Paul Fenn, Take a Shot Media

After 70 Years of Sailing Straight and True, Norton Yachts Decides it’s Time to Tack

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Ken and Carolyn Schmalenberger, owners of Norton Yachts pose for a pic during the Annapolis Sailboat Show 2015

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.

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Carolyn Norton Schmalenberger literally grew up on the marina property; work there included selling fuel to boaters, cleaning the bath house, and then graduated to painting boat bottoms,  and prepping teak for the “finish” guy to do his magic.

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

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The Schmalenberger family including Ken, Kendall, Whitney and Carolyn at the Peter Island Beach Resort during the Jeanneau Owner’s Rendezvous in the BVI -2014

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)

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“Ken and Carolyn treat us like best family.  They are also family to us. I can sail without worry because the Norton’s crew always fixes any issues and problems.  They are simply wonderful people who have introduced us to the exhilaration of sailing and have expanded our horizons.” Jiho and Joan Han, Jeanneau 509

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

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Anton Webre and Michael Kucera, the proud new owners of Norton Yachts.

“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.”

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You can’t control the wind but you can always adjust your sails

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.

On we go…

 

 

 

 

 

A Sporty First Sail Aboard the Sun Odyssey 490 Brings out the Best in this Exciting New Model

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.

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The main salon aboard the new Sun Odyssey 490 is bright, contemporary and full of great innovative ideas.

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.

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A view of the port side deck aboard the Sun Odyssey 440. Notice how the level of the deck behind the wheel is at the same level as the lowest point of the side deck allowing for easy access to the outer edge of the boat.

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.

Wide side decks and placement of the shrouds allow for easy passage when moving from bow to stern.

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!

Life on deck is truly maximized by this clever design of fold-down cockpit coamings. Who would have thunk!

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.

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Both the Sun Odyssey 440 and 490 feature twin rudders which really help with controlling the boat in heavy air. Notice the windward rudder is barely in the water leaving the leeward rudder to do all the work.

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!

Paul Fenn onboard the Jeanneau 54 in Key Largo FLCall 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.

On we go…

Annapolis Sailboat Show – Still Growing, Still Very Much a Family Affair

In September of 2013 I published a blog titled, Annapolis Sailboat Show, A Growing Family AffairIt started like this:

“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.”

Young and old, everyone on the Jeanneau team turns out in force to lend a hand building the display. Team Building at its best!!
The Jeanneau America team in October 2012 following the close of the show along with my 3 kids: Graham (6), Mollie (9), and Will (10)

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.

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Yours truly with a now 13 year old Mollie Fenn working the reception desk at this year’s Jeanneau Yachts display

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.

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The annual Jeanneau Owner’s Party now exceeds more than 200 and continues to be one of the highlights of the Annapolis show

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!

Father’s Day Sails into the First Day of Summer Side by Side with Summer Sailstice

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The author, yours truly, at the helm of the Jeanneau 349 on Lake Erie. As I’m always fond of saying, “Life’s too short to sit at the dock.”

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!”

My dad and my Aunt Ruth sailing on Canandaigua Lake aboard the Lorna Doone about 1938. Dad loved to sail and always tried to get all that he could out of the boat and the conditions. I love this picture with his leg draped over the side in an effort to keep the boat sailing flat.
My dad and my Aunt Ruth sailing on Canandaigua Lake aboard the Lorna Doone about 1938. Dad loved to sail and always tried to get all that he could out of the boat and the conditions. I love this picture with his leg draped over the side in an effort to keep the boat sailing flat.

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.

My dad and my Uncle Dave aboard the Betsey Anne in 1970 just before the start of the Nationals on Lake Erie. My older sister Bonnie is also aboard but somewhere in the bilge out of sight.
My dad and my Uncle Dave aboard the Betsey Anne in 1966 just before the start of the Nationals on Lake Erie. My older sister Bonnie is also aboard but somewhere in the bilge out of sight.

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 Behind where 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.

