By Bob Osborn, SV Pandora, President SDSA

Getting ready for your big adventure?  The Dawgs can help. 

As I sit here aboard Pandora for a winter of cruising in the Caribbean, I am reminded of the years of preparation before we were ready to head south on our first big run, trying to think of what equipment to have on board, what could wait due to budget limitations and even if we had the right boat. 

I had many questions but really did not know where to turn to get the information that I needed in preparation for our fall departure in 2012.  The longest run I had made at that point was the overnight run to Maine from Long Island Sound, and vacations aboard limited to a few weeks. 

As the time approached when I would retire, I considered “what next” and realized that I did not have access to many cruisers who had spent real time aboard.  And, to make matters worse, most of our friends at our yacht club were repelled by the thought of living on a small boat for months at a time.  Not a lot of actionable help from that set.  

In a bit of a fog, we soldiered on and did our best to find sources of information needed to outfit our boat for months aboard. 

I had never heard of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association and even if I had, the thought of making a 1,500 mile run to the Caribbean was beyond my wildest dreams.  For me, a months-long run down the ICW and a crossing to the Bahamas seemed almost too daunting to consider. 

So, in the fall of 2012 Brenda and I set sail from Long Island sound to the Annapolis Boat show and on to Hampton VA where we began our 2½ month run down the ICW.  After that, we crossed to the Bahamas for our first winter afloat.  

Along the way Brenda and I met many cruisers heading south including fellow SDSA members Bill and Maureen aboard Kalunamoo.  They had done the run before and had lots of advice to share.   Today, more than a decade later and now in the Caribbean, we still “buddy boating” with Bill and Maureen every season.   Finding someone who has “been there, done that” can be just the ticket to help answer complex questions that go so far beyond advice that you can get from others at your marina or yacht club. 

All of this gets to the heart of what SDSA is all about, to help you navigate the many questions that come up along the way.  

As I speak with aspiring cruisers, I often find myself saying “our goal is to help you make sure that your first run south isn’t your ONLY run” and all too often hear comments about equipment forgone or concerns about their boat, a sort of “I wish I had known”.   Questions like “what sort of dink is best”, “How about a water maker?  Is it hard to get fresh water?”  “What sort of spare parts do I need to bring along?”  The list of questions is endless. 

All those years ago as we headed south for the first time we felt that we were prepared but we “didn’t know what we didn’t know.”  Along the way we met many couples that were more experienced and received excellent advice on ways to prepare for our time afloat, often wishing that we had met them years before when we were in the planning stages. 

Salty Dawg is a wonderful source of information from experienced blue water sailors and I encourage you to view our many webinars, connect with others on our Facebook page or better yet, on the forums and WhatsApp groups, available to members.  There are plenty of others who are willing to share their experiences, both good and bad.   

Over the last few years, we have set up mentoring groups to put those in the planning stages in touch with fellow Dawg veterans that can help them prepare so that their first big run is not their last.  If you want to help others or need some extra help as you plan, let us know.   And do not forget the member map that displays everyone based on their AIS and can help you see who is in your area.

Salty Dawg was founded to help aspiring blue water cruisers learn what is needed to reach their goals.  Whether you are a few months from heading out or years to go, look to your fellow Dawgs to help you find your way.  Let us know how we can help and do it now.  If you are not already a member, join and learn why our membership has more than tripled in just a few short years.  

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