The Departure • Experienced cruisers will tell you that the hardest part of getting away for a long cruise—such as heading to Mexico or the Caribbean for the winter—is the process of getting your boat and yourself ready to get away. This is particularly true if you will be making ocean voyages to get to those warm sunny cruising grounds we all dream of.
This fall, our boat partners Tony and Judy Knowles have been deep in the throes of getting our Jeanneau 45.2 Lime’n ready for a winter cruise from Newport, RI to the Caribbean. As I type, they (and we) are watching the weather in the North Atlantic very carefully as we look for a weather window that will allow Lime’n to get to Bermuda (four days of sailing) in relatively benign conditions. We have been logging on to the Passage Weather website twice a day to get the overall weather picture, and we have engaged Commanders Weather to advise us when it looks prudent to go. The most important part of this first southbound leg is to get across the Gulf Stream in fair and mild weather. A North Atlantic gale in the stream is not something any of us want to meet.
Tony and Judy are not alone in this dial up to departure. In Newport, the North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (NARC) has gathered and the 15 boats in this free rally are loading on provisions, topping up fuel and water, and checking the weather. There have been a few parties and organizer Hank Schmidt has held a skippers meeting and weather briefing prior to the scheduled early November start.
Out in San Diego, the 160 boats that signed up for the free Baja Ha-Ha rally to Mexico got away at the end of October after a party and skippers’ briefing at Down Wind Marine. Most of the skippers will spend the winter cruising the west coast of Mexico but some will carry on in the Pacific Puddle Jump rally that ends in French Polynesia.
In Hampton, Va., the relatively new, free Salty Dawg Rally, sponsored by BWS and many other companies, has grown to 120 boats in its third year and the skippers and crews have been busy getting ready for the 1,300 mile passage from the mouth of the Chesapeake to The Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda, B.V.I. The Salty Dawg Rally is a pure cruising event with no set departure date, other than a recommended date, no racing and no prizes for winners, losers or otherwise. The prize is the simple pleasure of cruising in company. Unlike other rallies, the Salty Dawg Rally provides daily weather and routing services from expert router Chris Parker; his services are BWS’s contribution to the event.
In Norfolk, Va., the Caribbean 1500 is also getting ready for their November start. A fee based event, the 1500 appeals to new cruisers who want the supervision of rally organizers who mandate gear and equipment for each boat and then provide in depth boat inspections.
But not all skippers join rallies. Bermuda Harbor Radio informs us that approximately 1,100 boats from North America clear through Bermuda every fall and spring. Most of those are independent souls like Tony and Judy who have spent all summer and fall getting Lime’n ready and will set sail when the weather suits them.
BWS wishes all of the sailors heading south this fall fair winds and safe landfalls.