On we go…

P.S. Interested in sailing on the Summer Solstice? Hop on board at www.summersailstice.com and enjoy the ride.

John Arndt:
John Arndt: “A picture of 2 of my brothers and a friend of ours in our first ‘”family boat.” I’m in blue and my youngest brother is doubled up w/the life jacket and inner tube. This is where it all began!

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!

 

This is What it’s All About

The Sun Odyssey 469 and 509 lay along the seawall in No Name Harbor moments before departing for a sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas
The Sun Odyssey 469 and 509 lay along the seawall in No Name Harbor prior to departing for our sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. It was an awesome trip!

A year ago last February, just after the close of the Miami boat show, we had the idea of sailing Jeanneau’s newest model at the time, the Sun Odyssey 469 and her big sister, the Sun Odyssey 509 from Miami to the Bahamas for a photo shoot. Actually, this had been arranged before the Miami show but it was all scheduled to take place immediately after the show ended. The trip was meant to serve two purposes. The first was to capture some great pictures of the 469 in a great location, the Bahamas. The second objective was to have a magazine editor come along for the ride to review the boat, by putting it through its paces and publish the findings. With this in mind, we would be joined by well-known marine photographer Billy Black and his assistant Megan as well as Herb McCormick, Cruising World Magazine’s senior editor. We also needed a few people to help sail the boats so we ended up with a good chunk of the Jeanneau America staff coming along including Jeanneau’s product development manager, Erik Stromberg as well as yours truly. But wait, can’t very well have a photo shoot without having a few good looking models on board so, we were “forced” to bring along with us some cute females to help fill the frame of Billy’s camera and to help the boats shine as bright as possible.

Valerie Toomey of Jeanneau with Meagan Beauchemin and Stefanie Gallo relaxing while sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas on the Jeanneau 509.
Valerie Toomey of Jeanneau with Meagan Beauchemin and Stefanie Gallo relaxing while sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini on the Jeanneau 509. Billy Black never stops, he’s always shooting.

Pulling all this together required a fair bit of coordination which we were a little shy on come takeoff time. There were a myriad of little problems, all of which caused us to get underway much later than expected and which you can read about and amuse yourself with by reading about them in a previous post of mine titled, High and Dry in No Name Harbor followed by the sequel, Unstuck and Underway. All of this being said, at the end of the day our trip across the Gulf Stream and back was a huge success and was a lot of fun for all involved. So, where am I going with all this, why am I bringing this up?

The answer is this, after the trip we thought it would be fun to make a video of our adventure; a transparent, behind the scenes view of a photo shoot in the Bahamas. We did this and it has been happily living on YouTube ever since. And, at the time of this writing, is close to having had 30,000 views; close to 30,000 views but not quite. But wait, there’s more. During the Annapolis boat show this year, I ran into a customer who recently purchased a Jeanneau 509. He told me that while he had considered other boats, he had decided on the 509 after watching a video of the boat sailing in the Bahamas as part of a photo shoot. Specifically he said, “there was a scene right at the end when the crew is bringing the boats back across the Gulf Stream and the sun is going down and the guy sailing the boat (that’s me by the way) says, “this is what it’s all about, being out here with the sun going down and the moon coming up behind us, it’s so nice being out here.” And I thought to myself, this could be me.”

Yours truly with Stefanie by my side just before sunset on our way back across the Gulf Stream to Florida.
Me with Stefanie by my side just before sunset on our way back across the Gulf Stream to Florida.

After the boat show, I went back and watched the video a few more times and was reminded of how much I liked it and what a good time we all had making it. I was also impressed that it had been viewed almost 30,000 times (29,793 to be exact). The fact that someone had liked it enough to inspire them to buy a boat was real icing on the cake. And so I thought I would blog about this a bit and include it here for all to enjoy. And, to ask a favor of you, that if you like it, let me know by giving it a thumbs up and help send it on its way to reaching 30,000 views and more. Better yet, go buy your own boat, set the sails and take an awesome journey. After all, this is what it’s all about.

