Thursday, November 20, 2008

First Impression: Beneteau 49

This spring, I helped a new client sail their new Beneteau 49 from Burnham Harbor in Chicago, north to their new boat slip at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor. The Beneteau 49 is another Berret/Racoupeau design which means it is well laid out, easy to manage, and best of all a great boat to sail. We left the harbor in a moderate westerly breeze, turning left at the sea wall at the southern end of Northerly Island and headed north toward the harbor entrance to North Point Marina. 12-18 knots true wind speed dominated most of the trip north, with tight reaching, and event beating windward at one point for about 20 minutes. We even got the brand new cruising spinnaker up for over half an hour and were topping boat speeds approaching 10 knots. I wasn't surprised at how easy the boat handled in those conditions, as all Beneteaus are well managed by a minimum of crew. There were three of us aboard, plus the family dog, and we all had smiles on our faces for the entire trip!

The Beneteau 49 cockpit is very roomy with the 14'9" beam being drawn almost all the way back to the dual helm wheels. It has a large cockpit table with ice box and two drop leaf fiberglass table leaves. The aft end of the cockpit table has a swiveling chart plotter/radar holder with Raymarines new E-120 system. I like the swiveling plotter because you can set it up whether you are steering from the port or starboard side. It is easily seen in bright sunlight, and it has differing back lighting options for night time use. The middle helm seat easily folds up and allows for unhindered access to the teak covered swim platform. This is great as you can go from the water to the inside of the boat fairly quickly if you needed a towel!

All the lines are led aft to four winches in and around the cockpit. The main primary winches are located in reach of the helm, so the driver can easily adjust the genoa sheets and drive at the same time. We also had an electric Lewmar main sheet and halyard winch on the cabin house which made for easy furling and unfurling of the sails. When we were getting close to our destination, we started the 76hp turbo Yanmar diesel, furled in the sails, and motored at about 8 knots till we were inside the harbor. Then, once we figured out which dock slip was ours, we used the bow thruster to help us back in. There were plenty of "helpers" waiting to lend a hand as we backed in, but I think they just all wanted a free tour of the new Beneteau 49. A truly great sail. We made the 38 mile trip in about 5 1/2 hours on the water, dock to dock.

This particular boat is the two cabin version, with large owners stateroom aft and guest stateroom forward. The customer also had us install a convertible dinnete table to add another double berth for more guests. The 49 has a beautiful varnished interior, with the new Alpi wood that the Beneteau wood shop in France is supplying for all their new models. The boats interior space is designed by Nauta Design Group, well known for their interior design on some of Europe's most significant Mega Yachts. The open design is well thought out, spacious, and allows for plenty of storage. The 49 even has recessed "mood lighting" in the main saloon, which I also think is very nice. The Beneteau 49 was a winner in these client's hearts and can capture yours as well.
Call Karma Yacht Sales to find out more or to schedule an appointment to see one first hand. 877-Karma-Y-S.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Impression: Beneteau 46

One of the pleasures and perks I have working for a sailboat dealer is that I get to go sailing with our customers as part of my job. We also get to try out some of the new boats that we receive for sale, especially around summer boat show time. I have had the great pleasure of sailing our new Beneteau 46 several times late this summer. I'd like to share my experiences of my first sail on this Berret-Racoupeau designed boat that is built with pride in Marion, South Carolina.

I arrived at the harbor with a friend from Australia the other day, and I decided to show him what Chicago looks like from the warm waters of Lake Michigan. This was my first time on the new Beneteau 46 as well, and we were both very pleased at not how the boat sailed, but how she handled around the marina and how easy this boat was to control. We left the dock, aided by the 6hp bow thruster, made a two turns to starboard, and off we went!

