Sailfeed
July 17th

Another essay episode for your Friday! This one is a bit more serious than last week, and looks at some of the ‘rules’ of ocean sailing from the perspective of two events from last fall – the Caribbean 1500 rally, and the Salty Dawgs. You’ll recall that six Salty Dawg boats issued distress calls last year, two of which were later rescued by the Coast Guard. The incident made national news, and was a hot button issue among the offshore sailing community. I wrote down my own thoughts immediately afterwards, but didn’t publish them until now, after lots of time to think it over and make a fair assessment of what happened. There’s a lot of opinions in here, so buckle up! What did you think about the incident and what lessons did you take from it?

See below for the full text of this week’s episode if you’d rather read it, plus links to many of the news stories that appeared last year. Lastly, I wish no ill-will towards to the organizers of the Salty Dawgs. I think there is room enough for the Caribbean 1500 and a group like theirs, though I think the two are more different than they are alike. I hope the SDR organizers and sailors learned some valuable lessons from last year’s incidents. I know I did.


Links to related articles:

Cruising World

WAVY News

Virginia Pilot Online

VA Pilot Online (via Sail-World.com)

NBC News

Sail-World.com (C1500 Article)

Sail-World.com (SDR Article)

Island Free Press


You’ll recall that the Salty Dawg Rally garnered loads of criticism last fall after six boats issued MAYDAY distress calls, and countless others were hampered with various gear failures and other problems (links to the various news articles appear in the show notes on 59-north.com).

It’s time now for me to provide my own criticism. Before I get into it, to establish some basic facts and a brief history, hear this.

In 1990, Steve Black started the Caribbean 1500, an annual cruising rally from the Northeast US to Tortola in the BVI. He was following in the footsteps of Jimmy Cornell, who had corralled the annual trans-Atlantic migration into the first ARC rally in 1986. Like the ARC, Steve’s 1500 became very popular.

I first got involved in 2007, sailing as crew on a Jeanneau 40 from Charleston. We were the last to arrive in Tortola, but it established my relationship with Steve, who had referred me and my dad to the boat’s owner. (Steve would later be integral to my working with the World Cruising Club, and now, following Steve’s retirement and much-too-soon death this year, managing the Caribbean 1500 and running World Cruising Club’s USA’s office with my wife Mia).

2010 marked the last year that Steve ran the 1500 – with a record 79 entries – with World Cruising standing by to take over in 2011. By 2012, a core group of Carib 1500 sailors who participated annually left the rally (in my opinion because they disliked the changes that came with a new organization at the helm) and formed their own non-event, christened the Salty Dog Rally (with an ‘o’). The ‘real’ Salty Dogs, crewmembers who had sailed at least 10,000 miles with the 1500, were rightfully upset at the new chosen name. It changed then, and is now known, as the Salty Dawg Rally ( spelled ‘d-a-w-g’).

I call it a ‘non-event’ because the rally allows departure from any port in the NE, sailing to any port in the Caribbean. There are no safety guidelines since “it is the responsibility of each skipper to have proper safety equipment and to ensure that the vessel is prepared for the passage. The core group meets in Hampton, as the 1500 did in its last years under Steve, and sails now to the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda.

The Salty Dawgs were initially free, but they’ve now started charging ‘membership’ fees and call themselves a nonprofit organization. How they got that designation is beyond me. I’ll get further into detail about what exactly defines a rally – and why the Salty Dawgs do not meet that definition – further on.

Steve Black was, let’s just say, less than thrilled seeing the core folks he’d mentored, trained, sailed and partied with break off and do their own thing. The legacy of the 1500 he was leaving behind in retirement (and now death) was tainted in his eyes by the hasty departure of people he assumed were on his side. Perhaps he treated them too well – offering annual discounts and special privileges for coming back year after year – and his kindness backfired on him.
Many of his most loyal friends and cohorts did stay – Rick & Julie Palm, Miles & Anne Poor, Davis Murray and Peter Burch to name just a few who I work closest with (and apologies to those I’ve left out – you know who you are). It’s now thanks in part to them that the 1500 continues on and is starting to grow again.

The 25th anniversary of the event is coming up this fall. It’s a shame Steve won’t be there to see it, but we’re planning lots of special events, our new hosts the City of Portsmouth & Ocean Marine Yacht Center are providing even more support than last year, and we’re happy to see a few of the wily veterans who initially supported the SDR coming back to  1500.