Enjoy the show!

Chase’n Grace, Annapolis to Block Island – Part 2

Leaving Cape May in route to Block Island
Natalie and Mitch sit on the bow as we leave Cape May in route to Block Island

The morning sprang to life like a crop of green summer corn. After a night on the dock, we were rested and ready to go. So after a few cups of good coffee and something to eat, we shook off the dock lines, stowed them away and headed out the channel to the Atlantic. A look at the weather forecast told us that we were looking at light but fair winds for the next few days so a straight shot offshore all the way to Block Island made sense. As a bonus, the moon was quickly working its way towards being full so we would have good company along the way. It would be just about a 200 mile trip or about 30-35 hours. Our course would take us away from the New Jersey coast, across the shipping channels into New York and eventually past the tip of Long Island to Block Island. It would be a long but enjoyable trip full of adventure.

I had planned on being away from the dock fairly early but it was after 9am before we found ourselves leaving the channel and settling on our course to Block Island. In reality, if you’re in no rush to make landfall, it doesn’t really matter what time you leave. At the end of the day, you will be underway for a full day, a night and most of the next day too depending on the wind and how fast you go.

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AIS or Automatic Identification System allows a vessel such as Chase’n Grace to see a host of information about other vessels around it including its speed and course. It’s awesome!

Chase’n Grace has a full host of navigation equipment fitted on board including radar and GPS. It’s also setup to receive AIS information which allows me to see and identify on the chartplotter, other vessels such as large ships and fishing vessels. Having AIS on board takes a lot of angst out of sailing at night especially in areas where’s there’s likely to be a high concentration of traffic such as the shipping lanes going in and out of New York. The other piece of navigation equipment that I like is the Navionic’s iPad app. For about $50 you can download this slick piece of software, instantly giving you your own personal chartplotter complete with GPS right on your iPad or iPhone. It’s great value and because it’s portable, you can set it anywhere that’s convenient. And, because it’s mine, I don’t have to go through the pains of learning a new system every time I step aboard a new boat.

Due to the light winds, we were forced to motor-sail for most of the morning but sometime around lunchtime, the wind filled in from the northwest allowing us to kill the engine and sail along on a beam reach. Not everyone likes ocean sailing but for me there’s something strangely soothing about being off the grid and being surrounded by nothing but water. I always breathe easier once I’m away from shore with plenty of water beneath me and nothing to hit. It’s a great feeling.

My wife Kim and me early on in our trip from Cape May to Block Island.
My wife Kim and me early on in our trip from Cape May to Block Island.

The wind came and went this first day at sea and before we knew it, the New Jersey coast disappeared over the transom and we were alone. You do a lot of reading on trips like this. You also play a lot of cards and other games that keep you entertained along the way. Spending time at sea can almost be too quiet at times but I’ve never been bored, especially if you have good company aboard, and we did.

Along about midnight, we started to cross the shipping lanes that run in and out of New York. There are three sets of channels that serve New York with each one having an inbound and an outbound lane. This is always a busy spot, especially at night when there are always a myriad of ships coming and going. The good news is that the course these ships are on are always fairly predictable. The bad news is, they’re big and they don’t alter their course much for the likes of some 53 foot blow-boat crossing in front of them. This is where AIS really comes in handy, allowing you to alter your course just enough so you don’t end up as road-kill.

Cape May to BI

We set two watches for the night with Kim and Matt on one watch and Jen and I on the other. Regardless of whether you’re on watch or off watch, I always find it hard to get any real sleep the first night out. With the moon almost full, it was not a night to spend sleeping away anyway. As a bonus, we were visited by a pod of dolphins sometime around 1am which we couldn’t really see but we could clearly hear as they came up for a breath of air. They stayed with us for several minutes riding our bow wave under our starboard running light. It’s always a treat to be visited by dolphins during a passage!

With the summer days being so long, night soon gave way to the warm glow of a rising sun. A new day had begun and with any luck, before it was over, Chase n’ Grace would be swinging on the hook in Great Salt Pond on Block Island.

