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The new grassroots, Salty Dawg Rally, has literally ‘gone viral’ in the cruising world. Or so it seems to co-founders Bill and Linda Knowles, whose workload in organizing this year’s cruising rally to the Caribbean has become almost overwhelming. Boats are joining, and at the time of this writing, there are approximately 35 boats signed up and more are expected before the Rally’s departure from Hampton, Virginia in early November. On top of that, more than 25 sponsors have thrown their generous support behind the rally, providing goods and services to the participants, familiar names including Quantum, Hylas, Jeanneau, Winslow Life Raft, nv-charts, Blue Water Sailing, and others.
Why all the fuss? The Knowles are long-time sailors familiar with Caribbean haunts, and they and their Jack Russell Terrier, Brie, the original ‘Salty Dawg’ for whom the rally is named, have been making the seasonal trek back and forth to the BVI for some years in their Jeanneau 54DS, Sapphire. They sailed in another rally, but something seemed missing, according to Bill. They didn’t like paying a steep fee to participate, and a sense of camaraderie seemed lacking. So in the summer of 2011, they contacted a few friends who would be sailing from the northeast to the BVI in the fall to see if they wanted to sail in company; and from that conversation, the idea of starting the Salty Dawg Rally was born.
The first rally departed Hampton last fall with 32 boats, and returned with 15 in May of this year. Word began to get around. In addition to new boats joining the Salty Dawg Rally, many sponsors have become active participants. With their support, we were able to launch its new web site, www.saltydawgrally.org, designed to be the central informational portal for cruisers wishing to join the rally, attend events, obtain float plans, and keep abreast of the fall 2012 Rally. The URLs and domains for the Rally were secured courtesy of sponsor Blue Water Sailing Magazine and Editor and Publisher George Day, who was in fact the rally’s primary sponsor.
Where does the ‘magic’ that has made the rally so popular come from? “It’s a lot of things, really, all working together,” says Bill Knowles. “First of all, it is apparent that the timing was right for the development of this type of grassroots Rally. There is no cost to the owner to join, however, they must have completed a minimum of one previous Blue Water passage. Another reason is our focus on safety and education. We stress safety but we don’t impose rules. For example, there is no formal inspection of each boat, since it is the responsibility of each skipper to have proper safety equipment and to ensure that the vessel is prepared for the passage. Chris Parker, well respected weather analyst, sponsored by Blue Water Sailing Magazine, provides daily weather forecasts to each participant, a Gulf Stream Analysis, and an update as to the location of the warm and cold water eddies. We want everyone to have a safe trip and have enough information to make prudent decisions for themselves and their vessel. Volunteer Dick Giddings of the land-based Doo-Dah Net / Cruisehiemers Net, manages float plans for all of the boats in the fleet and maintains a mandatory daily check-in at 5pm EST via SSB radio.
“The simple fact that it is free to join, and the real value of goods, services, and discounts provided by our sponsors, adds up to many hundreds of dollars in savings for our rally members,” Linda Knowles says. “What could be better than a safe trip with new friends, lots of fun events, great benefits and participation free, on top of that?”
The Knowles recently took delivery of their new Salty Dawg Rally burgees and hats. These will be available to purchase with the proceeds going to offset the cost of doing business.
“The only real requirement that we have is that our participants be blue-water sailors, and by that we mean sailors who have completed at least one blue water (offshore) passage,” Knowles says. “It’s laid back, so to speak, and friendly; we’re an all-volunteer team. We are dedicated to promoting prudent seamanship, safe passage-making, and fostering a true cooperative spirit within the cruising community.”
The rally kicked off its 2012 season with more boats, more sponsors, new web domains, and a joyful pre-departure barbecue party in Nanny Cay, Tortola that drew accolades from the Government of the Virgin Islands. In the days leading up to this past spring’s May 15th start, there was a pizza party and BBQ at Nanny Cay Marina, and Deputy Governor V. Inez Archibald joined us at the send-off party to wish the sailors well and voice her government’s support.
For the fall 2012 departure, the boats will be based at the Blue Water Marina and will begin gathering around November 1st. “We expect each skipper and crew to be thoroughly prepared and equipped with the appropriate safety gear, fuel capacity, and spare parts they need for an extended offshore passage,” Knowles says.
Sponsors will also pitch in. The Hampton West Marine will offer ralliers discounts. Nv-Charts will provide free up-to-date chart sets of each participant’s region of choice. In the islands, local business sponsors offering discounts and services include Road Town Wholesale (Rite Way Market), Bomboushay Pottery & BVI Painters, Yacht Shots BVI (marine photography) and Voyage Yacht Charters (discount fuel), as well as others. For those skippers seeking crew, Offshore Passage Opportunities, another SDR sponsor, has members who are ready, willing and able to sail south.
“Our Salty Dawg Rally is a non-profit organization, with an emphasis on safety, communication, camaraderie and fun. The Rally opens the door to new friends and experiences while cruising various areas in the Caribbean. That’s a big part of why we’re devoted to making it grow,” Bill Knowles concludes.
By Capt. Mike Martel