What follows are my opinions and mine alone. I have very specific ideas on seamanship offshore and ocean sailing in general, and I believe strongly in those ideas. The Salty Dawgs last year broke a lot of rules, so to speak, when it comes to ocean sailing, which I’ll get into.
But there is also an ulterior motive in me publishing this now – for anyone starting to make plans to head south this coming fall (or in the future), I hope that the following is a convincing argument for joining the Caribbean 1500 over the Salty Dawgs, and if you go it alone, I hope this helps with your preparation.

I believe everyone involved was acting with the best intentions – but I do believe they acted wrongly. Both the organization behind the Salty Dawgs and the skippers of some of the boats that got into trouble.

Ultimately I felt badly about what happened for those involved, and understand that from my perspective as a rally organizer and a sailor myself, an event like what happened in the SDR last year is something I fear. When an ‘8816’ number appears on my cell phone in the middle of the night while there are boats at sea (indicating an incoming sat phone call), my heart rate definitely increases.

I intend to summarize what happened last fall in the Salty Dawg Rally, why it didn’t happen to the 1500 fleet, and just what the differences are between the two groups of sailors and boats. While I haven’t altered any of the facts, this story is told from my perspective and includes lots of my own opinions. I know I’m going to put some people off – that’s okay. I think there will be many more who agree with me.

So before we get into it, know that I understand that it’s impossible to make ocean sailing 100% ‘safe’. However, with proper knowledge and preparation – and a heavy dose of respect for Mother Nature – it’s possible to mitigate the risks we must live with offshore.

With that said, here goes…

So What Happened?

2013 was the second straight year that the Caribbean 1500 departed one day ahead of the scheduled start – on Saturday, November 1 – to take advantage of a narrow weather window. We timed the start around the passage of a weak cold front – due to arrive in the Portsmouth, VA area sometime Saturday afternoon – allowing the fleet to start in lights airs while a high pressure area moved in, bringing stronger winds from the NW, forecast to shift N and NE over the following 48 hours. It’s always our intention to get the fleet across the Gulf Stream and well offshore while the weather is favorable. In the fall season, and on a passage of usually longer than a week, finding a weather window longer than 2-3 days is next to impossible.

The 1500 fleet experienced 3 days of winds in the high 20’s, gusting above 30 at times, but it was ‘fair weather windy’, the wind was aft of the beam, and importantly, everyone knew it was coming.

The majority of the Salty Dawg fleet, on the other hand, departed on Tuesday and Wednesday last year, November 4th and 5th, on a southwesterly breeze ahead of a forecast cold front. The front stalled and intensified in the Gulf Stream, wreaking havoc amongst the fleet. Seven boats experienced “serious gear failures.” Two boats were abandoned and their crews rescued by the Coast Guard, two boats were dismasted, and several had severe rudder problems. For the remainder of the fleet (many of which diverted to Bermuda for repairs) there were reports of several torn sails and damage to deck gear and sailing systems.

I first heard the news from a voicemail I received as I stepped off the plane in St. Thomas. In the media – indeed the national news picked up the story of the rescues as it was unfolding – and in online sailing forums, the banter began almost immediately, with armchair critics and experienced sailors alike chiming in.

On Preparation & ‘Shaking Down’

One long-time Carib1500 crewmember, who sailed aboard a Salty Dawg boat in 2013 talks specifically about some of the troubles the Salty Dawg fleet experienced offshore last year. He puts it down to an untested boat.

This crewmember, an experienced ocean voyager himself who’d crossed the Atlantic single-handed, surveyed the boat before departure and found several things not right.

Once offshore, the front came on Thursday, stalled, and stayed 12 hours longer than expected. The crewmember tried to set the staysail but the running backstays were frozen in the stowed position. The owner had bought the boat new 7 years ago – over that time, he had never learned what the running backs were for. Apparently, he had never even set the staysail. Ultimately, the crewmember managed to beat the snap shackle open with a hammer and set the windward backstay.

They finally managed to set the staysail in 30-35 knots of wind from the SW, with heavy rain. Ten minutes later it failed, the head tearing out due to sun rot. They had a very long night cleaning up the resultant mess.