As soon as we left the marina, I depowered the 54hp Yanmar diesel, unfurled the main sail, and we started to accelerate nicely in the 10 knot breeze. My friend Chris, took the helm and we headed out into the lake. Now came time to unfurl the 140% genoa, and we quickly reached hull speed on a tight reach with the winds gaining up to 15 knots. My first thought was that for a boat of this size, I was surprised to actually "feel" the acceleration, much like a smaller lighter performance boat might take off after adjusting the geona lead or easing the main sheet. Here we were, just two of us easily handling the boat and enjoying the afternoon and the Chicago skyline.

We sailed for a couple of hours that day, catching up on current events ( we hadn't seen each other for about 7 years), and enjoying the day. Switching back an forth between the dual wheels of this boat is also very easy. Because they are cabled together, you not only get a great "feel" in the helm but it is just a matter of letting go one helm and holding onto the other. Today's sailboat designs bring the beam of the boat further aft, allowing for a larger aft cabin below and much larger cockpit. As sailors, we buy a boat to spend time outdoors and this larger cockpit accomplishes just that.

Most sailors like to steer from either the "high side" or "low side", depending on personal preference. I'm a "low side guy", and because of the beamy aft cockpit, one would either need two wheels like today's cruising designs, or one great big wheel, more like the older racing boats that you see in the harbor these days. The two wheel design allows for easier cockpit to swim platform access, and easier movement on the boat. Outfit your new 46 with a nice matching bimini and on this particular model, you have almost as much cockpit space as you do main salon space (a feature envied by our competition).

With all control lines led aft to either the two cabin house winches or to the two primary genoa sheet winches, the boat is very easily single handed. Both Chris and I are fairly accomplished sailors, however this boat could easily be sailed by someone with limited sailing knowledge and some short training. To make things easier, our stock boat had the optional 'bow thruster' which makes pulling in/out of your slip a breeze. The sail plan offers unlimited trim possibilities as both main and genoa are roller furling sails (there is an option on all Beneteaus for you to choose a conventional horizontal battened main sail called the "classic sail"). I find the roller mains to be just great, especially now that the sail makers and mast builders have figured out a way to put vertical battens in the mainsail (this gives you more sail area than the conventional furling mains of years past).

As we were heading in the wind started to die out, however we were still sailing at 5 knots in about 6 knots of breeze. This boat would not give up on us. I think she was enjoying the afternoon as much as we were. We finally started the Yanmar engine when we were about 400 yards from the harbor entrance and furled in the sails. We did not even have to use a winch to help us. Perhaps in a breeze a winch would come in handy, and both furling lines are led to the cabin top winches for easy use. I found that the 54hp Yanmar propelled us at just over 7 1/2 knots at about 2400 RPMs. Plenty of speed to get us where we were going and at the same time, because of the lower RPMs, the cabin noise inside the boat was kept to a minimum. Once we reached our dock, I used the bow thruster to help me back the boat into her berth and we tied her up for the next sail. While walking away from the new Beneteau 46, we both stopped and looked back at her sleek lines and sparkling beauty. I thought to myself "what a great boat this is going to make for someone, and what a great job I have!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Just My Perspective-My Sailing Solution

Photo Credit: Eric Gevaert

Wow, I went a whole day without checking on the stock market every hour or so. Have you been able to do this yet? It is certainly harder to do right now, but I think it is therapeutic in a way, as I don't plan on selling anything in the near future so it is all paper losses right now.

Right about now is the time I begin missing sailing quite a bit. It is usually right around now, mid-November, that I start to really crave it again and want to get out there. The craving is something that I have grown accustomed to, and every year it comes back and I want to get out for a couple hours to clear my head. Does anyone else feel like this? Maybe it has to do with the realization that it's going to be cold soon and will be a few months before I can get out there again. Then, you get a few teaser weather days where it is not too cold, with plenty of south wind, and you begin to think how to possibly get out there, sailing, for part of the afternoon.

