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In Memory of Bill Knowles PDF Print Email
Friday, May 06, 2022 04:08 PM

In Memory of Salty Dawg Founder Bill Knowles

On Thursday April 28, William (Bill) Knowles, founder and first president of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association died after a long illness. As noted by a friend who had seen him only two days before, Bill had been up and about and had been able to join them for lunch despite his illness. Two days later he was gone. His partner and dear wife Linda Knowles predeceased Bill by two years. 

Together, Bill and Linda were a force of nature. They were long-time sailors and had spent about a decade of their retirement years sailing back and forth to the British Virgin Island each fall and spring aboard their Jeanneau 54 Sapphire.  Swinging on a mooring in Tortola’s West End, Sapphire was a well-known landmark all winter and the Knowles were well-known for entertaining friends aboard. In summer, they sailed home to Bristol, RI, where their summer friends often joined them for gams and sundowners.

In 2011, after the Caribbean 1500, in which the Knowles had sailed several times, was taken over by World Cruising Club, the Knowles decided to break away and make the trip to the BVI with some like-minded friends. Word of this plan got out and by departure time in early November the fleet, known as the Salty Dawgs, had grown to more than 30 boats. Out of that first rally, the SDSA was born. You can read more about the ensuing history of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association here.

Since 2011, close to one thousand boats and some five thousand sailors have taken part in Salty Dawg Rallies and attended the SDSA educational seminars. And, true to the Knowles love of life, they also have attended numerous fun and memorable parties. 

The sailing and cruising philosophy that Bill and Linda brought to their time at sea and to the rallies they started, was based on a deep respect for the ocean and for the fundamentals of seamanship, self-reliance and the camaraderie of sailors everywhere. Bill and Linda’s legacy lies in all of the thousands of sailors who have sailed in their rallies and benefited from their example.

Bob Osborn, the third and current president of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, noted after Bill’s death, “Bill and Linda Knowles brought the salty dawg rally to life by sheer force of will, a true kitchen table beginning for what has matured into a remarkable organization, educating thousands of blue water sailors over the decade since they founded the organization in 2012.  The cruising community owes them a debt of gratitude.” 

Hank George, who served as the second president after Bill, remarked, “Bill was a good friend and a fellow sailing fanatic who will be missed but not forgotten. His warm smile and engaging personality encouraged many sailors as they faced a challenging offshore passage. His passion for sailing and example of sailors helping sailors are embodied in the Salty Dawg Sailing Association and represent his lasting legacy to the world’s sailing community.”

Jo Ella Barnes, the current secretary of the SDSA board of directors, offered this remembrance. 

“We became good friends during our second trip to the Caribbean in 2015-16.  Our boat had transmission problems and we stayed on a mooring near their boat in West End. Linda came down with something during that time and I helped “nurse” her back to health.  My husband Matt and I went over to Sapphire every day and cooked and visited with them both even after she recovered. Bill once told Matt that his father told him, “It was important in life to have a strong handshake and be able to mix a strong drink.“ Matt can attest Bill had achieved both. “

As Matt and Jo discovered, everyone who ever knew Bill has had his or her hand crushed in his giant grip. And anyone who ever stopped by Sapphire for a sundowner, any time of day, also learned that he did not like to spoil rum with too much mixer.  Both Bill and Linda will be long missed in the cruising community.

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association is a vibrant volunteer run organization that helps sailors develop blue water sailing skills. Membership and donations enable us to keep Rally, Webinar and Event costs low. If you would like to donate in Bill's memory, please use the link below.

Donate Here

The SDSA is a qualified* tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit therefore donations are tax deductible. 

George Day

VP SDSA Board of Directors

Registration Now Open for the 2022 Salty Dawg Rallies PDF Print Email
Monday, January 24, 2022 06:41 PM

The not-for-profit Salty Dawg Sailing Association will be hosting four rallies this year. Each rally is an opportunity for sailors to cruise-in-company, with the safety, camaraderie, and passage-preparation assistance that only a rally can provide, with minimal requirements and minimal costs. Meet new friends and re-unite with old ones.  Kids and pets are always welcome. 

