by Mike Martel
After departure activities in Hampton, Virginia, and a few days of weather delays prior to departure, all 58 cruising boats of the Salty Dawg Rally have arrived safely at their various destinations, with the most going to the BVI, according to Bill and Linda Knowles, co-founders of the rally.
Some of the members of the Salty Dawg Rally, after arrival in the BVIs, relax at the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda.
'The weather on the trip down was generally pretty good, with a few days of lots of wind and some without any wind, but all in all, it was a very successful passage by all boats,' Bill relates. 'There were no injuries, no damage, and no serious issues. It really was fun for all,' he adds.
The passage can take anywhere from a week to fourteen days, and even longer, depending on the boat, the wind and sea conditions, and the sailing style of each skipper.
Many of the Dawgs arrived at the Blue Water Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia days before the scheduled November 4 departure. Rally organizers had erected a tent and hosted events featuring helpful and practical seminars and presentations. Key speakers included Charles Daneko of Winslow Life Rafts, Joan Conover of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA), David Gross of Quantum Sails, and retired US Air Force Colonel, Curtis Morris, an expert on single sideband radio transmission and procedures.
It wasn’t all study, Linda Knowles says; there were fun events as well. 'We had great departure parties under the tent that included a Pig Roast, Chicken BBQ, Chili Cook Off, and a Pot Luck Dinner,' she says. 'These were all held after a general meeting and weather briefing. The Whole-Pig Roast and Chicken Barbecue was prepared on site by Mobile Pig-Nic BBQ catering, and a rum bar was offered by Phil Worrall, owner and captain of Rum Runner, a Rally participant.'
Despite a short weather window and anticipated heavy seas, nine of the rally boats departed November 4; the majority waited out the weather and got underway November 9.
En-route, Salty Dawg Rally boats kept in touch with daily check-ins monitored by Volunteer Dick Giddings, who manages float plans for all of the boats in the fleet and maintains a daily SSB radio schedule, as well as daily positions for everyone (via HF radio and SatPhone). Information including weather, Gulf Stream analysis, location of eddies, and daily weather forecasts during the passage was provided to each skipper by well-known weather router Chris Parker, courtesy of Blue Water Sailing magazine.
There was a morning and evening chat and check-in among the Rally boats each day. Visitors to the Salty Dawg web site were able to read Daily logs from the fleet, and listen to Daily radio chat recordings of the check-in with the Doo-Dah Net. A Salty Dawg SPOT tracking map was used to allow visitors to the web site to track the daily and hourly progress of all boats in the fleet in real time, as well as their GPS locations. Rally members wrote about catching fresh fish en-route to supplement their stored provisions aboard.
'After we arrived, the generosity of the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda, a Rally sponsor, was impressive and all of our members who attended the arrival parties were exceedingly grateful to them,' Bill Knowles says. 'The Bitter End Yacht Club welcomed us all with free moorings, discounted room rates for spouses and friends, use of the swimming pool, and provided an arrival party and dinner. The generosity of our many sponsors has been simply overwhelming.'
The Salty Dawg Rally is a ‘grass-roots’ rally, free for all participants, and leaves Hampton, Virginia and various other ports in the fall, headed for the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and other destinations in the Caribbean. The Rally returns to the participants’ various home ports in the spring. The return Rally is scheduled to depart Tortola, BVI from Nanny Cay Marina, on May 15, 2013. More information will soon be available on the Salty Dawg Rally website.
The Salty Dawg Rally is comprised of blue water sailors who have completed at least one blue water passage. There is no formal inspection of each boat, since it is the responsibility of each skipper to have proper safety equipment and to ensure that the vessel is prepared for the passage.