Last Saturday afternoon, November 2, close to 70 cruising boats, ranging in size from 35 to 70 feet, set off from Hampton, VA bound for two destinations, Antigua in the Caribbean and Eluthera in the Bahamas. The fleet is the Salty Dawg Fall Rally in which more than 250 sailors will sail south to the sun for the winter.
The fleet of roughly 50 boats headed to Antigua, will sail about 1,400 miles on a passage that will take an average of 10 days. Larger, faster boats will make it to Antigua in eight days while smaller, slower boats can take up to 12 days. A few boats will stop briefly in Bermuda for fuel and repairs. The rally is not a race, but instead it is a cruise in company for sailors who are interested in the camaraderie of the rally, the excellent weather forecasting and routing provided by weather guru Chris Parker, and for the safety factor of making an offshore passage with a lot of buddy boats.
In Hampton, the crews enjoyed several days of seminars, a Coast Guard demonstration and a big Halloween party thrown for them by the City of Hampton, VA. Once in Antigua, the crews will be treated to a week of fun events put on by local Antiguans, some of the same folks who put on Antigua Race Week in the spring. They know a thing or two about sailing, rum and good cheer. Antigua is a lovely island with lots of resources for cruisers and is a great starting point for a cruise of the Windward and Leeward Islands.
The feet of roughly 20 boats headed to the Bahamas will make their landfall in Harbour Island on Eluthera’s northeast coast. There they will be hosted by the local marina and feted by local clubs, bars and restaurants. The Rally to the Bahamas usually has fewer boats but this year a large part of the Bahama fleet made it their destination for the winter in order to help the people of the Abacos whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Dorian in September.
You can track the fleets heading south this week on the Ocens website here:
You can learn more about the rally and the Salty Dawg Sailing Association here:
You can learn more about aiding the people of the Abacos here:
You can learn more about Antigua here: