The rallies set sail from Portsmouth!

05 November 2016

Yesterday morning began with the announcement that the rallies would be leaving a day early to get out and across the gulf stream before a forecasted northeast wind set in. Most found this as a surprising but not entirely unwelcome change of plans. As expected, everyone shifted into high gear and the pace of final preparations quickened. Final provisioning runs, propane fills and safety checks were completed and at 4pm the checkout process commenced. Crews still had time to head over to the Ocean Marine Yacht Center deck for the safety demonstrations. This year we had the addition of two Coast Guard rescue swimmers who explained about how they accomplish pickups at sea and the special considerations and challenges that come with a sailboat rescue. They also had a rescue basket and stretcher on display for participants to check out. The safety demonstration continued with life jacket, flare, and EPIRB demos. The highlight of the day was a deployment of an 8 man viking liferaft! When the trigger was pulled (via the painter) the valise erupted into an orange and black mass and seconds later a fully inflated raft stood tall with pressure adjustment valves hissing. The crews were then invited to enter and get a feeling of what it’s like in a raft filled to its rated capacity. 

With the start being moved ahead a day, our annual send off dinner at Roger Brown's was the final event. The skippers briefing preceded it with final sailing and arrival instructions, SSB check in procedures and a wrap-up weather briefing. The line at the bar was a little shorter this year with many a crew opting out of alcohol to prepare themselves to put to sea the next morning. 

The first of the rally boats began to slip their lines as the sun rose over the naval shipyard this morning. The crews waved and cheered as their inboard engines rumbled to life. Final wishes of “bon voyage!” and “see you down there!” were yelled across the water as the boats turned their bows north and headed down the Elizabeth River towards the Chesapeake, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. 


This year we had what we call a “rolling” start and as I type this, all but a few of the 42 boats in this year’s Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas rally have left the marina. As we pack up the office, the marina is almost a ghost town. Such a difference from just a few hours ago. From here the staff spreads out with some heading to Nanny Cay and rest going to Marsh Harbor to begin arrival preparations. See you soon in the Bahamas & Caribbean!