Salty Dawg Rally November 2017

Suzie Too Rally participants in Belize
Alembic Crew: Sara, Bill, and Helen
Our first rally, the four month Suzie Too Rally from Curacao to Belize in 2016, was such a great experience, so we decided to join another one called the Salty Dawg Rally. Suzanne Chappell organized the first rally on her own and she learned as she went. It was fun to be a part of this learning. She will repeat this rally, starting this November, and hopefully relax with the knowledge that she’s “done it all before”. However, we sailors know that no passage ever repeats itself. This was certainly the case this year with the seventh annual Salty Dawg Rally. While each year there are weather, boat, crew, and destination challenges, this year, new weather events created major modifications.
Trying out the storm mainsail and jib at the dock
Rally kids Trick-or-Treating get Pirates’ Booty (foreign coins) from Alembic

First, the destination had to be changed. Virgin Gorda was no longer an option; they were not quite ready for seventy boats to show up in their harbor after hurricanes Irma and Maria had so cruelly struck them. Antiqua became the new destination, as they were spared with Irma passing 30 miles to their north and Maria passing 40 miles to their south.
Many preparation seminars in the Dog House at the marina
Beautiful days at the marina had us all chomping at the bit to go
Let’s Go!!
A gorgeous rainbow our first day out
Our first day was chilly. We always wear our harnesses at sea
We picked up some fishing buoys and lines so others wouldn’t catch these in their props
Our first of many Mahi

Second, many new ports were added to the trip as boats floundered about in uncooperative winds. The rally is designed to be a one shot passage from Norfolk Virginia to the destination, with plenty of preparation assistance beforehand and celebrations afterwards. However, we all found ourselves in conditions that varied from the normal “head east till the butter melts, then head south”. The steady tradewinds never really materialized, causing half the boats to end up in Bermuda, Florida, Bahamas, and various British and US Virgin islands. Most boats eventually made it to Antigua after brief stops in unplanned locations.
Customs dock in Bermuda
We arrived on my birthday and a few days after Sara’s, so we celebrated ashore!
Getting duty free fuel was a huge savings

Alembic was part of the wandering set. First, we stopped in Bermuda to refuel, as our passage across the Gulf Stream had such light winds, except for the squalls that kept us focused. We used most of our 100 gallons of diesel to assist the sails during the calm winds. From Bermuda, we chose to pass Antigua and head directly to Guadeloupe in order to obtain our qualifying passage for the OCC. Finally, we sailed north again, arriving in Antigua, 16 days after leaving Norfolk. If you count only the sailing (and motoring) hours from Norfolk to Antigua (when we passed it on route to Guadeloupe) you get 11.5 days, not bad for a Whitby 42! We were one of the smallest boats in the fleet. Most were either longer, catamaran, or light racing boats. Full keel, heavy displacement, ketch rigged Whitbys are regarded for their safety and comfort at sea, not their speed. I must say that our stops added delightful additions to our trip, so we are certainly not complaining about any of our decisions to modify the original passage route.
Dining aboard
Sunset over St Georges Harbor
The Unfinished Church
Bermuda Biking
Sara pausing a moment
Love Bill’s expression as Sara shows him her wind app
As we set off from Bermuda, Allegro sails beside us
Morning meal
Happy to be underway again
Happy Crew
Alembic performing well

While planning and completing passages are not new to Bill and I, having crew is! We thought we would “try out” this idea, having help aboard to take some night watches, to see if we would like to do this when we plan longer trips. Well, Sara Williams sure set the bar high! She had no previous offshore experience, and had only sailed on Alembic twice: an afternoon in Rockland, Maine and an overnight from Rockland to Onset, Massachusetts. Our conclusion is that Sara is welcome on any trip with Alembic! She eagerly jumped into every activity, asking important questions, and remembering each step. From day one, she stood equal watches, controlled and reefed sails, cooked excellent meals, went up the mast, and caught and cleaned fish (even I don’t do that!!) Additionally, Sara was a wealth of knowledge for all things bird, as she is a Wildlife Biologist. And her artistic skills kept us wowed and laughing.
Sara catching her first weedfish
Sara assists Bill as he fixes the hydrovane
Sara goes up the mast

Arriving in Antigua was exciting. Rally organizers did a great job setting up a schedule of fun events ashore where we gathered and swapped sea stories. A boom broke, a steering system failed, an engine died, many filters clogged, sails tore, an underwater escape hatch on a catamaran showed signs of failure, and a prop got fouled by fishing gear three times! We didn’t have much to contribute to these dramatic reports. Our stories were only of how we laughed, slept, caught fish, lazed around, and adjusted sails for short lived squalls or dying wind.
Our landfall, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe
We unstitch our A as we are now official OCC members
A Bird views the harbor
The cemeteries are ornate

I love traveling on Alembic, and am so grateful for having had the opportunity this trip to share this life with another nature lover and adventure seeker, Sara.
An interesting power trimaran in Antigua
Prince Charles comes for a visit

One thought on “Salty Dawg Rally November 2017

  1. Anne Hays December 19, 2017 / 2:25 pm

    So glad you had a safe passage. I am not surprised that you made the best of every adventure, planned or otherwise. Your blogs make me remember good times I have had afloat and I am so happy to have had them!
    Anne

    Like

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