The Rally Call

Sitting North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI's

Trip Summary
(ignore that max speed)
     First thought maybe this should be called "To Rally or Not to Rally". This trip south we were involved in our first official rally, the Salty Dawg Rally. Over the 11 1/2 days of sailing, staying in some communication, sharing fish stories, positions, weather etc. I had a lot of thoughts on things I liked about it, and some things I didn't. Like usual I should have sat and written right away with my mind moving on far too quickly, forgetting some of what I am sure were profound thoughts for anyone considering joining in a rally. Be what it may, I'll write a few things here from the trip although somewhat less focused as time has tempered memory.

One that DIDN'T Get Away
     The start: One of the first things I liked was the support from Marine Weather Center (Chris Parker) for the rally. As a participant we could sign on to his weather web casts each afternoon as the scheduled depart date neared to look at and hear what to expect. (Chris' weather support continued via e-mail and SSB throughout the trip.) As a Norther built off the US East Coast, we were one of the first boats to declare our intent to miss the scheduled date and depart after the storm had cleared. Much discussion on how far south and how fast we would need to be to stay ahead of the really bad stuff on the net and the web casts. Not a tough decision for us as we can sail fast, but don't like it. We much prefer to go slow, stay rested, eat well, and keep stress on the boat and crew to a minimum. Several boats chose to go on schedule racing ahead of the weather in 30 kts and squalls...to avoid the really bad weather. One listen in on their offshore discussion convinced me quickly we made the right call. But surprisingly, I did feel some sort of internal peer pressure to leave verses waiting behind. Funny how those old human genetics kick in even when unexpected or unwanted.

Saba Rock, North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI's
        "Fast" boats verses "slow" boats. This had me confused and I think several others are still confused. We left in good wind, hit the Gulf Stream and ran east at a good clip. The wind rolled east with us rolling south for several days in some good wind....30kts for the first two, then a bit more. Next the wind went back north so we east, but not really fast. When check-ins happened that evening it seemed a large chunk of the fleet ("fast" boats) was running well ahead. Waterlines being what they are, we were not going to run away but still exceeding 5 kts I was curious. Well it turns out a chunk of the fleet simply turned on the engine when boat speed fell below 6-7 kts. Hmm so if a "slow" boat routinely starts the engine when they are sailing under 6-7 kts they become a "fast" boat. Never being a racer, this didn't bug me especially knowing we would get into port without needing fuel immediately. But there is a party at the end and it appeared we might just miss it if most of the fleet motored a rhumb line. We sailed east, then south, then east...finally had to motor south into Virgin Gorda as the wind blew gently from the south at the end. We made the party by a day, and still have fuel in the tank. Anyway, we can buy a lot of rum on our own considering the extended cost (fuel, maintenance, amortized life, etc) of each engine hour left in the tank. Again that bit of self induced pressure.

Sail Repair Underway
     On the trip we caught a couple nice Mahi, missed a couple even larger ones who got away with my best lures and 81 lb test wire leaders. We split a seam in the main which by Lynn's brother Gary's (first time sailor this trip) suggestion we were able to take partially off the mast, snake it down through the overhead hatch, and restitch the seam on the saloon table below! We had one Autohelm motor pack it in and were saved from endless hours of hand steering by the trusty Aries Windvane. And like most "windy" trips, we found some leaks we didn't know about, made a few we knew about slightly worse, and added to the work list as things work hard, wear, and of course add ideas for making improvements. We averaged over 5 kts for the trip which is pretty good for me.

     The camaraderie of the group. Unfortunately we missed the gathering in Norfolk prior to the start so didn't know many of our fellow sailors. After checking in together during the trip, often relaying for others, and near the end staying in constant touch with several who were near out of fuel, we felt almost like we knew them. Meeting here at the Bitter End Yacht Club was especially fun as we were able to put faces, names, and boats together. From that we have many new sailing friends. Flying the Salty Dawgs Burgee is a visual indication when entering a different port in the BVI's that it's one of "us" and a radio hail often ensues.