One solution that a lot of people I know have done is to spend a vacation by heading down somewhere warm like the BVI's to rent a charter sailboat. That would be a great way to get a winter sailing fix without having to deal with 40 degree water and frost-bitten fingers. Moorings, and some of the smaller fleets, have a lot of different Beneteau models in their fleet, so as a Beneteau owner, it wouldn't be like any of us was 'cheating' on our brand or anything.

I think of taking a trip like this more and more each winter. Like most of us, by mid-January I get pretty tired of the cold, snowy weather routine and would love to get a week away somewhere warm and on a sailboat. For me, that would be a near-perfect way to spend a vacation because the sailing part would calm me even more than just a regular vacation does. And then at the end of January, Strictly Sail comes and we're on new boats again and after that weekend I want to take a trip even more

My rationale is that the kids are starting to get old enough to where we could either bring them with us, or have them stay with family for a few days. Either way, they would think they were on a vacation. Maybe this is something that the whole Chicago sailing community could think about and do collectively one year, get a couple hundred Chicagoans to head down and take over the BVI's for a week. Promise me you'll at least consider the idea. I may even put up a picture of the palm tree on the desert island in my office, or maybe I'll just select that beach photo for the background of my Blackberry. Feed the appetite, so to speak.

If I do go, I promise I will write about it without gloating when I get back.

First Impression-Sailing the New Beneteau 31

Sailing the New Beneteau 31

Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to sail one of Beneteau's newest models, the Beneteau 31. With an LWL of just under 29 foot, she proved to be quick, responsive yet steady while retaining the creature comforts of boats much larger than her. The boat I sailed had the standard 5'11" draft, battened classic mainsail and 105% roller furling genoa (all standard from Beneteau USA). Under motor-she was powered by a 20hp Yanmar 3YM30 diesel engine.
There were five of us aboard that afternoon. We left Burnham Harbor in Chicago with a 10-15 knot breeze from the east, and a beautiful-blue cloudless sky. After only taking about 35 seconds to hoist the main, we bore off to port and headed for the Chicago light house (an historic landmark built on the outer seawall of Monroe Harbor in Downtown Chicago). We moved along nicely in the 12 knot breeze, and headed out between the break wall entrance and the lighthouse. All the while doing so with ease and gracefulness. The thing I liked most about the boat at this point was how well she tracked up wind, with what I'd call a modest 'slot'. I thought that she will be very easy for the beginner, and a joy to sail for the seasoned sailor as well. We put her through her paces while sailing up wind, reaching, down wind sailing and motoring in over a period of a few hours. She was just as easy to dock as she was to sail, and I will look forward to going out on her again!

Sail Magazine just completed a review of the new Beneteau 31 and you can read it here. We have hull #22 in-stock. Call us to visit this great sailing boat. Take advantage of our Thanksgiving Fall Deals. These are our best prices of the year. Call us for details.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't Get Caught Up in the headlines.

'Stocks Suffering'
'Citigroup to cut 50,000'
'Dismal Signals Keep Stocks in Broad Retreat'

The blessing in today's information age is the immediacy of news information which is sometimes being reported as it happens. The curse in today's information age is the immediacy... I think you get the picture.

It is very easy to get sucked into the negative news these days. I mean it is EVERYWHERE. You turn on the radio in the car and you have twenty stations with pundits all providing commentary on what 'they feel' is going to happen with the economy. You get to the office, log onto your homepage and see the bombardment of negative news. The ride home, more of the same. The news at night even more of the same. Click on the Blackberry- there it is- AGAIN! One thing is for certain- I really would like to be Rupert Murdoch these days as his toe-hold of the news industry has to be paying dividends beyond all belief.

At first- I thought it was because we are in an election year. But what I fear the most is that this is the new age of information: talking heads, 24/7 on every media avenue possible. I'll admit- it's like a car crash- everyone has to stop and look. I'm guilty of it. After awhile- it really weighs on you. It starts to effect your outlook. You get sucked into this vortex and you can feel the doom and gloom take you over. Get the paper, log on, take the information in. Where does it stop?

