dinner out and somewhere along the line found this great spot at the top of the mountain that we hiked up to and indulged in some great, all natural, cold tropical drinks. It was terrific as was the view!
There are many other islands worth exploring but the wind continued to blow fairly hard for my young crew so we opted to keep things simple and head back down the coast of Praslin to Baie of Chevalier and Anse Lazio. Voted by Trip advisor as the 6th best beach in the world,anchoring off Anse Lazio is quite simply hard to beat.
When all was said and done, we didn’t put a whole lot of water under our keel and didn’t get to as many islands as we would have liked to. But, we had a terrific time exploring the islands and harbors we did get to and decided as a family that we’ll just have to come back and visit those islands a little further off the beaten path the next time around.
“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!
Unlike 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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.
This coming Sunday, June 21st, is Father’s Day. Coincidentally, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s also the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year when the sun reaches its northernmost point of the equator marking the first day of summer. In addition to all this, Sunday is also Summer Sailstice, a world wide celebration of all things sailing.
Summer Sailstice was started by John Arndt back in 2001 as a way to share sailing by getting the whole world sailing on the weekend nearest the solstice. “I’ve sailed my whole life and worked in the sailing business for 30 years.” says John. “And like every sailor I know, I always wanted to share sailing with everyone. Sailing comes in an endless variety of styles – racing, cruising, dinghies, tall ships. The enormous variety makes it very challenging for the world to understand and for sailors to unite around a common event. Yet all these sailors are passionate about sailing and all want to share it with others. The Summer Sailstice sailing celebration gives every sailor a date to participate, to hoist sails, to show off their aspect of sailing and to share it with friends and the rest of the world. It’s growing and we’re looking forward to the day when the whole world sails for Summer Sailstice. And, when it gets big enough, it will become a global 3-day weekend for sailors!”
For me, the fact that Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as the Summer Solstice and Summer Sailstice this year is most appropriate. My dad, who passed away last year at the age of 93 was a huge sailor and a great dad. As a teenager, he learned to sail on Canandaigua Lake in up-state New York where my grandparents had a summer place. Somewhere along the line, my grandfather purchased a beautiful wooden sloop he named the Lorna Doone which my dad lovingly sailed up and down the lake during the long days of summer. Later, when I was a young boy, my dad purchased a wooden racing dinghy called a Jollyboat designed by Uffa Fox. The Jollyboat was an incredibly fast and spirited racing dinghy that often needed 3 or 4 people on the rail to keep the thing from capsizing when the wind piped up. He named the boat Betsey Anne, after my older sister Betsey who was born mentally retarded and never got much of a shot a life.
When I was about 14, my dad bought for the two of us to race on together, one of the first 420’s to find its way into the U.S. from France. We named this boat Quick Step because if you weren’t quick on your feet you could easily find yourself in the drink. This was followed some years later by a Rhodes 22 then finally a Bayfield 36.
Like my friend John Arndt, sailing has always been part of my life; largely because my father introduced me to it at a young age and taught me to love and appreciate the sea.
Last year about this time, in honor of my dad and Father’s Day, I wrote a blog titled, We are Only as Good as that which we Leave Behindwhere I make the point that what’s really important in life is not so much our accomplishments but rather the examples we set, the lessons we pass on and the tone by which we lead our lives. Sailing was a big part of my dad’s life. Turns out, not so surprisingly, it was a big part of John Arndt’s dad’s life too. Summer Sailstice helps to promote the legacy and the love of sailing of those that came before. So here’s to great fathers who loved to sail and do love to sail and perhaps with a little help from the long days of summer, will love to sail. Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere and happy sailing.