If your cruising plans this fall include sailing to the Caribbean or Mexico, check out one of the several cruising rallies that head in that direction. Benefits include some instant sailing buddies, and rallies typically offer social events, boat-safety checks, crew lists, marina discounts and radio nets.
The Caribbean 1500 is the longest-running ocean rally in North America, and each year attracts newbies and veterans alike. Beginning in Portsmouth, Virginia, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, participants sail in company to Nanny Cay, in the British Virgin Islands. Prior to leaving, sailors are treated to a week of social gatherings, safety gear inspections, and more, and when you arrive at the dock after your passage, someone is there to greet you.
This year, boats will start to gather in Virginia on October 26, and will head out on November 3 (weather dependent). The awards ceremony will take place on November 15 (or 12 days after a delayed start).
A subset of the Caribbean 1500, the ARC Bahamas has the departure port, date and pre-rally activities, but the destination is Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
This year marks the third running of this newcomer to the rally scene—and each year, it just gets bigger! The rally leaves from Hampton, Virginia, on November 4 (weather permitting) and winds up somewhere south—the bulk of the fleet head to the Virgin Island, but others make tracks for the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and other destinations. The Salty Dawg Rally is free to join, and there are social gatherings in the week leading up to departure. Free weather routing is provided by Chris Parker, and other discounts are available to participants as well.
The Baja-Haha is the West Coast’s largest cruising rally and is a whole lotta fun. The rally starts in San Diego, California, and heads in three legs to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at the tip of the Baja peninsula, and part of the Baja-Haha experience is in the beach parties, costume parties, barbeques and potlucks that the crews from the 100+ rally boats participate in.
Boats begin gathering in San Diego around October 19, and Leg 1 begins on October 28.
Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC)
For those sailors that need to cross the pond to cruise the Caribbean, there’s the ARC. This rally can only be described as massive as there are typically more than 200 participating boats. The ARC has been setting sail across the Atlantic every November since 1986, making it one of the longest-running rallies in the world. Boats need to arrive in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria by November 17, and the fleet heads out on November 24. Most boats will arrive in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, between December 11 and 16, and each boat is greeted with rum punch and fresh fruit.
The ARC organizers provide a full itinerary of social events on both sides of the pond, and many ARC sailors continue to cruise in company after the event is over.
For cruisers with an interest in stopping in the Cape Verde islands, the ARC+ rally gathers in Gran Canaria by November 5 and heads down to Sao Vincente before crossing the Atlantic.
This fall, Jimmy Cornell is launching a new transatlantic rally that’s just for cruising sailors. What makes this rally different is that participants will have a choice of start dates and departure and arrival ports. The Atlantic Odyssey will leave from two ports in the Canary Islands—Arrecife on November 17 and Santa Cruz de la Palma on January 12, 2014—and head to the Caribbean. Those who leave on the earlier start date will head to Le Marin, Martinique, and the others will sail to St. George’s, Grenada.
Noth American Rally to the Caribbean
A little different than the other rallies listed here, the NARC is for professionally skippered boats and sails from Newport, Rhode Island, stops in Bermuda, and winds up in St. Maarten. The rally is free to join and includes dockage and fuel discounts, a radio net, weather routing, social events and more. Offshore Passage Opportunites is the organizer behind the rally, and if you are looking for more sea time, OPO can place you on a NARC boat or a Salty Dawg Rally boat. The NARC leaves Newport on November 3, or when weather allows.