Now don't get me wrong- I don't mean to be an escapist and disregard that there are bad things happening to people these days. I fully understand we are in a predicament as a country. The one thing to remember is that we are ALL in this together.

I do, however, strongly believe that the media is helping advance the fear because it helps them sell advertising, it helps them sell papers, but most of all it gives them something to talk about. How great a world would we live in if you opened your paper one morning to read the following headline: "Class of 14 Inner-City Children Learn to Read". The fact is that there are classes around our country of at least 14 inner city kids and they are learning to read! Sound obvious? Yes. Does it sell news papers or stop you in your tracks to watch CNN? NO! Advertisers would not pay CNN millions to run ads if their percentage of viewers went down. Sam Zell would have less to value in the the Tribune Company if people cancelled their subscriptions due to excessive good news.

So my point is very simple. Don't get caught up in the headlines. Focus on the good things that are going on around you. Put things in perspective. But most of all- let's continue to believe in this great country of ours. We are in this together. We got into this together. We will have to climb out of this together. Don't get caught up in the headlines or it WILL take us much longer to get out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Smart Shoppers are Buying. Want to know why?

With no real 'safe' investments on Wall Street, have you ever considered looking to the water for a place to put some money?

It is an interesting indicator of our current times, but it is an idea to consider: the ability to have it all while still regaining some stability with regards to your assets. Look out at Lake Michigan. It is now empty for the winter, but when it was full of boats, the dock that held a new Beneteau sailboat was a much safer investment than any that you would find on Wall Street today. Beneteau sailboats have fared extremely well in the realm of what few things can be considered good investments these days.

Here are the numbers: a Beneteau sailboat is holding its value so well that after five years of ownership, it is still worth an average of 92% of its original value, a depreciation rate of just 1.6% per year*. That value has recently become even greater with the introduction of Beneteau's own Stimulus package of price incentives, electronics, and options offered in the price.

Sure, full disclosure is that we are a dealer selling a product. But currently, this product has proven to be one of the safer, more tangible investments you can make; one that also promises to pay dividends and rewards in ways that cannot be easily measured. Sailing is truly a lifestyle. For many, it is not just a hobby, it is as important an activity as one's exercise and, similar to exercise it will reduce stress, increase mental health, and also keep you fit.

As bad as it has seemed this fall, the world is not going to end. In addition, we Americans are not going to stop appreciating quality time with family and friends, or the ability to get away once in awhile. Being on the water-sailing-has long been the most sought-after summer activity for those who know how revitalizing it can be. A Beneteau sailboat is now a genuine, sensible solution for the question: where can I safely invest my money? Now more than ever, you can get a lot of Beneteau for your money while having confidence that it will not disappear off some balance sheet or financial statement.

*Information based on Fresh-water, Lake Michigan-sailed boats.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lasting Gift of Sailing

The Sandoval Family on a Sail- (Summer '08)

It should come as no surprise that as a parent of two small children- sleep is a commodity that is hard to come by at our house. So this morning I was having one of my bouts of insomnia and I decided to channel surf a bit. I ran across a movie titled 'Canvas' starring Joe Pantoliano and Marcia Gay Harden. In reading the TV review it look to be something I could use to fill my lapse in sleep. The movie is about a young boy who is struggling to fit in. His mother suffers from schizophrenia. His father (Pantoliano) is working hard to make ends meet and keep up with his mother's (Harden) medical care. A turn of events forces hospitalization upon the mother to treat her illness. The father (being a non-communicative type) struggles to deal with the situation that has fallen upon them. He misses the woman that he met, fell in love with and married. He comes up with a coping mechanism to help him deal with things. He decides to build a sailboat. The sailboat is significant because the father first met the mother while taking sailing lessons. Their first kiss was on a sailboat. He struggles while recollecting the past and he longs for a return to those days. He is overcome with the rich memories created while sailing and taking lessons.

Meanwhile, the son is dealing with his own loss of a parent. He is angry at the turn of events. He fears that he will become afflicted with the same mental illness. Long story short- the father and son connect while building the boat. They endure a series of additional challenges during the building of the boat, but eventually they finish it. The father teaches the son to sail- they create new memories of their own. They share this new memory maker with the mom. I won't tell the ending because you'll have to see it. But hopefully, you get the sense of the movie.

OK- so this has a bit of Hollywood spin to it. My point in sharing this movie and it's story line is that metaphorically, a sailboat has a magical power. Beyond the wood, fiberglass and sails- it represents a common passion that we share with those we love. Much like the family in the movie- often times family and friends share this with us. As human beings- there is a communal element to us as a species. For some it may be the summer cottage on a lake someplace that holds sentimental value. We value the role it played in helping us create memories. For sailors, it's our boats.

I was speaking to a client and his daughter recently at the Annapolis Boat show. Independent of each other, I asked them how their first year of ownership had been. They both lit up when I asked the question. She shared that the boat represented a great new common point for their family. She was impressed at the new level to which the relationship between her father and her nephew had evolved. The young sailor had found a connection with his grandfather. A connection that transcended any generational gap. "It's a beautiful thing" she shared. "He is so hooked on sailing and It's because of the boat. He has something that he can relate to with dad." For the grandfather- his response was "It gives me something to share and pass on to my grandson." I hear this quite a bit from many of our owners. It is truly an amazing thing.

After 9/11, there was a huge surge in people looking to reconnect with loved ones. It was a sign of the times due to the circumstances. It was people stopping and realizing the finality of our existence on the planet. Our realization of the fragile nature of human life. For those of us who have owned boats- we know it has always been there. The passion for these boats and what they represent to us. What they represent to our families. We just need to relish in the moments and continually remind ourselves of the value it brings to our lives.

I can fully relate to this. Given the nature of my business, I understand and respect your potential skepticism. My wife and I had our chance 'first date' (her version is a bit different) on my sailboat. We were able to spend four hours on the water during that afternoon. What a perfect first date. It allowed us to get to talk, share laughs and relate through our similiarities. Our daughters, nieces and nephews have all been exposed to the sport at very early ages. Our daughter Sofia- has become quite the lover of sailboats in her two short years of life. She first went sailing at the tender age of six months. We took photos to commemorate the event. She has one in her room and always points to it- "Sailboat daddy?" she says. It truly becomes a part of you. A part of your blood that many who do not sail can't begin to understand. A ritual of spring, summer and fall. With the hectic schedules we all lead, it is the one place we can find solitude. In these times, the one place we can get away from all the media negativity about the world.

Ron Lieber speaks of this in his NY Times Article: "Some Purchases May Still Be Worth the Price". Ron reminds us of how short life is and how (in the end) it's the memories that live on. You cannot measure the return on investment for a boat in dollars and cents. I t's the fond memories that will last for years to come that are your R.O.I. It is the memories that enrich our lives and help us get through the tough times. If you believe the gloom and doom media, our country is on the verge of falling apart. "We may cease to exist as the United States", one reporter inferred recently. It is now more than ever that we can use our sailing fix. The shame is in the Midwest, we will need to resort to screen savers of boats and talking about sailing through the winter months. Call me an escapist- but I NEED my hydro therapy!

One of my favorite pictures of this past year is the one shown above. It has also become one of my daughter Sofia's favorites as well. We got some friends together and went out on 'Karma' on a moment's notice (those are some of the best sails). My wife was five months pregnant in this photo the day we went sailing. The thing I like the most about this photo is that I will forever be able to show that photo to my daughter Sarah (born this past August) and say "You were there on that day too." Now that is what sailing is all about.

Do you have a good sailing memory or story?

Share it below on the comments. I would love to hear it.