And the problems continued. Charging issues, an overheating genset. A mainsheet tackle that blew up. A loose gooseneck fitting, separating from the boom.

The crewmember admitted that they easily could have been one of the casualties reported on in the paper, but in the end, they managed to pull it together and arrived in Virgin Gorda after ten days at sea. The fact that they did so safely is a testament to the crew work in what was obviously very poor situation in relation to the condition of the boat.

The bottom line is, anyone making a November voyage off the northeast of the US needs to be mentally and physically prepared for heavy weather. They need to have full awareness of what they’re getting into.

On the ARC, crews with less experience are given a survey on downwind sailing gear and ability, as that 3,000 mile passage is firmly in the trades. I’ve modified that survey for the 1500 to focus more on heavy weather gear and sails. In my opinion it’s a huge mistake to go offshore with only one headsail, regardless of how robust your roller reefing system is. Boats leaving the northeast in November ought to have at least a smaller, heavier headsail they can hoist on the furler, or ideally a second stay – Solent or inner forestay – where they can hank on a small jib or a storm jib. Simple redundancy and easy insurance against heavy weather.

Furthermore, these redundancies and any systems installed on the boat need to be checked and shaken down long before you set offshore. Dave Hornbach, a crewmember on the Saga 43 Kinship last year, notes that  he’d been working with Kinship’s skipper since May the previous spring. Kinship, by the way, is as experienced as they come, completing an Atlantic Circuit and having sailed in half a dozen Carib1500 passages. In fact I skippered the boat in ARC Europe in 2012, and Mia sailed as crew on the return trans-Atlantic in January. We know the boat and the owner well. He did not rest on his laurels.

Critical questions ought to include the age of the rig, the sail inventory and heavy weather gear, the experience of the crew, your ability to work together with the crew as a team and what the plan of action is going to be when the wind starts building.

The point is, for whatever reason it quickly became apparent by the sheer number of casualties with the Salty Dawgs, that the organizers had not made these points strongly enough. Certainly some if not most of the ultimate responsibility falls on the skippers themselves, but it was obvious that there was a lack of leadership from the top – this was not one isolated incident we were talking about, and from the outset of the creation of the Salty Dawg’s concept, many people feared this day would come. Thankfully everyone’s still around to talk about it.
The next section will be about distilling all the ‘banter’ surrounding the event and what it all means.

Armchair sailors and experienced cruisers alike quickly chimed in with their own thoughts immediately following the news of the rescues. The Internet, as per usual, took no prisoners in it’s criticism of the Salty Dawgs or the skippers. But eventually there came some backlash against that criticism, with some folks defending the Salty Dawgs.

Most notable was the chatter that revolved around the ‘luck’ – or lack thereof – of the weather that the Salty Dawg fleet experienced. The forecast changed, and the fleet got slammed, it was as simple as that they said. But it’s not as simple as that. What happened out there was not then, isn’t now, and never was about the weather.

The 1500 departed on a tight window, and our fleet had winds gusting over 30 knots for 3 days, with 12-foot seas. But the wind was from the ‘right’ direction (ie: aft of the beam).  We took a calculated call on that weather window, knowing full well the fleet would have strong winds and heavy seas (WRI, our forecasters, acknowledged conditions were “far from ideal”). But we took the ‘devil we knew’ with the long-term forecast of high-pressure ridging and northerly sector winds (and importantly, no frontal passages in the Gulf Stream), and people were ready for it – no surprises. Boats were prepped at the dock with heavy weather headsails on the foredeck, sheet leads secured and foul weather gear on hand. Indeed the 1500 fleet got through without any major mishaps.

While the Salty Dawg fleet experienced worse weather for sure, it was far from survival conditions, with Coast Guard rescuers reporting winds in the 20s and 8-12′ seas. It made the newscaster who was attempting to be dramatic about the whole thing sound rather silly. Boats going offshore ought to be prepared for and able to handle conditions two or three times worse than that. The Salty Dawg organizers admitted as much themselves, saying that experienced sailors should be able to handle those conditions, despite the unexpected change in the weather.

(As a short aside, when, particularly in the fall, does the weather ever do what’s expected of it? Offshore sailors need to be prepared for the worst conditions possible during the given season, not for what the weatherman says. Furthermore, it’s why folks sail south after November 1 – statistically anyway, you’re much less likely to encounter a hurricane that late in the year, though early winter gales can get rather unruly themselves).

