There was a spectacle of sailing boats leaving the dockside at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort as the second Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) ‘Suzie Too Rally’ departed from Curaçao in late November. After weeks of preparation, the first 40 boats from nine different countries gathered together for the launch, excited to be on their way to Aruba, and then on to South America, Central America and the Western Caribbean.
Rally organizer Suzanne Chappell, Roving Rear Commodore OCC, worked tirelessly to ensure the boats and crews had the best adventure possible, planning an impressive five-month itinerary taking in Colombia, San Blas, Panama, the Bay Islands off Honduras, and culminating in Belize in April 2019. In order to avoid over-populating some destinations, the boats were split into two groups, with the last 25 boats departing Curaçao in December.
“I organized a similar rally in 2016 with the aim of cruising in company to some of the more off-the-beaten-track destinations, and was surprised and encouraged by the support from the governments in some countries and their willingness to assist us. By developing these contacts, this year’s OCC ‘Suzie Too Rally’, will benefit so much more. The Colombian Navy have given the rally boats permission to anchor within the naval zone, a restricted area, which will give us added security. They will monitor our passage from entering Colombian waters and will greet us on arrival. We’ve also had some destinations waive their check-in fee for us as they see the importance of bringing structured tourism into their countries. Some marinas and harbors have offered a group discount and are going out of their way to help us organize tours and events,” Ms Chappell said.
She added, “I am thrilled by the warm reception we are receiving.”
She said Curaçao has done itself proud in being an excellent destination for the rally start and that it was chosen as it is out of the hurricane zone and has a large harbour at Spanish Water for the boats to congregate and a fantastic boatyard and hauling facilities at Curaçao Marine
“The Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort have been fabulous in hosting events in the run up to the rally.”
The Minister of Economic Development Curaçao, along with the Curaçao Ports Authority, Harbour Master and Customs & Immigration Willemstad have also given the OCC ‘Suzie Too Rally’ huge support. The Curaçao Ports Authority allocated a secure area in Spanish Water for the boats to anchor together. In addition, and totally unprecedented, they allowed the rally boats freedom of movement to explore Curaçao’s beautiful anchorages, arranging for skippers to purchase a permit enabling them to just email the Harbour Master when they changed their anchorage. Normally, only a three-day permit is allocated for fixed dates and pre-agreed locations.
“The Curaçao Ports Authority may roll this out to other boats, which will increase the popularity of Curaçao as a destination of choice during the hurricane season as it will give cruisers the safety of Spanish Water and the beauty of Klein Curaçao and the bays on the north west of the island to explore at their leisure. Customs & Immigration Willemstad were also very helpful as for the first time ever, they arranged a group check-out for us from the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. They have also acknowledged that having a regular check-in and check-out facility here for any vessel using Sail Clear would be hugely beneficial to improve the service for the yacht tourism into Curaçao,” Suzie Chappell said.