Let us know about your Salty Dawg experience...
Our crew had sailed from the Great Lakes, around the Maritimes, down to Norfolk, and on to the Turks and Caicos in 2014. In spring of 2015 we sailed back to Norfolk. During this time we developed our blue water skills, became comfortable in making our own weather decisions and enjoyed plotting our own path.
In the last week of October 2015, we met the owners of the Acappella who insisted that we consider the Salty Dawgs for basic safety reasons. We were sold on the Salty Dawgs protocols for filing float plans, providing weather forecasts over SSB and email, providing position reports and checking with boats that had missed pre-set communications.
Our application on October 31 was the last application accepted by the Salty Dawgs for the Fall 2015 Rally. On Nov 1, Joan Conover helped us ensure that we were comfortable with our SSB, we started to receive routing advice from Chris Parker that evening and we departed with most of the SDR flotilla on Nov 3.
We immediately saw value in the SDR. In the early morning hours of Nov 4 a number of SDR participants helped the Coast Guard locate the sv Trouble. Then on Nov 5, 6 we listened to Chris Parker track the path of the next tropical low in the Antilles, that became a tropical depression Nov 8 near the BVI, and hurricane Kate as it passed north of the Bahamas …. we were so glad that Chris’s weather routing helped us avoid this strengthening system!
We continued sending position reports in to Dick Giddings daily, that our family had access to. Nov 8 (near Bermuda)we helped another Salty Dawg yacht (sv Aviva) that had fishing gear wrapped around its propeller.
In short, we felt that the SDR greatly enhanced our safety during our trip to the Caribbean and introduced us to community of like minded sailors. Thank you Salty Dawgs, you have proved to be an invaluable resource!
Adrian Gnyra, sv True Love IV
We typically aren’t rally people. We especially dislike the way they turn into a race. How can they not when an award is given for first arrivals and boats are categorized? We give the Salty Dawg Rally a 12 out of 10! Here’s why:
You were with us all the way!
You were with us – in Annapolis in early October when you presented a fun and informative day of talks. You introduced us to others who would be heading the same way.
You were with us – in Hampton, VA where again more excellent talks were given, highlighted by the US Coast Guard rescue demo! Everything was thought of there, including provisioning and fun times. We were introduced to Chris Parker’s weather briefings and a special Salty Dawgs daily briefing. We had been a member for 2 years with him and think he is the most comprehensive.
You were with us – for safety. Radios were checked and plans in place for each boat. People were in place on boats and land to monitor progress and issues. Boats were grouped by those who would be naturally together and reported in. All along the route, we heard Navy ships on maneuvers. A coincidence? WE think NOT! Your efforts with the USCG helped create a valuable safety net out there. They practice maneuvers somewhere. Why not along our route?
You were with us – on the passage. We did leave you with all the last minute details and ugly cleanup. But we did know when you passed us. We enjoyed following your progress.
You were with us – on arrival. There were activities for the fastest and slowest arrivals. We were still together for Thanksgiving and after in Tortola with Foxy.
You were with us – all the way! You didn’t fly in to meet us on arrival, and then fly off 2 days later to another venue. The Salty Dawg Rally is the way a rally should be done!
We have been cruising since 2002, based out of Seattle, WA. We have 65,000 nm behind us to Alaska, Pacific Coast to The Panama Canal, Pacific Ocean for 5 years to New Zealand and Australia, Atlantic Coast to the Canadian Maritimes for 2 years and now the Caribbean, Central America and the Azores. We have been on the sidelines of the Baja HaHa, NZ to Fiji, Aus to Indonesia, and Caribbean 1500, and participated in the Puddle Jumpers from Mexico to French Polynesia when it was self-organized and also the rally to El Salvador (start anywhere, anytime, arrive anytime). We found most too dictated by schedules with little thought for safety. We saw one rally head off into a storm, when customs told boats to find a safe anchorage in the islands to wait out the storm, after clearing customs and immigration. We watched boats leave in a horrible cross current so they could make the picture taking at the start line.
You guys do it right!
John and Ellie Wheeler, s/v Serenity
March, 2015. It has been four months since we headed south with the Salty Dawgs. Joining this rally ranks among the best decisions we’ve made. Back in October in Virginia, we were focused on getting the boat and crew ready for the 1500-mile passage. The quality of the seminars and passage nets was beyond our expectations. We were engaged by Coast Guard and professional safety lectures, weather discussions, and generous advice from sailors who have made this passage many more than our three times. Under way, the level of communication was impressive. There were two daily Salty Dawg check-in nets, and Chris Parker ran two daily weather nets plus a midnight email weather update. Every boat received personal attention in the middle of the Atlantic until the last boat arrived safely. The benefits didn’t stop after the passage. Our main reason for joining the Salty Dawg Rally was to become part of that cruising community, and we have been blessed. We continue to travel down island with other Dawgs who have become long-term cruising friends. Thank you Linda and Bill for giving this community a life.
Ed Ludlow & Judy Richterman, sv Judith Arlene
I am not a rally guy!……BUT, having done the transatlantic rally and part of the world ARC with brand X, I can unequivocally say that it’s foolish not to join the Salty Dawgs for the annual passage south to the Caribbean!! It’s a fantastic group of sailors, superbly organized and led by Linda and Bill Knowles. The depth and breadth of benefits they have extracted from sponsors are mind boggling…. easily worth twice the entrance fee before you even consider the fun factor (which is also extreme!) I could not be more pleased with the SDR and the incredible volunteers that make it happen. Join them for a passage…you will not be disappointed!!
Hubs Hubbard, Captain, S/Y Wind Dancer
For cruisers like us who have done many offshore passages on their own (we have logged 130,000 bluewater miles since 1984), we found the Salty Dawg Rally still has much to offer. This year’s Fall Rally to the Caribbean was our third with the Salty Dawgs and eighth passage to the Caribbean. Our objective in joining the Rally was to better meet and socialize with other cruisers. The Salty Dawg Rally has met that objective and provided so much more – we are delighted!
We found the Rally to be without question one of the premier sailing events in the north Atlantic. The Rally places an emphasis on safety and fun, and offers many social and educational events both in Hampton and in the BVIs after arrival. All of the events we attended were exceptional. And we expect the Rally will continue to grow in value for participants in future years.
Also, the concept of the Salty Dawg Rally to bring together very experienced sailors with less experienced to share their knowledge and build camaraderie is brilliant. The added-value of the on-going cruising community built during the rally is priceless. Salty Dawgs find each other in some distant harbor and continue to re-connect. And the Salty Dawg family is ever-growing.
Further, sponsors are willing to cover many of the expenses to gain access to this body of experienced sailors, and sailors benefit from these contributions with low fees. The rally organizers, the many other volunteers, and the sponsors are tireless in their efforts to make the Rally a terrific success. And in our view they have succeeded.
We are proud to count ourselves part of the Salty Dawg family.
Hank & Seale George, sv Flash
For decades Elaine and I have imagined spending a winter cruising the Caribbean on our own boat. When we learned of the Salty Dawgs while visiting experienced cruising friends in the Caribbean two years ago, we knew the organization was right for our needs. We wanted some level of organization, but we didn’t need supervision. We wanted to be in the company of other experienced sailors, and we wanted the camaraderie establish before and after the passage to persist.
The Salty Dawgs and their Rally exceeded our expectations in every regard. Bill and Linda and their many volunteer helpers know this passage and the islands intimately, and they arrange their support and organization to help everyone make the best of the experience.
The expertise in the fleet is deep and is freely shared, and the participants are fascinating folks to be around.
I’d find it difficult to suggest improvements for their selfless operation.
