In the 2016 Salty Dawg Fall Rally to the Caribbean, 81 vessels departed on a 1,400 mile voyage across the Atlantic from Hampton, VA with most headed to the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda, BVI. This was once again the largest rally from the US to the Caribbean. Mild winds led to some sailing and motor sailing early-on for the first group of vessels that chose to leave on November 1st or 2nd. A short period of 25 to 30 knot winds from the north, followed by good winds in the teens to low 20’s gave nice sailing for the fleet in the middle of the trip, and then a mix of variable winds and moderate trades for the final couple of days to the Caribbean. It was a nice weather period and overall a comfortable passage.
The second half of the fleet chose to delay departure until Saturday Nov 5th due to possible strong N and NE winds on the back side of an approaching front that slower vessels might experience. The second group of vessels experienced more consistent winds, and also had a very favorable and timely passage.
Of the fleet of 81, a few went directly to the Bahamas or Florida, and four of the vessels came north from Bequia to meet the fleet from Hampton and join in the fun in North Sound.
Offshore, as always, sailors experienced some odd events. That is just part of cruising. Here is a sampling:
- Setting the Spinnaker, Underwater – Rockhopper had carefully stowed their spinnaker, lashed in its sock to the lifelines. A large wave ripped it from the lifelines and into the sea, where it promptly deployed, with the sail, sock and line trailing 150 feet aft. (Some racers call this shrimping!)
- Turning around and heading for home – In the middle of the night (of course that’s when it always happens), almost to the Virgin Gorda, Flash’s autopilot caused an abrupt turn. As they got the AP refunctioning and recalibrated, they found ourselves headed NW instead of SE. Russ, crew on nearby Archer, ever alert, called over wondering if Flash had decided to go back home. Funny!
- Live fire exercise – This will wake you up. While sailing along in stiff breezes, a block at the mast base explodes on Charmed Life – with such explosive force that one of the parts penetrated the mast – leaving a bullet hole. The crew in the cockpit was lucky! Definitely Charmed Life!
- Traveling in Class – After getting several reports from Zapporah of big seas, spray, rain, slamming through waves, Doug’s daughter in a loving, sympathetic message said “That is the most expensive way to travel third class in the world.” The crew promptly responded, they’d be glad to upgrade to third class.
- Autopilot: Priceless! – After hand steering most of the last 4 to 5 days with a crew of 2, and only limited relief when there was some wind for the windvane – Tanamera really appreciates their autopilot. Thankfully the AP is now fixed.
- Not your usual mid-ocean project – How about having to jump in the water when the wind died to re-rig the bobstays on your bowsprit? Pretty daring by Wreakless Faith.
- Change of Plans – How about diverting to a closer destination to offload bad crew? Unnamed boat couldn’t wait to deliver crew to shore that insisted on singing opera every 15 minutes. Sayonara!
- Slow boat to China – And then there was the middle of the night exchange between Flash and Zapporah: “Doug! (pause) It is going to take you a long time to get to the BVI at 2 kts!” – Doug says “Seale! I know! But, we’ll still get there.”
Chris Parkers’ weather forecasting, courtesy of Blue Water Sailing Magazine, as usual was spot on, and the full fleet appreciated his sage advice. After arrival, owners and crew transitioned to an active Salty Dawg social calendar of regular happy hours, morning yoga, a daily morning net of Dawgs helping other Dawgs, hiking, snorkeling, a superb and entertaining Arrival Dinner November 18 at the Bitter End Yacht Club, a pot-luck Thanksgiving on the beach, and a gathering once again up at Hog Heaven overlooking North Sound.
The Fall Rally and follow-on activities once again met the high standards of Salty Dawg Rallies and events, with solid management, sound preparation, extensive offshore planning, world class weather forecasting and routing, broad communication nets, expert assistance, fun, camaraderie and best of all – lasting friendships!