Gary and I Sampling Painkillers at Bitter End Yacht Club
      Lastly a special note regarding the Salty Dawgs Rally. I have been critical of rallies in the past as they are mostly run on schedule, weather be damned in some past cases. Folks often with less experience do a rally because of the "security" of travelling near others, but due to the schedule are subjected to worse weather than if they had sailed on their own. Salty Dawgs is different. If you want to leave early, late, from a different port, even to a different port you can still take part in the rally. This is why we gave it a try. We have always made our own weather and route decisions. We maintain our own boat and safety gear to standards we are comfortable with. We believe it is nice to know others may be near, but if things would get bad we need to save ourselves and not count on someone else. Salty Dawgs fits for us. No firm schedule, no boat inspections, no hard, fast rules. To join you need to have done a lengthy passage or more and be confident in your own vessel and skills.

Saba Rock from the Hill Behind Bitter End
     In the end it is really about the camaraderie of other sailors, the fun of completing a similar passage, and the telling of how and when each of us packed in the long-johns and foulies as we progressed south...ending the trip in shorts and bare feet. Having Lynn's brother Gary along was a special treat as we haven't had near enough opportunity in adult-hood to spend extended time together. Sharing it all over $3 Painkillers at the Saba Rock Happy Hour.

The list of leaking things can wait.



Day 11. The 'B' Word

So it seems that Mother Nature reads our log. I did the unthinkable and used the 'b' word here yesterday, before we reached our destination. I even used it in french. She paid me back by making things very interesting last night.

We had a nice dinner, chili and chips, and were sitting back in the cockpit before we started our watches. It started to rain. The wind picked up. And picked up. And it rained more. Gary and I took the first watch, taking turns steering, getting alternately rained on and splashed by waves. Steve and I took the second watch. 4 hours, 5 hours. More of the same. I went off to rest, leaving Steve to cope. I came back some 3 1/2 hours later to find him sipping coffee and enjoying a pretty nice sail. We had hit a squall line and instead of doing a perpendicular crossing, I think we went through from one end to the other. The radar couldn't see past the first few miles of rain and in the dark we couldn't tell where the storm started and where it ended.

I forgot the best part of this fun. Just before it got really windy we took a wave over the bow hard enough to send water up and under the dinghy and exploding through the forward hatch, which had been left open 1/2 inch for ventilation. It soaked the mattress and all the bedding and some of Gary's things that were out. Gary got to spend his off watch on the sette in the saloon. This, combined with a couple of chainplates that leak, made it a very wet and uncomfortable night for all of us.

So, Mother Nature, mea culpa, mea culpa. I'll never do it again.



Day 10. The Ennui Lats

Nov 19th

I think it was Don Street who said that to get to the Caribbean from the US East Coast, you "go east until the butter melts, then turn south". Well, we reached the Butter Longs last week and yesterday, the Power Bar Lats. This is the lat where a Power Bar at room temp is reduced to droopy, gooey, oily consistency and refuses to detatch from the wrapper. Today we reached the Ennui Lats. Crew boredom has set in. There is nothing new to fix, we still have meals in the freezer, Gary and I have gone through our family members and are caught up with all the latest gossip and we can almost see the BVI's from here, almost taste the Painkillers.

We debated the merits of Gilligan's Island today because Gary has had the theme song stuck in his head all week. Steve and Gary both admitted that Maryann was the cute one. I have to say that none of the guys did it for me. It's very funny to me that growing up in North Dakota, it never occured to me that people going out on a '3 hour tour' wouldn't take suitcases full of money and evening dresses, makeup and high heels. I just bought the line that that's what one took on a boat. I guess I know better now. Although, anyone who would like to come aboard with a suitcase of cash is welcome, anytime.



Day 9.

Nov 17th
Hi All,

A very squally day today for Steve's birthday. He only got a power bar for lunch today and maybe for dinner, too. I do have a bag of Oreo's stashed for the occasion, if only I could get to them without falling headfirst into the cabinet under the sette. I think we'll celebrate when we get to the Bitter End.

We've had lots of rain and wind to 27kts for alot of the day. Everytime I think all the salt water is washed out of the cockpit, we get another large splash over the side and have to start drying everything out again. We may have to go to the dock when we get in, just to wash the salt out of
everything. Me included.

