The Jeanneau 64 – Almost Home

DSC00195
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!

DSC00231
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.

DSC00170
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, 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.

photo 2
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!
photo 3
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…

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…