A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO TORTOLLA • Last fall, a group of boats that had sailed in the Caribbean 1500 (now owned by the World Cruising Club) in years past decided to skip the rally and go on their own. This was intended to be buddy boating in the best sense, just as boats worldwide join up with friends to make safe offshore passages while staying in touch via HF radio.
But then something happened. The news of this non-rally cruise in company spread among the cruising community and one after another, couples and crews signed on to join the crowd. Bill and Linda Knowles aboard the Jeanneau 54 Sapphire became the de facto point people and made a few phone calls to see if marinas in Hampton, Virginia and Tortola, BVI wanted to get involved. The marina owners thought it was a splendid idea and signed on.
Jean Conover on Growltiger, moored in Hampton, is the Seven Seas Cruising Association Cruising Host Coordinator (www.ssca.org). She volunteered to assist and enlisted her buddies in the SSCA to help out where they could. Bill Giddings on St. Jude runs the DooDah HF radio net (www.bigdumboat.com/doodah) and voluntarily logs float plans for boats that are making offshore passages. When he heard about the new cruise in company, he volunteered to run a daily radio schedule for the fleet. To our knowledge, this is the first time an offshore fleet has had a dedicated shore-based radio controller.
One day last summer, when I was having a sandwich with Bill Knowles and his Jack Russell Brie, the idea of BWS sponsoring the non-rally was born. So, through BWS and Cruising Compass, we got the word out and the numbers started to grow until at least 34 boats had joined up. This free non-rally event needed a name and became the Salty Dog Rally.
BWS’s contribution to the event was to hire weather guru and offshore router Chris Parker (www.caribwx.com) to handle the forecasting and routing duties. Chris has an HF shore station and was keen to help out. As it turned out, his advice was timely, accurate and extremely useful.
Set to leave the Chesapeake on November 1st, the fleet was delayed by weather. Skippers used their best judgment and left when they thought the time was right, with the majority waiting a week for a window. The passage south was mostly fine, with a few bumpy patches along the way. Some boats diverted to Bermuda for fuel and repairs, but in the end, the gang all rendezvoused at Soper’s Hole to celebrate the safe passage south.
The Salty Dogs plan to have a return rally in May and will run the southbound Salty Dog Rally again next November 1st. Look for the new website at www.saltydogrally.org. Yes, .org. In the spirit of cruising, the gang is forming a non-profit and would be happy to discuss how you can get involved as a volunteer, a sponsor or a participant in the non-rally rallies. You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Bill and Linda (email@example.com). See you on the docks!