Elaine & Dutch Dresser, sv DAWN
We can not say enough about how glad we are that we chose to join the Salty Dawg Rally to make the crossing from Hampton to the Caribbean. This was our first ocean crossing and we primarily joined the Rally with the idea of safety in numbers. What we got was so much more. To be part of a group of sailors with such depth in their knowledge and experience, left us humbled. In addition we got support, guidance and so much more fun than we ever imagined. The Rally was well organized and alot of people volunteered to make that happen. The continued efforts to keep people feeling welcome and part of the group continued upon arriving in Virgin Gorda, where everyone took their turn at planning social events. This was a part of being a “Salty Dawg” we did not expect; certainly a wonderful start to a wonderful new adventure for us.
Doug & Mary Mann, sv Zipporah
From the moment we arrived in Hampton for the the Fall 2013 Salty Dawg Rally, we were impressed with the incredible production that was before us. The organization of an event that has grown so big, so fast, is a real testament to the leadership of those spearheading the event. The breadth and depth of the activities, information, and perks available to members of the rally was excellent. With all that was available it was still easy to make it our own. That is to say, there was no pressure to participate in the aspects of the rally we were not interested in. If traveling from the east coast to the BVIs, it makes zero sense not to become a Salty Dawg.
The first days of the passage brought the crew of Stella Blue the most intense challenge of their lives. The professionalism of the support on the ground gave solace to a somewhat grave situation at sea. That support continued far beyond our expectations as we spent two months in Bermuda waiting for more forgiving conditions. As soon as we found our window, they were ready to keep track of us and do their part to help insure a safe voyage for us.
The camaraderie and the friendships that we experienced and built as a result of flying our Salty Dawg burgee is one of the coolest things we’ve had in our short time cruising. Stella Blue continues to don her burgee as a badge of honor and a means to identify ourselves to our comrades even though we are hundreds of miles west of the Bitter End.
Thank you Bill, Linda, and all the rest of the event organizers. You’re all doing something very right.
Logan & Gillian Renz, sv Stella Blue
The Salty Dawg Rally (SDR) has grown up from a little puppy into a full blown hound. In the Spring of 2013 we headed north with a loose collection of sailors where we found community, camaraderie and and a pool of unsurpassed knowledge. We joined them again in the Fall 2013 rally where we found the same sense of community and the same shared goal safely and successfully crossing oceans, but they had matured into something so much more.
With the additional sponsors, the formal and informal gatherings to share information and expertise they were now able to welcome both world cruisers and those relatively ‘green’ to ocean passages. Having Chris Parker talk to the fleet about the weather we could expect on the journey south and safely routing us through the gulf stream proved to be invaluable and when the going got tough he proved to be a voice of calm and reason.
If we were to head to America again or indeed if the SDR’s were to spread their wings into northern Europe we would, without doubt, join them again for everything they bring to cruising experience.
Iain and Fiona Lewis, sy Ruffian
The best passage of all:
This fall’s Salty Dawg Rally 2013 makes it Rum Runner’s fifth Hampton to BVI sailing passage, three with the Caribbean 1500 and its second with the Salty Dawgs. By far this passage was the best! The US Boat Show party at Mears Marina, the seminars, Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton gathering and all the events there, the departure, The Gulf Stream crossing, and all the arrival events at Bitter End Yacht Club made this years passage the best.
Not hampered by the copious amounts of (free) rum consumed in Hampton, the captain and crew digested all of the weather and Gulf Stream information and made our decision the depart on Tuesday, November 5th at around noon. There were several other boats that departed at that time as well.
We made a bee line south straight past Hatteras to get below the coming front and ended up crossing the Gulf Stream though a delightful gap and caught the east bound eddy along Latitude 34 that carried us due east for a day at 8 to 9 knots.
Then we followed the clocking winds to make a beautiful rumb line run south for several days. Ten to fifteen foot following seas made the trip a Nantucket sleigh ride! Hand steering was the order of the day, but it was fun.
