Downeast Rally Passage Discussion

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The SDSA Downeast Rally to Maine is designed to provide open ocean cruising and overnight passage experiences.  Salty Dawgs provide local knowledge at pre-departure briefings to assist in both your passage planning and your after-the-Rally cruising plan.  The Rally gets participants to Rockland, ME in the heart of "Downeast" Maine as safely and quickly as possible, while avoiding any challenging overnight navigation of the Cape Cod Canal and ports of call.  The Rally provides ocean sailing experience by taking longer hops from port to port.

The rally is planned for the ideal Maine cruising period of mid-July through August, the driest and least foggy period in Maine.  Local knowledge and a reference list will be provided in the pre-departure Captains briefing on harbors, villages and not-to-be-missed pristine anchorages in Maine.  Captains' briefings will cover offshore hazards such as approaches to ports; fishing vessel traffic, routines for passing and communications; likely large ship traffic areas; Cape Cod Canal protocol and communication; and weather routing strategies.  Strategies on avoiding lobster pot floats, and waypoints for approaching Penobscot Bay, Maine (stay south as approaching) are also shared.  (SDSA does encourage all boats to have a warp/line cutter on their prop shaft.)

Rally participants will travel in company, maintaining VHF radio contact where possible.  On the passage from the Chesapeake to Newport, we usually find the faster vessels travel somewhat in a cluster ahead of the group of slower vessels.  We like vessels in each cluster or group to try to stay in VHF contact to help each other.  Along these routes vessels will encounter crossing ship traffic going to or from the major ports or Bays passed along the way.  Experienced captains help those less experienced on weather tactics, interpreting radar, reacting to AIS traffic, VHF communications with commercial and fishing vessels, and addressing issues aboard.  The boats going to Newport often experience light SW winds for gentle sailing, and at times motor sailing.  Some years the mid-summer Bermuda high causes light to no winds, so vessels need to pay attention to fuel supply for this leg of the passage.  The SDSA recommends each boat carry enough fuel, either tankage or in combination with extra fuel jugs, to motor at least 25% of the way.  Fog is not common on this leg, but can be experienced on approach to Block Island and Newport, as warm air from the  south travels over some still cooler water.  Commercial fishing vessels are often encountered just south of Montauk up to Block Island.

Vessels starting in Newport, usually find a bit more wind for sailing.  Gentle SW winds give some nice day sails to Cuttyhunk.  Chris Parker’s weather forecasts will be provided in Newport to all Captains.   Chris Parker will update the Fleet Captain in Cuttyhunk, addressing sailing conditions after the Canal up to Penobscot Bay and to Rockland, including potential for fog.  The Captains briefings in Newport will address timing for departure to have favorable current through Cuttyhunk to and through the Canal, and Canal protocols.  Sailing from the Canal to Penobscot is generally pleasant, with favorable winds, opportunities to sight whales, and coordination with other rally boats for fishing and ship traffic.  If there is potential for fog, the Fleet Captain will make buddy boat assignments.  Waypoints will be provided for entering and proceeding up Penobscot Bay.  Arrival in Maine is spectacular, approaching the classic Owls Head Lighthouse and Rockland Harbor Lighthouse as one enters Rockland harbor. (Do NOT approach any sleeping whales.)

Fleet Tracking by PredictWind will be provided all along the rally route for those who have a position reporting means.  Salty Dawg Shoreside Coordinators will be accessible via Sat phone, email and cell phone when in range, to answer questions, address issues, or to relay messages from family.

After the Rally, and a short three-day mini-cruise in Maine, boats will have the opportunity to do leisurely day-sails and exploration when heading back south, stopping at interesting ports that were passed on the passage north. Once the official rally has ended, you will have ample opportunity to visit southern Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island with your new boating friends. Picturesque anchorages and harbors are easy day hops away.  Or, join the Maritime Rally and continue your adventure all the way to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  In September, when the kids are back in school and the local summer cruising traffic has subsided, mooring fees may be lower.  The Cruising Guide to The Maine Coast, by Hank and Jan Taft is a fantastic resource. Though currently out of print, it is worth the hunt if you can find a copy. Cruising Club of America has recently created its online Cruising Guide to Maine which is free and available at guides.cruisingclub.org.

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.