We had good breeze through most of the morning of this second day but by early afternoon we were forced to crank up the D-Sail to be assured of reaching Block Island by late afternoon. We had been without cell coverage for the past 12 hours or so but as soon as we began to get close to Montauk Point, the text messages and emails came pouring in with all their pings and dings reminding us that civilization was not far away. We rode the incoming tide past Montauk picking up a nice 3 or 4 knot lift through Block Island Sound. By 4;30 we found ourselves rounding the red bell #2 and sailing into the channel of Great Salt Pond.

Block Island Arrival
Chase’n Grace at the entrance of Great Salt Pond, the primary harbor on Block Island.

By 5pm we had the hook down and our rum and tonics in hand. We ended up staying in Block Island for several days enjoying this quintessential New England island. Our friends, Matt and Jen along with their kids Natalie and Mitch, stayed with us until the weekend and then took the ferry back to New London, Connecticut where they picked up a rental car and drove back to Annapolis.

Block Island SunsetAs I stated in the beginning of this tale, it can be a bit of a poke getting all the way from Annapolis to New England but it can also be a great adventure. And once you’re there? Well, when it’s just the two of you on a 50 foot boat, it’s a whole new adventure just waiting to be experienced. For me, Chase’ n Grace from Annapolis to Block Island will always be worth the trip!

On we go…

PS: If you missed reading part one of this fantastic yarn, catch it here and enjoy!

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

Chase n' Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story continues, read more!

New Sun Odyssey 349 Proves Once Again to be a Fun and Easy Boat to Sail

One of the better perks of being in the business of building and selling new boats is having them available from time to time to go for a sail on. Such was the case yesterday when some colleagues and I found ourselves with an available Sun Odyssey 349 to sail, a lovely sunny afternoon, a solid 15 knot breeze and a bit of time on our hands. Who could say no to that? Definitely not us, so with a couple of bottles of cold beer in hand, we shoved off and headed out for a late afternoon/ early evening sail.

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A nice shot taken from the cockpit of the Sun Odyssey 349 sailing on the Chesapeake Bay in the late afternoon.

The 349 is a new addition to the Sun Odyssey range with just a handful of boats being delivered thus far. This particular 349 is headed for charter with Sail Caribe in Puerto Rico and is fitted with a deep keel (6’5″), traditional main and 110% jib. The wind was blowing a steady 12-15 which was more than enough to put the lee rail close to the water and get us up to the boat’s theoretical hull speed of 7 1/2 knots. Because the 349 features twin rudders and a well-balanced sail plan, it trucks through the water like a train on a track. The boat pretty much sails itself, even in heavy air.

We made a long stretch to windward across the bay and when we had polished off our first beer, we came about and went off on a new tack that took us more south down the bay. It was a beautiful night to be out sailing and we were enjoying every minute of it. After a while as the sun was beginning to set, we fell off the wind and eventually jibed around and headed for the barn. The sun sank fast into the west and before we were even half way back to the dock, we had pretty much lost our light. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem but this boat was brand new and we didn’t quite have the running lights up and working yet. The wind however pushed us along at a good clip and by the time we had drained our last beer we were sailing into the channel leading into Back Creek where our slip was waiting for us.

Mr. Frederic Gillier, head of the Jeanneau IT program, compently  drives the Sun Odyssey 349 to windward across the Chesapeake Bay
Mr. Frederic Gillier, head of the Jeanneau IT program, competently drives the Sun Odyssey 349 towards home.

In my mind the 349 is a tough boat to beat. It’s priced well, is a blast to sail, has plenty of room in the cockpit, has a great interior layout, and has what it takes to go off cruising in grand style. What else do you need? Well, we could have used just one more cold beer. C’est la vie…

On we go…

Nothing Much Beats Bumming Around on Boats

Last week I was fortunate enough to find myself stepping aboard a brand spanking new Jeanneau 349 at the Vermillion Yacht Club located in the sweet little town of Vermillion, OH. Vermillion, bills itself as a small town on a great lake. Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie between Sandusky and Cleveland, Vermillion has the look and feel of a coastal New England town and is a lighting rod for boaters of all types. It’s also home port to S.O. Bum, the 349 owned by John and Linda Robertson.

