Perhaps the saltiest of all the sailing rallies, the Salty Dawg continues to grow with more boats signing up for the voyage south every fall.
The Salty Dawg was the dream of cruisers Linda and Bill Knowles and thanks to their hard work the rally continues to prosper. With growth have come changes and improvements. New this year is the introduction of a membership program to help defer the cost of running the rally. There is still no fee to join the rally and everyone will receive weather routing from Chris Parker, daily chats and check-ins while on passage, and special rates at Bluewater Marine and at the Crowne Plaza in Hampton, however, membership has its privileges.
Full membership costs $250 and entitles you to free moorings on arrival at the Bitter End Yacht Club until December 20th and only $20 a night compared to $35 a night for the rest of the season. Members also qualify for a free chart kit and Embassy Guide from Richardson’s MapTech, discounts at Leverick Bay Resort and Marina, discounted fuel at Voyage Yachts, 15% discount at Golden Hind Chandlery in the BVI and discounts at West Marine nationwide.
Crew may choose to join as a Supporting Member for $50.
The Salty Dawg certainly attracts a wide age group and this year’s youngest is just three-years-old, while a truly salty skipper 87-years young flies the flag at the other end of the scale.
Nineteen Salty Dawgs are returning to the rally for the second or third time. Linda Knowles says recommendations from past Dawgs are at the heart of the rally’s success. “They love the camaraderie. They like the fact that after we get to the Islands they receive a lot of support. They hang out at the BEYC and get to know each other and then when they go down Island they always meet up with other Dawgs flying the SDR burgee. We have been told it is like a club.”
Past ralliers Dave and Helen Peoples, of S/V Jasmin, say the rally is low key and high quality and one you will repeat over and over again. Posting online, they said: “Thank you Bill and Linda for all the work, and thank you our fellow Salty Dawgs who are now part of our larger family out at sea.”
Activities for children are a strong attraction for families. Called ‘Salty Pups’, the youngsters have activities planned for them every afternoon the week before departure.
The rally gets underway on November 2nd (weather permitting) from the Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia, to sail to the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and various other locations, making it one of the most flexible rallies around.
Although you can leave from different ports, the organizers encourage people to leave from Hampton because of the daily seminars that are held there. “even Salty Dawgs can learn new things,” says Linda.
A whole pig roast, chicken barbecue, chili cook-off and potlucks add to the fun before the start.
The beauty of a rally is the support it offers, and one should never forget that the ocean can be a dangerous place. This was brought home to a couple of boats that needed assistance last year and highlighted the importance of communications between the fleet.
“Last year made us realize that we are doing something right,” explained Linda. The communications we put in place for the fleet while on passage with daily check-ins, and required check-ins with Dick Giddings of the Doo-Dah Net, gave the boats the assistance and support required to get help.”
She added that the US Coast Guard later thanked them for helping locate the boats that needed assistance.
When it comes to a social calendar the Dawg takes some beating and there’s a surprise in store this year with a live performance of the sailing musical team Jared and Christel Astin, AKA Steel and Snuggs. The musicians took part in the 2013 rally and will perform on the Knowles’ yacht Sapphire in North Sound, Virgin Gorda.
Part two of the Salty Dawg is the Spring Rally from Sopers Hole at the tip of Tortola back to the US. Boats begin to assemble in North Sound on May Day in preparation for departure on May 15. Again, a full round of social events take place before departure.
For full details or to become a Salty Dawg, visit: saltydawgrally.org
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is and the author of the thriller/sailing adven-ture Caribbean High. For more information visit: garyebrown.net