  • The Homeward Bound Rally (formerly East Coast Rally) will be leaving from the USVIs in early May for various ports on the US East Coast.  For the first time, SDSA is considering adding a gathering in Bermuda for those departing from the Caribbean.  If you might like to do this, please email [email protected] so the organizing committee can see how much interest there might be. 
  • The Downeast Rally will have three legs, leaving from Hampton, VA in early July, then to Newport, RI, then on to Chuttyhunk, MA with a final landfall in Rockland, ME around July 10. Cruisers can join the rally at any port.  Of course, there will be meetings to help cruisers get ready, socials to meet the other participants, and rendezvous all along the way. The Downeast Rally is the perfect opportunity to gain experience sailing overnight in the ocean in the company of other Salty Dawg boats and with experienced shoreside staff support. 
  • This year the Dawgs are thrilled to be able to include the Maritime Rally again. This rally will leave from either Provincetown, MA or Penobscot Bay, ME in mid-July for points in Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton and Bras D’Or Lakes. Again, Salty Dawg socials will be plentiful. Nova Scotia has an attractive sea-bound coast, with quaint fishing villages, numerous isolated coves and historic sites. 
  • The Caribbean Rally will depart Hampton, VA around November 1 going to your choice of the Bahamas or Antigua. This cornerstone rally meets late in October with meetings, seminars, and Q & A sessions to help get cruisers out of the cold and into the fun of the Caribbean. A crossing to Antigua usually takes 10-14 days. The crossing to the Bahamas 7-8 days. Upon landing at your winter season destination expect social and educational activities, both planned and spontaneous, to be abundant. The Caribbean Rally is not only the largest organized flotilla of cruisers leaving the US East Coast for the Caribbean—but the most fun!

All social events will be carried out in compliance with local Covid-19 guidelines. All rallies will have weather support and routing by Chris Parker and the Marine Weather Center, as well as shoreside support and emergency response team from an experience team of cruisers to help ensure a well-run and safe rally for all. Each departure date is weather-dependent and at the discretion of the captain as to each boat’s readiness.

Rally registration and more information can be found at

Not sure if you (or your boat) are ready to go? Increase your blue water knowledge by enrolling in the Salty Dawg series of webinars. Hosted by experienced offshore and industry professionals who really know their trades and the rigors of the cruising life, these webinars cover everything from insurance for cruisers, how to buy the right cruising boat, rally sailing, communications at sea, weather and routing, safety equipment, storm tactics and more. Webinars are free for Salty Dawg members. Non-members pay just $25 for each series of webinars. Check them out at


Salty Dawg Thanksgiving Day Regatta PDF Print Email
Tuesday, November 30, 2021 10:39 AM


The First Salty Dawg (Rescheduled) Thanksgiving Day Regatta was held in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, and was a smashing success.  Nine determined cruisers, ages 8 - 80, tried their hands at small boat sailing in Pico sailboats from the Antigua Yacht Club.  There were spills, for sure, and massive equipment failures, but once the initial issues were worked out there was fierce competition in the single elimination competition.  In the end, it came down to one boat and a husband-and-wife head-to-head.  Congratulations to Hermione Pattison of sv Alisara for beating Douglas over the line in the closest competition of the day. 

The first heat was plagued by a dismasting and the loss of a center board.  The second heat went smoothly but there were tip-overs and broken glasses in the third.  The fourth heat was a father-son head-to-head as Douglas Pattison outpaced his 10-year-old son, Arthur and in the fifth heat 8-year-old Alice Pattison joined her mother as they beat out Bill Wheary by a good margin.

The competition was fun and fair and a good time was had by all.    

 Watch the fun here.


Cruising Club of America Recognizes Salty Dawg Team PDF Print Email
Sunday, March 14, 2021 05:59 PM

In the Spring of 2020, as the world was becoming paralyzed by the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Salty Dawg Sailing Association sprang into action and organized the Homeward Bound Flotilla to help 473 sailors in 184 vessels get from the Caribbean to the east coast of the United States.  It was an extraordinary effort involving on-shore coordination, 24-hour emergency assistance teams standing by, weather routing, tracking, and fast-paced thinking.  

Serious Salty Dawgs Know How to Sail! PDF Print Email
Monday, January 11, 2021 12:00 AM

English Harbor, Antigua, BWI 

Sailing Vessel Allegro, owned by Salty Dawgs Sharon and Lee Demarest, was the first to cross the finish line and the over-all winner of Antigua’s annual Nelson’s Pursuit race. Lee and the all-Salty Dawg crew (consisting of Jim Felds, Mark Hoenke, John Hueber, Brian Schuemacher, David Tesar, and Bill Woodruff) expertly piloted the 1984 Tayana 52 cutter-rigged cruising boat over the 16.1 mile course in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 15 seconds (sailing at an average of 7 knots) beating out 23 other boats. 

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