As the November edition of All At Sea hit the stands, excitement was building at the Blue Water Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia, where crews in the Salty Dawg Rally were just hours from the start of their sailing adventure!
The Salty Dawg thundered onto the rally scene in 2011 and was an instant success. Why? All At Sea set out to investigate.
The Salty Dawg Rally was founded by cruising enthusiasts Bill and Linda Knowles of Bristol, Rhode Island, with their Jeanneau 54DS, Sapphire, and their Jack Russell terrier, Brie, the original ‘Salty Dawg’.
When Bill and Linda talk about the rally their enthusiasm is contagious. “The Salty Rally became a registered non-profit organization in the State of Rhode Island and is working towards becoming a 501c3 (American tax-exempt nonprofit organization) in 2013,” says Linda. “The Rally also became an official Burgee Member of US Sailing. We now have an official Salty Dawg Burgee and we have a newly launched Salty Dawg Rally website. We also had our first Annual Salty Dawg Rally 4th of July Celebration in Bristol, Rhode Island.”
The Knowles carried news of their rally to several boat shows on the Eastern Seaboard this year where they “picked up new sponsors and generated a lot of interest among future ralliers.”
What makes the Salty Dawg Rally so popular?
“There are several reasons for this. The most obvious is that it’s free!” says Linda, before adding “then there are benefits to boot!” She says sailors like to take charge of their boat. They want to feel responsible and be the captain of their vessel. They can sail safely in a group with weather routing and daily check-ins and not have to take out a mortgage to do it. They can experience the fun and friendships that are made and last a lifetime.
The rally takes the yachts from Newport to the British Virgin Island, Bahamas, or ‘other various locations’. While the organizers want the event to be fun, not an endurance test, they recognize the challenges the sailors will face offshore.
First time ralliers Hank and Seale George are seasoned cruisers who over 30-years have logged 160,000 blue water miles including five voyages to the Caribbean. One of the reasons they chose the Salty Dawg Rally was because of its flexibility.
“We liked the idea of a low key rally, since we prefer to select our own departure windows, schedule, and route,” says Hank. The couple are sailing Flash, a Catana 471 performance catamaran. Hank notes the boat is well equipped for offshore passages, with storm-sail, light air sails (screecher and two spinnakers), SSB, Sat phone, liferaft, EPIRB-Cat II, sea drogue, parachute storm anchor, flares, etc.
For the passage the George’s have invited two experienced sailing friends to go with them along with Breezy and Misty, their two four-legged Salty Dawgs who have being blue water sailing for the past nine years.
For the rally organizers, safety is the number one priority. Float plans, an active SSB net and weather routing are just part of the safety procedures. “We also encourage each boat to get a Spot Messenger,” says Linda Knowles. “And this year we plan to have a site that will track the boats as a fleet.”
Long-distance sailors Beth and Paul Winchell and their Beneteau 57 Black Swan are also rallying for the first time. After studying promotional material, they thought the rally offered the best value for money. “The Salty Dawg Rally has no fees but provides weather routing, something we always use for a trip to the Caribbean (at a costs of around $350). In addition the organizers have negotiated fuel and grocery discounts,” say the cruisers.
The Winchells were not starting with the boats in Virginia, but taking part from their home in Beaufort, NC.
Seasoned ‘Dawgs’ Pablo and Tatja Hopman and daughters Remi (7) and Mia (10) have taken part in two ‘Salty’ rallies—to and from the Caribbean—aboard their Hallberg-Rassy 37 Borealis – one of the smallest boats in the fleet.
“The Salty Dawg Rally is perfect for independent minded cruisers looking for camaraderie, planning and en route support in a low key atmosphere,” says Tatja. “We particularly appreciate the autonomy to make our own decisions on departure and arrival locations as well as dates.” Recalling the last rally, she says, “Having access to Chris Parker for weather was great and SSB passage support of Dick Giddings and the DooDah net was invaluable.”
Aside from the thrill of voyaging, first time ‘Dawgs’ and old hands alike say they are looking forward to the social activities prior to departure and on arrival in the BVI.
“We expect, as we’ve always found cruising, to meet many interesting folks, continue to link up as we cruise the Caribbean this winter, and no doubt stay in touch for a long time after this winter,” says Hank George. “The cruising community is special, and these friendships are priceless.”
For information about the Salty Dawg and the return rally to the U.S. in the spring, visit: www.saltydawgrally.org
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea and a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten He is the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High and the Lucky Lady Cookbook. For details, visit: garyebrown.net