I’ll return now to the point about responsibility. While I maintain that the skipper is first in line to take the blame for a failed voyage, the main difference between the Salty Dawg’s and the 1500 is that we as organizers have a series of checks in place to help skippers mitigate the worst-case scenarios when going offshore – boats must meet a certain standard of seaworthiness (and are advised to these standards in the months leading up to the event), skippers are expected to comply with the highest in offshore safety protocols (namely ISAF’s Special Regulations, which are used as a basis for all WCC rallies regarding safety equipment), and crew and boats are expected to have undertaken a passage of at least 250-miles to shakedown the boat and the crew, and learn how best to sail with one another. Ocean racing crews submit to these types of checks year in and year out – I myself just competed in the 2014 Newport-Bermuda Race and saw it firsthand – and yet for some reason, certain cruising sailors seem to think they are above these safety guidelines and somehow ‘know better’.
The Salty Dawgs website proudly states that “there is no formal inspection of each boat, since it is the responsibility of each skipper to have proper safety equipment and to ensure that the vessel is prepared for the passage.” The Salty Dawgs rely on the so-called ‘experience’ of their skipper’s, and claim (though it’s proven to be false) to only accept entries from folks who have been offshore at least once before.

I don’t doubt that the majority of the Salty Dawg fleet are in fact experienced (implying that they do in fact know what they are doing) were prepared and had no trouble at all. But, as Andy Chase, Master Mariner and instructor at Maine Maritime Academy so eloquently put it in an article about the sinking of the tall ship Bounty, “Every voyage carries a degree of uncertainty,” experience or not.

“In everything we do,” he wrote, “and even when we do nothing, we assume a level of risk. So we manage risk everyday. But when we are in a position where we are managing other peoples’ risk, especially when we are engaging in activities that carry significantly elevated levels of risk, it pays to get more organized about it.” Therein lies the crux of the issue. The Salty Dawgs, while claiming to be organized enough to call themselves an event, accept none of the risks of their fleet as a whole and refuse to get organized about it, opening the door for exactly the type of incidents that occurred last year.

Furthermore, as Chase puts it, “Experience in a vacuum doesn’t make us smarter. Experience has to be processed. It has to be considered with full disclosure.” He goes on to say that un-distilled experience often simply leads people to become “bolder,” or do things they might not otherwise have done in similar circumstances. (Read the full article on www.woodenboat.com/lessons-bounty).

A perfect example of the fallacy of experience was seen prior to last year’s Carib 1500. Rick and his wife Julie Palm have circumnavigated and been back and forth to the Caribbean over a dozen times, and yet he still submit to the safety check each year in the Carib1500. Last year, the inspection paid off. The liferaft aboard Altair was being checked, and had been stowed aft in the transom in a hard case. When they went to pull it out, it wouldn’t budge. When they finally did manage to shimmy it free, the painter wasn’t attached! Altair’s raft had been packed away by the boatyard back in Maine – a very reputable one at that – but they’d forgotten a small detail that could well have cost Rick and Julie their lives. Rick had taken his experience for granted, and simply accepted that the work the boatyard had done was good enough. “That second set of eyes can be priceless,” said Rick, “no matter how many times you do this stuff, no matter what your so-called ‘experience.’”

On Responsibility & Defining ‘Rally’

“We give the fleet advice,” said Linda Knowles, founder and organizer of the Salty Dawg Rally with her husband Bill, “but the decision as to when they depart is totally up to them, and they’re responsible for that decision.”

Therein lies the biggest problem that I have with the Salty Dawgs calling themselves a ‘rally’. The Salty Dawg organizers can claim to take no part in what happened to the boats that issued distress calls. In fact, the organizers go so far in saying that “the positive take on this unfortunate situation is that these sailors might have been out there anyway not affiliated with any rally.”

Knowles misses the point – they were with a ‘rally’, and the organizers failed to properly inform those boats of the risks they were undertaking and how to mitigate those risks with proper preparation and training. Had the Salty Dawgs really done their job, they’d have advised those boats before ever leaving that maybe they ought to think twice. As it turned out, they put themselves and, importantly, their rescuers at a very high risk.