We added Gary to the watch schedule after a couple days of tutoring. He has the 9-12pm watch, then I have 12-4 or 4:30 and Steve gets the 4:30 onward one. Having a third crewmwmber makes such a difference, it's wonderful to feel rested during the day and to have the extra muscle.

We're all ready to get into the BVI's and quit bashing about for awhile. I just want to sit on a chair that isn't moving, cold libation at hand. But all is well here and we're moving on.

Later, Lynn


Exciting Day

Nov 15th
Hello All,

Another exciting day here on the good ship Celebration. The weather is much warmer and we're getting back into our sunscreen habits after many months of not worrying about it. Everyone is wearing shorts and t-shirts, no shoes. I had promised Steve that it would be at least  month before I started to complain about the heat, but I probably won't last that long.

We're trolling a fishing line behind the boat, and have had 2 "fish on" but none on board yet. One got away with the hook and lure. I'm planning spaghetti and garlic bread for supper, but can change that to mahi in white wine sauce in a hurry.

Steve leaned back in the cockpit about 2 hours ago, swore copiously and then said, "there's a tear in the main" followed by more swearing.  We dropped the sail and stuffed it down the center hatch where he and Gary sewed it back up. It was fortunately just a seam that had come apart up by the top batten, so the sail is now back up and we're once again watching for fish.

We've seen 1 ship today, a supertanker, and spoke to one other Salty Dawg, Cataway, on the VHF.

Till tomorrow, Lynn


Days 3-6.

Most recent updates!

Nov 14th
Hello All,

We finally had to start the motor, after 5 1/2 days of pretty good sailing. So we're running the watermaker to top the tank and freezing the holding plate in the fridge. It's been a pretty uneventful trip so far, but now that were motoring, Hjlmr, our electronic auto helm is misbehaving. Hjlmrsen, the windvane steering, has been wonderful, but the wind has gone away. It looks like we'll hand steer through tonight. I'm doubley glad we have an extra person as crew. And while I'm at it, I have to say how nice it's been to have my brother, Gary, along as crew. As grownups, with families, living in different states, we haven't seen much of eachother for the last 20 years (30 years??), maybe a few hours here and there on a holiday, and its been really nice to be able to spend the last week with him. I don't know if he'll agree after another week onboard, but I'm certainly enjoying it.

Till tomorrow, Lynn

Nov 12th,
Hi All,

Still rocking along here. It was quite a rough night, winds around 20-25 kts with a small squall hitting 27. Gary is being a trooper, despite what we're doing to him. Last night it seems that the boxes and bags on the opposite side of the V-berth where he's sleeping, jumped their lee cloth and piled up on him. He finally gave up on sleep and spent most of the night in the cockpit. He says he feels like he's been beat up.

Our excitement today, Monday, was at 1158 when we spotted a floating gallon container and a ship at the same time. Yup, not much to see out here.

The wind is still strong and seas fairly big, but we're reefed down for it, so all is well. Everyone's feeling well, chili and tortillas for dinner tonight.



Beaufort to BVI's - Day 2

The most recent update from the Celebration crew:  Also, if you haven't checked out the GPS tracking map on the Salty Dawg site, do it!  It updates constantly, very cool to see where all the different boats are.  http://www.hawketracking.org/saltydawg/files/trackinglarge.htm

Hello All,
We're well into day 2 and all is well. Winds are clocking more from the ENE so we're heading SE on a nice reach. Good stirfry last night, maybe again today, to eat up the cabbage.

We dropped a Message in a Bottle in the gulf stream on friday night at 2310 for Jim, Beth and Cameron on Wild Haggis. Coordinates N33.56.628 W075.23.182. no pictures taken due to darkness.

We also had a burial at sea for our hitch hiker bird, he was dead on deck yesterdy morning. Sad to see.

So we're just bopping along, making good way. Everyone is sleeping well and eating pretty well, I broke out the first bag of jerky today. Good stuff, nice and salty.

