One thing is certain in this uncertain world: The Caribbean, with its warm sunny climate, blue seas and steady tradewinds, continues as a big draw for winter cruising despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Caribbean Fall Cruising Rally Update, the US-based Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) Fall Rally will depart November 2 from Hampton, VA, en route to Antigua and the UK-based World Cruising Club’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) will feature two starts for its ARC and ARC+Cape Verdes fleets from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on November 8 and November 22 to St. Lucia. Together, nearly 150 boats and their crews will take part in these rallies.
“Lots of things will not be affected by the virus,” says Lynn Hoenke, the SDSA’s communications coordinator. “While social distancing, masks, and other protocols will be in order, the trade winds and incomparable sailing will be there, the many beautiful beaches, amazing water, plentiful anchorages, and healthy reefs for snorkeling and diving will still be available, and the delightful climate, welcoming locals, historic locations, hikes, and tropical scenery can still be savored. These activities are good for the soul and can be done by keeping safe social distancing. Being a part of a rally grants you access to the knowledge and experience of those who have done this before and want to see you be successful and have a good time. It also gives you a great base of friends and associates once you are in far-flung locales.”
A New Normal
Much of what’s ‘new’ about the rallies this year are COVID-19 precautions.
“Salty Dawg pre-rally seminars were held online with additional Captains’ Meetings offered frequently throughout September and October. However, as in year’s past, our shore-side support staff is in place, including Chris Parker, Predict Wind tracking, and the USCG coordination team, and emergency support staff. We still plan to have our Welcome Dinner at Boom restaurant in Antigua with seating spread out across their property to control crowing. Our usual cocktail parties in Antigua will be held at different sites and on consecutive nights also to reduce the numbers at any one place. We are anticipating a pig roast at the Antigua Yacht Club. That’s new for this year,” says Hoenke.
Similarly, since the pandemic emerged, the WCC has worked with the Gran Canaria Tourist Board and St Lucia Tourism Authority to create a COVID-safe framework to cross the Atlantic.
“The rally will look very different to those editions of the past, adhering in full to local protocols in place at the time of departure. Plus, as a requirement for ultimate entry to St. Lucia, all crew have to take a PCR test before departure from Las Palmas, and additionally from Mindelo for ARC+, with a negative result required to set sail,” says Sarah Collins, the WCC’s communications manager. “In Saint Lucia, IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina is looking forward to warmly welcoming ARC arrivals with days at sea counting towards the requirement to quarantine on arrival. A full program of activities has been developed to meet local protocols, taking into consideration limits in force for mass gathering events. There will be welcome events, tours and other activities; the prize giving will be held as planned on December 9 for the ARC+ and December 19 for the ARC in a COVID secure way.”
What to Expect in the Era of COVID
What rallying sailors can expect, and prepare to follow in terms of COVID-19 precautions when cruising the Caribbean this winter, is a bit of a moving target as each island nation’s policies can change based on real-time needs to protect residents against the virus.
“Currently we are advising that Antigua requires a negative COVID test before departure and a 14-day quarantine aboard your vessel upon arriving. Sea-time will be considered a part of your quarantine time if you can document your passage, tracking temperatures daily. The Caribbean nations are working to create a COVID “Cruising Bubble”, such that, if a cruiser complies with COVID requirements for entry into one country, they will then meet COVID requirements for the other countries. At this time, we aren’t completely sure this will happen or which of the islands will be included. We are working with them to confirm exactly what they will be. Once ashore in all the islands, masks are required whenever you are off your boat. We recommend that each captain checkout Noonsite’s (www.noonsite.com) COVID-19 procedure pages,” says the SDSA’s Hoenke.
RECORDED WEBINAR OFFERS ADVICE FOR NON-RALLIERS CRUISING TO THE CARIBBEAN
Two Caribbean-bound cruising rallies aren’t happening this fall. That is, the WCC’s Caribbean 1500 from the U.S. East Coast to the British Virgin Islands and the NARC (North American Rally to the Caribbean) from Newport to St. Maarten.
However, Hank Schmitt, the NARC’s founder and CEO of Offshore Passage Opportunities in Halesite, NY, did informally take a handful of Swans south. More importantly, Schmitt teamed up with frequent NARC participant, David Lyman, to host a webinar on September 30. The webinar, titled: ‘Sailing from the US to the Caribbean during COVID Fall 2020 – Departure Options for Amateur Cruisers’ was recorded and is now available on the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s (SSCA) Seven Seas U website: www.ssca.org The webinar contains a wealth of information. Seven Seas U is open to both SSCA members and non-members; however, members attend for free or discounted rates.