Beautiful white houses as viewed from the deck of S.O. Bum, line the channel that leads into the town of Vermillion.
Beautiful white houses as viewed from the deck of S.O. Bum, line the channel that leads into the town of Vermillion.

John and Linda Robertson are no strangers to sailing nor are they strangers to Jeanneau; their previous boat was a Jeanneau 54 DS that they purchased in 2005 and sailed extensively throughout the Great Lakes with their 4 children until 2010 when they sold it to purchase a Sabre 40 (I know, they went to the dark side but at least they picked a classy, good looking, good quality boat!). They upgraded from the 40 to a Sabre 48 in 2013 but John and the rest of his family never lost their love for sailing, hence their decision to purchase the Jeanneau 349.

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John and Linda Robertson with daughters Olivia (L) and Victoria (R) and their Sabre 48, Bumboat. This latest Bumboat follows a long tradition of Bumboat’s that the Robertson family have owned and enjoyed over the years including the Jeanneau 54DS.

The air was warm and the sky robin-blue as we climbed aboard the 349, Son of Bum and headed out the channel for Lake Erie. On board was my wife Kim, Rob Morley of Riverside Yacht Sales, John Robertson, and his two daughters, Olivia (24) and Victoria (18) and myself. We were 6 all together. On a normal 34 footer, 6 people in the cockpit may prove to be tight but the 349 has a tremendous amount of beam aft, making for a huge cockpit and plenty of room for everyone.

Olivia and Victoria Robertson hang on the rail aboard the Jeanneau 349
Olivia and Victoria Robertson hang on the rail aboard the Jeanneau 349

As soon as we cleared the channel we hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the 110% genoa. The 349 if offered with your choice of a furling main, traditional or classic main or a performance main. I was happy to learn that John had gone with the performance main which is squared-off on top providing for more sail area and hence better performance, especially in light air. The wind wasn’t overly strong, about 8-10 but despite the somewhat light breeze, the 349 scooted off to windward in good style. A few other notable features of the 349 include the use of twin wheels and twin rudders. The twin wheels allow the helmsman to sail from either the windward or leeward side of the boat while the twin rudders provide for excellent stability by almost completely eliminating the issue of weather-helm even in heavy air.

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Yours truly at the helm. I’ve always enjoyed sailing from the leeward side. It puts me close to the water and gives me excellent sight-lines to the telltales on the jib.

Winch placement aboard the 349 is also super convenient with all lines leading aft so the helmsman can tweak the sails to his or her liking. German sheeting is utilized as well allowing for the main to be trimmed from either side of the boat.

DSC02018In lieu of traditional genoa tracks, the 349 utilizes two  friction rings that provide a fair lead for both the main sheet and genoa sheet. This clever system saves both weight and cost and works great.

We were having so much fun sailing the boat we didn’t really spend anytime below but this boat has a ton of interior room for a 34 footer. Son of Bum has a 2 cabin arrangement with 1 extremely large head but a 3 cabin arrangement is also offered.

We sailed for a couple of hours and then unfortunately we had to head back to the dock. It wasn’t such a bad thing however because soon after tying up, a front moved through and dumped a boat-full of rain on us. Timing is everything!

You might be saying to yourself that Bumboat and Son of Bum are peculiar names for a boat, I know I did. When I asked John what the significance of the name Bumboat was, he responded by telling me that it’s a long story but that I could read all about it on his web site, www.bumboat.com. It’s an interesting story so I encourage you to give it a read.

When I was a kid growing up in New England, I spent my summers bombing around on Fisher’s Island Sound off the Connecticut coast in a 13 foot Boston Whaler. Ever since that time, I’ve always loved bumming around on boats. I guess I always will.

On we go…