Then for with a couple of days of light winds motor sailing, it put us in a final close reach sailing run right into North Sound, Virgin Gourda, BVI at the crack of dawn on Friday, November 15th.
Along the way we caught and released 7 Mahi Mahi, a black fin Tuna and a trophy 70 pound White Marlin. The usual tweaks of the boat’s systems along the way kept us busy fixing and Jerry rigging things, but all went well with no major problems.
We missed transmitting during the daily SSB radio chats (transmitting jams our electronics…gotta get that fixed), but enjoyed listening to all the excitement occurring behind us. Again, Chris Parker’s weather routing and fleet weather source was invaluable.
We are very happy there was no loss of life or serious injuries out of the more than 100 boats making the trek, a remarkable story in its own right that demonstrates the effectiveness of communications and position reporting. We did send daily position reports that were posted on the SDR web site so everyone could see where we were.
The camaraderie of the fleet’s participants was the heart of the rally. We’ve never experienced such friendly encounters that will last a life time. With over 100 SDR boats down here with us we are encountering friends everywhere we turn. We are looking forward to migrating down the island chain with the fleet this winter.
We hoping to make Grenada before turning back for the spring SDR rally back to the Chesapeake Bay. We are thoroughly enjoying to Caribbean climate and way of life.
-Phil Worrall & Judie Levenson, S/V Rum Runner
It was a challenging voyage, especially the first 3 days, but the support and friendship of the Dawgs were inspiring! The SDR and the generous sponsors must be congratulated for a great job. We are now enjoying the BVI’s and the rest of the Carib that’s to the SDR.
Bill & Maureen Woodroffe, sv Kalunamoo
I want to extend my heartfelt thanks for all your efforts in making the SDR happen. In our case, we had intended to go to the BVI’s on our own and joined the SDR for the social aspect and the communication network set in place while underway. I don’t think we would have joined if the SDR did not offer flexibility. Since John and I both tend to be independent thinkers this was essential for us. With that in mind, we left with the mind set that we were responsible for whatever would come our way and more came our way than we anticipated!
It was a great relief to me that the framework for communication was in place and we were able to connect with others and relay what was going on, receive weather information and it was, in general, just encouraging to have that daily communication. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this and I thank you for your being firm about the need for backup communications! We definitely had some communication snafus that we had to work around and through.
Since our return to the Chesapeake we have been so touched by the outreach of the cruising community, we have experienced nothing but kindness and understanding during a time when we felt pretty horrible at the loss of our rig. We are currently in South Carolina on the fast track for Florida where we will be doing repairs. It looks like the next week is bringing us some warm weather, hallelujah!
John and I once again extend our heartfelt thanks for all the support of the SDR, we wish you the very best in future rallies and hope our paths cross again some day!
-Amy Pollard, sv Ñyapa
Usually things that sound too good to be true are to good to be true. This is not the case with the SDR. It’s run by sailors for sailors giving you all the benefits of an organised rally but with none of the downsides such as fixed departure dates or even fixed start or end locations. Even with all this flexibility there is a great sense of community built within the SDRers and companionship from having the shared joy of sailing and completing the challenge of crossing oceans.
We watched with horror in 2012 as the ARC fleet departed Las Palmas into shocking heavy weather and again in the Spring of 2013 when they left the BVI’s into 100’s of miles of no wind and vowed that the usual organised rallies were not for us. The SDR is no ‘usual rally’.
The SDR, through it’s generous sponsors, enabled us to have a safe and successful crossing from the BVI’s to North America on our 34ft yacht. Had we gone our own way and not had the support of the rally and it’s included weather routing from Chris Parker, we would have been battered by a storm that was not forecast by GRIB’s or NOAA in a timely fashion.
Once we arrived in America the SDR support didn’t stop. They came together in Hampton and again in Bristol and they have enabled us to get much more out of our time in America than we could have had as ‘aliens’ in the USA.
