Sail to the Sun Rally Gets Underway

19 boats head down the ICW to their cruising dreams in warmer weather in Florida, the Caribbean and beyond.

Where's Wally
The Rally fleet on the lock walls waitingWally Moran

Between Matthew, the Annapolis Sailboat Show, the Sailing and Cruising Dinner, the Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar, and prepping for the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally and the kickoff wine and cheese dinner, and getting from Naptown to Hampton, I've actually not had a lot of time to blog and keep you up to date. I'll try not to let that happen again.

I will tell you this, it's been an exciting couple of weeks, and the culmination of all this activity was October 17, when the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally left Hampton - 19 boats heading south towards their cruising dreams. And although we've only just ended day two, it's been an amazing two days already.

Part of the leadup to the Rally was the Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar, held at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, where more than 60 boaters listened to Lin Pardey, Dave Skolnick, Jeff and Jean Grossman, Joan Conover and Greg Kutsen discuss cruising. Topics included crossing the Gulf Stream, cruising as a couple, the Bahamas, the ICW, anchoring, ending with Lin discussing proper maintenance while cruising.

At the end of the day, we held a Q&A session, and then a opportunity for those attending to share nibbles and adult beverages with the speakers. Wonderful session, with many people commenting on how much value there was in the day for them. Be watching here for an announcement of a similar day long session later this year in Florida!

Next morning, it was time to sail to Hampton VA - and the winds were kind, either very gentle out of the south making for easy motoring, or stronger from the north making it possible to sail.

wheres wally
Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar, Greg from Mantus speaking.Wally Moran

In Hampton, our kickoff wine and cheese was hosted by Dave, the manager at Bluewater Marina - and thank you again Dave for a great time! Much appreciated.

Guest speakers were Ed Tillett from Waterway Guide, who discussed current issues on the ICW and how to keep track of them using the Waterway Guide app online; and Bill Knowles from the Salty Dawg Rally, who explained his rally program to the group. All in all, an excellent session. The following day, it was an o'dark:30 departure from the docks to get to Great Bridges and the lock there. Our original plan was to 'do the Dismal', but flooding due to Matthew has closed the Dismal, possibly until spring. No one is quite sure yet just how bad the problems there are, but there are many downed trees and new shoaling to deal with before it reopens.

Dockage now looked to be an issue with the change in plans. With some kind assistance from Atlantic Yacht Basin, we scored the required slips for everyone as well as putting a few of our vessels on the new free dock at Great Bridge and on the walls following the lock. With the flooding, our big issue was bridge clearance for the taller boats. The first problem bridge was right after the Great Bridge lock - and sure enough, Reflections was too tall even after having removed his masthead gear - all but one item that put him one inch over the limit. Back to the dock and back up the mast. Such fun! Next came the Pungo Ferry bridge, which was showing 63.25 feet at the notice board. Seems someone measured Reflections' mast height wrong - it wasn't 62.5 as Brad had been told - it was 63.4, enough to stop Reflection from proceeding. Now what?

Wheres wally
Look Ma! No, wait...don't look!Wally Moran

Ken, from Mauna Kea, hopped over and went out to the end of the mast - wasn't enough to heel the boat over that teeny little bit and Ken is not a small guy either. Then Ken saw some older teens swimming and 'volunteered' them to help out. Three got on the rail, and one clambered out to the end of the mast like he'd sailed on tall ships his entire life - and that extra bit of weight made the difference - according to Brad, about a half inch of clearance as they went through.

Tomorrow, we may get to watch it all again as we come to the bridge here in Coinjock...we're hoping the water will have gone down just enough this won't be necessary.

Oh, and thanks to Terry here at Midway Marina for putting together the required dockage on such short notice when we discovered the Dismal was not happening for us.

So how is the rally crew handling all this excitement? Pretty darn well, from the laughter and chatter going on at the restaurant at Coinjock Marina, where the boats' crews filled half the restaurant to feast on their excellent prime rib dinner. Thanks also to Cruising World for hosting this blog - you'll find future updates on the Rally every couple of days here, as well as the Where's Wally Delorme Map which shows you exactly where the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is at any given time.

Make sure you bookmark the Cruising World link so that you can follow the Rally on its way south. If you want to watch the fun on a daily basis, follow us on Facebook, at Facebook Rally Group - it's almost as much fun as being with us, but without the mast climbing! Tomorrow morning, we're off to Elizabeth City and their Rose Buddies reception, the first of this year's cruising season - and sadly, possibly the last for this year since the Dismal is closed until spring. Stay tuned for more fun with the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally!