(published March 2014)
As winter in the Caribbean rolls on, the 110-strong Salty Dawg fleet that sailed in company last November from Hampton, Va. to The Bitter End Yacht Club in the B.V.I. is enjoying the pleasures of cruising in the topics. Some boats have remained in the B.V.I. while others have cruised southward to the Windward and Leeward Islands. If you are in the Caribbean this winter, you will see the SDR blue 2013-2014 rally burgees on boats everywhere.
The B.V.I. are giving the Dawgs a warm welcome and have shown just how valuable this cruising fleet and cruisers in general are to the tiny island nation. In December, a reception for the Dawgs brought out the island’s top politicians and tourism officials in a celebration of the rally and tourism in general. Rally organizers Bill and Linda Knowles were honored by the event and Bill noted, “We are really pleased to be here in the B.V.I. with so many cruising friends and with so many, distinguished friends who are so supportive of the rally.”
The Bitter End Yacht Club continues to be a major supporter of the SDR by providing free moorings at the BEYC at the finish of the rally and has offered free moorings in the spring as the SDR northbound fleet gathers before the start.
The northbound rally is scheduled for a May 15 start. Like the southbound passage in the fall, this is designed to be a cruise in company so there is no official start date. Skippers are always urged to depart whenever they deem the weather window is right for them, their boat and their crew.
Chris Parker, who is the official weather forecaster and router for the Salty Dawg Rally, will be on hand for the spring rally and will offer personalized forecasting for the fleet. Dick and Judy Giddings of the Doo Dah Net will be on the air daily on their Single Sideband frequencies for general communications and daily check-ins from each boat. The rally urges each skipper to have two forms of long range communications, which can include a Spot (or similar), satphone and SSB radio.
The spring schedule has boats sailing in the northbound rally gathering at the BEYC on May 1, 2014 where boats with the blue rally burgee will be able to use moorings for free, as well as the BEYC facilities and their small boats such as Lasers, Sunfish and SUPs. The fleet is then scheduled to move to the Nanny Cay Marina where boats can do their pre-passage gear and rig inspections, top up fuel and water and make use of the many discounts the SDR has arranged with stores and supermarkets in Road Town. It should be noted that rally boats get a discount on fuel at the Voyage Charters marina at Soper’s Hole, West End.
The tentative start date for the sail north will be May 15, but that is only a guideline. Boats heading to the Mid-Atlantic will probably sail straight to Charleston, Beaufort or to the Chesapeake. Boats heading to the Northeast may choose to stop in Bermuda or make the 1,500 mile passage nonstop.
Bill and Linda Knowles are from Bristol, R.I. and for the past two years have invited Dawgs to join them for the wonderful Bristol July Fourth celebrations, which includes the famous Bristol Parade. In 2013, a good fleet of Dawgs showed up for the party, which was held informally on the Bristol waterfront. This year, with the endorsement of the Town of Bristol, you can expect an even bigger and more elaborate party for Dawgs and their friends.
Bristol always has some of the finest fireworks on the holiday. And, Rhode Island really gets into July Fourth, since it was in Narragansett Bay in 1773 that the Revolutionary War really began with the burning of the British Revenue (tax) Cutter Gaspee by local merchants.
At the end of the summer, during the Newport Boat Show in Newport, R.I., there are rumblings that there may be a SDR potluck or party for Dawgs before they head south to the Chesapeake and then to the start of the 2014 SDR.
The SDR offers free education for skippers and crews who want to add to their knowledge of sailing, communications at sea and offshore passagemaking. In the fall, there will be another all day cruising and safety seminar on the day before the start of the Annapolis sailboat show. Attendees will learn from and share information on a wide range of topics that have proven useful in years past.
And then in the week before the start of the 2014 SDR at Bluewater Marina in Hampton, VA., the SDR will put on a series of seminars that may include a demonstration of how to deploy a life raft (Winslow), other essential safety gear and practices (Life Raft and Survival) and tips on how to keep your steering system and rudder functioning properly (Edson). And much more.
The rally from Hampton to the Bitter End is scheduled to start on November 1. Boats begin to gather at Bluewater Marina in the week prior to that and often spend the time there meeting up with old friends, undertaking pre-passage preparations and getting ready for the trip south. The rally will have most of the fleet sailing directly to the B.V.I. but there will also be boats that are heading to the Bahamas for the winter, to the U.S.V.I. or even down island to St. Martin or Antigua.
For those who plan to sail with the SDR 2014-2015, watch the website for updates and remember that you need to supply the organizers with all of the requested paperwork, including the boat’s information, communications details, crew list and a float plan.
As always, the SDR is open to all sailors who have offshore experience. The SDR is free but in 2014 there will be nominal membership fees for those who want to participate in the various benefits and many opportunities for participants to volunteer and make contributions to the running of all the events. The SDR is a cruising community non-profit organization that embraces the cruising spirit of cooperation, seamanship and self-reliance.
For more information log on to: www.saltydawgrally.org.