Our sincere thanks go out to Bill & Linda Knowles for all their hardwork and all the generous sponsors that enable the SDR to continue.
Iain and Fiona Lewis, syRuffian
If you head south in November, or north in May you need to read about the Salty Dawg Rally and then join it. Why? Because it benefits everyone–your crew, your family/friends left behind, and especially the captain. Prior to the start there are social events so everyone can put faces to the names and gather valuable information/hints that will make the passage more comfortable. You can then begin to post position reports and blog entries that allow your family/friends to follow along throughout the voyage–they even record your daily radio contacts so each day out your families/friends can hear your voice.
Seminars are provided, a set of free charts are given, reduce/free moorings available in some sites, free coffee mugs, Salty Dawg bags, t-shirt, key rings, discounts, etc. are just some of the benefits.
Once out to sea you can access for FREE the service of Chris Parker and receive his specific reports to your locations. This made all the difference in the world to our route. We had 3 weather events converging where we were headed and Chris’s on the mark advice kept us in calm seas while we waited it out. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is THIS RALLY is a low key, high quality and superb services experience that once you join you will repeat over and over again. Thank you Bill and Linda for all the work, thank you to all the sponsors who donate so much, and thank you to our fellow Salty Dawgs who are now part of our larger family out at sea.
-Dave and Helen Peoples, sv Jammin
I have to say that the Salty Dawg rally is an incredible rally experience. From the pre-start staging, weather info, seminars and parties, the in transit weather briefings and checkins, to the arrival parties and discounts. The Salty Dawg Rally has saved me well over $1000 while cruising in the BVI this winter. I have gotten discount hull cleaning in Hampton, discount rig tuning in Hampton, free weather routing by Chris Parker (excellent), 10% off on groceries, a free nights dockage at The Bitter End, a free months mooring at the Bitter End, a free Salty Dawg Mug, a free chart set of the Caribbean, a $50 discount on spot with free membership, $10 discounts on mooring there after at Leverick Bay and The Bitter End and excellent insurance by Falvey Insurance.
The entire experience has been greatly enjoyable. Truly amazing for a free rally run by volunteers. All involved have done an amazing job and a big thank you to the sponsors.
-Bill Danilczyk, sv Runaway
Thank you Bill and Linda for providing an organized, low key, informative and fun rally. You put together an awesome event that we were proud to be members of. The seminars given and the new family of friends we made gave us the confidence we needed to sail 1500 to the BVI’s with our 3 daughters. The friendships made in Virginia were continued as we sailed down island. What a great feeling to pull into an anchorage only to see a familiar Salty Dawg. We truly appreciated all the amenities provided by the sponsors as well. We would definitely do it again and would highly recommend it to our friends. P.S. Olivia loves Brie!
-Craig And Wendy Boyer, sv Anything Goes
We have really enjoyed our membership in the first and second Salty Dawg Rallies. We found great kinship with the other crews, who we ran into in all the various islands, “Down Island.” It seemed to us southern voyagers that we were “Stray Dawgs.” Literally in every island, St Barts, Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Les Saints, and Dominica; we found Meanandering Dawgs. Our association with the rally gave us instant friends every where. Once in Dominca, we saw a boat come in with the Name of Xta Sea, as they passed very close in the anchorage, I started yelling, “Salty Dawgs, Salty Dawgs…” they yelled back, “No sprechansee Anglais!!!” Then flipped us off. Maybe to prevent future international relations Debacles, all us Dawgs should agree to always fly the Burgee.
We found the benefits being Salty Dawgs such as discounts on moorings, slips, and drinks to be invaluable. Of the greatest benefits were the check ins and weather briefings enroute. Kudos to Chris Parker and Bill Giddings. And big Kudos to Bill and Linda for originating the rally and making it better and better. Thanks also to all the many support staff who filled such invaluable jobs to make the Rally the best.
