11.30.2012

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.

 

9 comments:

Anne and Chris said...

So glad the rally experience was a good one for you. The Salty Dawgs sounds like a good group.

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