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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Salty Dawg Rally 2017

S/V Northern Star in her slip at Bluewater Yachting Center

We arrived at the Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia last week. Not knowing any better, when we were asked at the fuel dock if we had a preference for a slip, we just pointed and said, “Right over there is fine.”  “Right over there” placed us at the far end of the outermost dock of Bluewater.  

Our meeting place at the marina
There’s nothing wrong with our slip, except that we have the longest walk of anyone to get to the clubhouse, the showers and laundry facilities.  Many empty slips sat between Northern Star and the rest of the boats in the marina.  However, over the past two days, those empty slips have become occupied by other sailboats coming to participate in the week-long series of Salty Dawg seminars before the Rally.  A total of 73 sailboats have signed up for this year’s Salty Dawg Rally!

A full marina now
When we look around the full marina now, we see people clambering all over their boats, performing one task or another to get the boats ready for the passage to Antigua, a voyage that we are hearing could be anywhere from 10 to 15 days in duration. 
Salty Dawg hats

There are sailboaters putting up new sails, divers cleaning barnacles off the hulls of boats (including ours) and riggers going up the masts to check for any weaknesses in the hard rigging. 
Our anchor disassembled for passage

There are people scrubbing their decks, rebedding chain plates, examining the integrity of their lines, replacing worn cotter pins, and spraying teflon onto the slugs and travelers to ensure that sails are easily raised and lowered.  
One of the foreign boats; this one is from Sweden.

Dinghies are being deflated and hauled up onto the foredecks by use of a halyard.  They are then securely lashed down to prevent being dislodged if hit by a big wave.  Every boat is provisioning in one way or another.  
Lots of lists.  This one - Meats in the freezer.

While most people are filling up their freezer and refrigerator with various cuts of meat, pre-cooked (as I have done) others are buying ready-made frozen dinners to feed a crew of 6, for ~$36/dinner.  Shuttles are running three times/day from the marina to West Marine and grocery stores to help us with provisioning.  
Aft end of catamaran.  Cats have LOTS more room than monohulls.

The Rally organizers have made arrangements for some unique services for us, too.  Each boat has already submitted their paperwork for Customs and Immigration.  Antigua wants to see that the boats have been signed out of the previous country, so the U.S. Customs Office is providing us with courtesy documentation for that.  
This younger couple is traveling with their 3 pre-schoolers.

People who have oxygen tanks for deep-sea diving have sent them to be filled in Norfolk.  On Tuesday, our propane tanks will be filled and returned the same day. It is propane that fuels our cooking stove, our Dickenson wall heater and our barbecue mounted on the back of our boat. 
Milling about in between seminars.

The Rally has even arranged for a veterinarian to be onsite to examine and verify the health of each of the 15 cats and dogs that will be sailing to Antigua.  Yesterday, a representative from Garmin came to our boat and updated all our Garmin software on the chart plotter and radar.
Presentation by Quantum Sails rep

The seminars have been practical and to-the-point.  Before today, we have had seminars about examining our rigging, sail trim, SSB (single-side-band) communication, fishing during the passage and a special round-table for women.  
When you need to "park" the boat in rough weather.

Today we had a seminar on sailing in bad weather and the Care and Feeding of the Captain and crew.  Tomorrow morning we’ll review all of the events that are planned when we arrive in Antigua.  On Tuesday, the US Coast Guard will provide a morning-long presentation about their rescue procedures and First Aid at sea.  
This is a Coast Guard Rescue swimmer.

We will be receiving webinars from the Rally weather router, Chris Parker.  He will be following the rally boats and advising them regarding sailing a course to avoid the worst weather if possible.  We have already been advised that there is currently a large eddy in the Gulf Stream due east of Hampton which will necessitate a more southerly crossing of the Gulf Stream than would otherwise be done.
She and husband have sailed this Rally many times.

We are meeting lots of new people here, an equally important aspect of the Salty Dawg Rally. There is so much to learn from other sailors.  We’ve been able to make a few important decisions in the last few days, based upon the experience of others we have met.  All of our preparations here in Hampton are done with the goal in mind of a safe passage. 
Raising a new sail 

If I were to attempt to describe this group of people, I would have to say that we are, on the whole, a rather plucky group, eager to learn from one another, tolerant of periodic discomfort, but not for braggadocio, regardless of the thousands of ocean miles behind some of them. And although preparing for an ocean passage is clearly a sober undertaking, this group seems to find levity in all kinds of places.  
A beautiful boat that will be sailing with us.

I was reminded today of an old trick to play on the boat’s Captain; the long and short of the trick is that after the Captain has ensured that every inch of his boat is tight and shipshape, one of the crew tosses a random cotter pin or bolt onto the clean deck. How hard will the Captain work to track down the origin of that cotter pin? Of course, the trick works just as well, when the random piece of hardware is tossed onto your neighbor’s boat. 

Salty Dawg flag, Seven Seas Cruising & Ocean Cruising Club
Only a few more days now before departure.  The excitement here is palpable. Last-minute fruit and vegetable provisioning remains to be done although the boat is already overflowing with canned food and dry goods   Two large boxes of food supplies are wedged into the shower stall, along with a bin of crew snacks that anyone can pilfer as needed anytime, day or night.  
We filled a 10 gal. Ziplock bag with "snacks" for the passage.

We are expecting another couple of boxes of supplies ordered through Amazon Prime before our departure. One more load of laundry will be done before we leave the U.S. The crew will move aboard on Tuesday or Wednesday in anticipation of departure November 2nd, if the current weather forecast holds true.  Some final details will be shared with you just before we set sail.  Stay tuned.


Greg said...

So you are heading way south! Sounds like a great trip. If I had been keeping up with your blog, I might have put my name in the hat. But if you ever need crew along the way, keep us in mind. Greg, Paula and Abby.
PS that was abby with Jax?

George said...

Have a great voyage, you Salty Dogs!