-Charles And Carol Wardle, sv Montana Sky
Magic III and her crew are from the Canadian Province of Newfoundland & Labrador. When I first contemplated taking Magic III from NL to BVI, I did a lot of searching on the web and saw the write ups in Blue Water Cruising. However, it was a personal phone call from Bill Knowles in May of 2012 which convinced me to join the Salty Dawgs. It was a good decision. For us from the Canadian north, it was a 2 legged trip. The first leg was the 1400 mile voyage from St. John’s, NL to Annapolis, MD in July/August. Then we hooked up with the rally in Hampton, VA end of Oct. The atmosphere was great, the happy hours wonderful, got meet a lot of fine people. On the voyage south, it was reassuring to check in with the Doo Dah Net hosted by Dick Giddings everyday at 1800 and to get the weather briefings from Chris Parker. I found Chris’ knowledge and briefings to be dead on. Once I got confidence in his predictions, we carried more sail at night than I normally would have. That meant a faster passage. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Joan Conover from Smithfield, VA who gave several of us cruisers helpful advice and assistance in getting our SSB issues ironed out in Hampton. I would join the Salty Dawgs again, no question. Linda & Bill Knowles are knowledgeable, helpful, great organizers and are to commended for founding the Salty Dawg Rally.
-David J. Fong, SV Magic III
The Fall 2012 Salty Dawg Rally was our longest ocean passage so far with our three young children. It was wonderful to have support and resources before and during the passage. Chris Parker’s weather services were especially helpful. But we had no idea how much fun it would be to have a family of new friends to enjoy once we arrived in the BVI’s! Cocktail parties, hanging out on each other’s boats and more made the arrival week a blast! The bonus amenities from sponsors such as RiteWay and The Bitter End Yacht Club were over the top and much appreciated. But the best has been continuing to see fellow Salty Dawg boats as we cruise the Caribbean, from the Virgins down to Grenada. Thanks Bill and Linda!
-Christopher And Erica Conway, sv Patronus
“My husband and I planned for 9 years to take our boat off-shore to the BVI’s and into the Caribbean. We found the Salty Dawgs in June and immediately signed up. I cannot imagine doing the passage any other way. We met in Virginia and built friendships at pot luck dinners, BBQs and cook-off’s. We started feeling like family and even though we didn’t see another boat while we were crossing it was great being on the radio with everyone every night and knowing we weren’t alone. And, once we arrived it was nice knowing friends were around. Even 30 days later we were still getting together for happy hour, dinners and excursions. We have other friends who have done the passage and are jealous of our experience and how much more fun we had!””
-Vikki O’Connor, sv Moriel
“Having done the Caribbean 1500 ten years ago, I knew I wanted the benefits a well run rally could offer in terms of weather routing, local knowledge on shopping, customs etc, and a chance to meet like minded cruisers. I found out about the Salty Dawg rally in March, and was pleased to get quick and accurate information to every question I asked. My experience only got better as the departure date grew closer. The people entered in the rally were top notch, and the organization of the rally was very well done. In addition, sponsors provided many useful and valuable “perks” that came with this free event. Weather routing, great charts, and free moorings in the Bitter End were just three of the many great extras provided by for the rally. It was far above what I had seen in past events or what I had expected. We had a great trip down to the Islands and then enjoyed the company of the rally fleet until we left for the Bahamas at the end of December. The experience was outstanding. I highly recommend the Salty Dawg Rally!”
-Mark Mahowald, sv Strider
“Bill and Linda have organized a great rally! We participated in the Salty Dawg rally on our way south in the fall of 2011 and again when we transited back north spring of 2012. We appreciated the low key atmosphere and especially the flexibility of being able to depart/arrive when and where we chose. The radio net support of Dick Giddings was invaluable. And having access to Chris Parker for weather was great. We met a great group of experienced cruisers and very much enjoyed their company. We would love to join the rally again on future cruises!”
-Pablo Hopman, sv Borealis