Caribbean Rally Passage Discussion

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The Caribbean Rally departs from our primary departure location, Hampton, Virginia,  on Nov 1, weather permitting.  Participants should be flexible enough to allow for a delay in departure due to weather.  At this time of year weather along the central mid-Atlantic can be quite changeable, and at times severe with the effects of early season cold fronts, still warm water in the Atlantic, and the close proximity of the Gulf Stream.  The timing of the departure is set to be late enough that tropical systems and their initiators have settled down, and to leave before the strong North Atlantic winter gales settle in.

The passage often provides the full range of strong winds and big seas, lumpy seas from effects of changing weather systems, strong ocean currents, and gentle winds and seas.  The expert input before and during the passage from weather forecaster Chris Parker of the Marine Weather Center (MWC) and many Salty Dawg World Class sailors, help both the seasoned and newer ocean sailors in making sound decisions on timing of departure and offshore routing.  Rally participants receive daily updates from the MWC while underway to aid sailors with changing conditions while on passage, as well as assistance from Salty Dawg shoreside coordinators (SSC) for any unexpected challenges.

November is a change-of-seasons, with widely variable weather, some late-season Tropical weather threats, and some strong ColdFRONTs.  The farther North you depart from, there is a greater chance that you will encounter unfavorable weather.  Departing from New England can be very difficult in November, and SDSA recommends Captains instead move from New England to Hampton, VA in September/October.  Departure from Florida is usually an easy crossing, then through the Bahamas and meeting up with the fleet in the Atlantic.

In general, the passage falls into three distinct sets of conditions:

  1. The departure from Virginia occurs with favorable wind direction to get to and across the Gulf Stream (GS) and avoid eddies. This is often quite chilly weather on the backside of a cold front, lumpy seas approaching and crossing the GS, and then pushing offshore far enough SE that the next cold front is not too severe. Air temperatures warm noticeably once in and across the GS.
  2. The middle of the trip usually finds some brisk winds and then periods of light air with some motoring required as vessels head east, with winds clocking N, to NE then going light with SE and then back to SW direction. Vessels usually head for a point identified by Chris Parker that is due north of the destination.
  3. Then sailors pick up the effects of the trade winds, building from gentle NE, to ENE to brisk E trades for a delightful beam reach down to the islands.

You may choose to travel in close company with another vessel in the fleet – a "buddy boat."  These arrangements between vessels are made during pre-departure activities.

Being part of a Salty Dawg Rally ensures the best expert input on departure and offshore strategies, boats nearby for assistance, staying connected with other vessels through SSB nets and satellite email, Chris Parker weather and routing updates, and Shoreside Coordinator communications and news. Boat position is shown continually for family and friends on our PredictWind online tracking map, and a daily graphic of boat positions is available to vessels offshore through PredictWind.

Most boats will head for Antigua as their landfall, and the fun activities there. Others will head offshore, and after the Gulf Stream head for the Bahamas, or the US Virgin Islands, or any one of the beautiful Caribbean islands, and all the fun found there.

The SDSA unites experienced ocean sailors with developing cruisers to broaden their blue water horizons.  All Salty Dawg rallies and events are led by seasoned sailors who volunteer their time and knowledge to help cruisers realize their dreams.  If you would like to join us as a volunteer, we would love to benefit from your passion, personality, and expertise as we plan future events.  Click here to volunteer.