Lynn, Steve and Gary



RartUp this month is about provisioning our boats. How much do we keep on board. Do we stash special things for the future?
I have to admit that when we first left the US and headed to The Bahamas, I had food for 3 or 4 months.  We'd been told so many horror stories about food prices in The Bahamas, that I may have gone a little overboard.  While we were still living at the dock in St Petersburg, I kept track of our consumption rates for just about everything: peanut butter, TP, toothpaste, pasta. They all had magic marker 'open' dates on them, and when we finished something it got recorded in my log. I knew how long an 18oz jar of peanut butter lasted and I bought accordingly. (Just for the record, 18oz of peanut butter lasts a month.) I had read a quote from Lin Pardey, I think, who said that she had a set level for her stores, and every time she had the opportunity to stock up to that level, she did. That way  when the wind was right they were ready to go. I try to follow that plan.
Someone else told us not to buy any food for the boat that we didn't already eat, and that has proven to be true. We don't eat canned fruit, but I thought we should have some for 'fruit emergencies'. The cans are still on board, way past their expiration dates.
Speaking of dating things, I just put the month and year that I bought something on the outside with a magic marker. It makes it easy to keep the older stuff in front/on top, and I don't have to find my glasses to read the real expiration dates.
To make it really easy when we're in a port with good shopping access, or a find a "friend with benefits" (aka: a car) I keep a small notebook in the backpack with a continuous list for groceries, a Home Depot list, a Joann Fabrics list, West Marine list, sizes for the filters we use, and any other measurements we might need. I'm a compulsive list maker, so this works great for me.
I also keep a notebook provision list of what we have on the boat and where it is.  We have a fridge and a separate Engel freezer but there is cold storage under the first level of the fridge where we keep extra blocks of cheese, beer, sausage. It's a whole lotta work to get to the underfridge section, only to find that what I'm looking for isn't there any more. I just use a notebook and pencil to keep track of what we have, then erase what we use or open. In my system, once I open something, it comes off the provision list and goes on the grocery list in the notebook in the backpack. That way when I can do major shopping, I know exactly what we've used and I can choose to replace things or wait if I know we won't need the particular item for a few months.
Just for what it's worth: I tried using a computer spread sheet to keep track of provisions, but it was too much work for me to power up the computer and I found that if I waited until I was actually using the computer, I forgot to do it anyway.  My notebook I can pull out 5 times a day and make quick changes.  

A quick infomercial for Lock and Lock containers. They're my essential galley pieces. We use them for everything. They're air and watertight. They come in 25 sizes. Mine are square, (they also come in round) so they stack in our fridge and freezer and most of the storage spaces we have.
This is the 'already opened and being consumed' cabinet above the fridge

An exploded shot of all the Lock and Locks from the cabinet above.

We really do use them for everything: the external hard drives live in one in the ditch bag, the sail repair kit is safe from moisture in another, medicines and band aids in several more. I usually take a small one in the backpack if we go out to eat,to use as a doggie bag. I hate styrofoam.

Cans and glass bottle storage under the settee. I use crates and square bins to keep it from being a huge pile and to separate different  foods. The bins also keep things from tapping together and being noisy when the seas get rough.

A page from my notebook, messy and it probably doesn't make too much sense to anyone else, but I know what I have. Usually. Pretty close, anyway.

As to the question of stashing special things away for future use: yes, I do. I'm an out of sight, out of mind person, which is why I make lists. So I can hide things from myself, just by putting them under the rice and not putting them on the list. I like the occasional surprise chocolate bar.

For more on this RaftUp subject:


Waiting on Weather in Oriental

Sunset over Oriental.

I think I've used that title before. We always seem to spend lots more time in Oriental than we planned.  We actually had a party the other night and decided to call it the "Hotel California Party: check in any time you like, but you can never leave." Those of us here at the dock, waiting out Sandy, have all spent at least an extra week.  It looks like we'll be able to hit the road by Thursday night.  We'll head out to Beaufort and refuel then head right for Virgin Gorda, in the BVI's.  Our crew, my brother Gary, is here and settling into his spacious suite.  We're well provisioned, but getting low on rum, and getting cold. It's time to go south.
Our daughter, Amanda, is going to post blogs for us again. If anyone is interested in following the rally, you can track our progress here.  Go to Fall Rally  >Daily Logs From the Fleet and > Follow the Fleet.  We'll try to update our log there and here as often as we can.