To nonsailors and nonralliers, I like to compare sailing rallies, and the 1500 in particular, to a marathon, which most humans are at least familiar with. A course is set up, a start date set, entries fees paid, and competitors show up at the starting line for the festivities and the big send off. The gun goes off, the crowd cheers them on, and the pack is off on what for most will be the challenge of a lifetime. For the elites at the front, it might be their 5th, 10th or 100th marathon, and they might be gunning for first place (and the most ‘experienced’ runners among them are just as excited to be there). But for the majority of the participants, it’ll be a race against only themselves, a personal quest to see what they’re made of. They’ll have spent months, even years, preparing their bodies for the test, and success on that single day will ride not on what they’ve done in the moment, but what they’ve done to prepare. By joining a marathon you’re setting a goal for yourself, putting a deadline on your training and committing to join to group of like-minded people for a grand challenge. You’re taking a risk that the weather on the start day won’t be perfect, but then that’s the nature of an organized event. You can wait all year to run in perfect weather, but you might be by yourself.

Rallies, to me, are just like marathons. They’re about completing challenges – namely, crossing oceans – with friends; feeling confident and prepared on departure day; having support and friendship at sea; and providing a welcome to salute your achievement on arrival. What founder Steve Black called “one of the last great adventures of our modern times.”

In the Carib1500, participants pay a fee, then become part of an active community that begins months before the trip with full-day safety seminars, preparation lists, safety requirements and resources. They receive free dockage at the marinas at the start and end of the rally and in between, they have professional guides employed to contribute to safety, camaraderie and intelligence.

Marathoners pay anywhere from $100-200 to take part in a one-day event that’s over before you realize it. For whatever reason, in the US there has been a backlash to event fees for cruising rallies. The 1500 now costs $1250.00, but you’re getting three weeks of events and support. Including crew fees, entry for a boat of four would total $1750.00. Break that down, and it’d be like running a marathon for less than 85 bucks.

But if it’s money you’re concerned about, skipper Bob Woods on board the Morris 46, Lexington, sailing in this year’s Carib1500, offers an interesting perspective.

He claims he’s essentially a cheap person, but concedes that the cost of the rally is fairly miniscule when compared to the cost of the whole trip and the cost of keeping your boat in the Caribbean for the winter. Furthermore, the entry fee gets you four nights dockage, nearly nightly happy hours before and after the ocean passage, several dinners on either end, weather forecasting, satellite tracking, 24/7 at-sea communications with rally control, a comprehensive handbook on all things ocean sailing and Port Supply pricing at the Annapolis West Marine! That last item alone can very quickly make the entry fee more than pay for itself for boats undergoing big refits.

That, friends, is what a rally is about.

On ‘Groupthink’ & Leadership

Another Salty Dawg crewmember mentioned that he thought they had hit similar weather as the Carib1500, but that he had seen it before and acted accordingly. Most of the heavy weather was sailed with a triple reef in the main and the inner forestaysail flying.

He also noted that “if you had walked the docks [in Hampton] and observed the crews and their preparation you can understand the resulting ordeals. They falsely believed waiting and sailing with a large group was going to make everything easy.”

This ‘safety-in-numbers’ sentiment crops up every time something bad happens in a rally. A Practical Sailor article from 2011 (http://www.practical-sailor.com/blog/rethinking_rally_concept-10665-1.html), commented on the NARC Rally disaster, when they got caught in late-season Hurricane Sean, and one crewmember from an Island Packet 38 was lost overboard. Practical Sailor wrote that “While the collective wisdom of a group of sailors ashore noodling a navigational challenge generally offers a helpful fountain of knowledge, it is easy to be lulled into thinking sailing with a large group will offer a great measure of safety in a storm.” In a true emergency this can be the case, but in my opinion yachts still must prepare to be completely self-sufficient.

Furthermore, the concept of ‘groupthink’ is often misunderstood. Chris of brilliantstarcruises.net says that  “groupthink in the negative sense arises when a dominant person or idea and social pressure to conform, or be accepted, or avoid criticism have led to problems and tragedy.”

He notes that there is a huge difference between the ideas of ‘safely getting there,’ and ‘got there safely.’ One is forward looking and emphasizes safety. The other is retrospective and emphasizes having gotten there. The problem arises when the group members begin to merge these concepts in a way that getting there takes precedence over safety without the group realizing it. Dominant members of the group with more experience and/or self-confidence (justified or otherwise) take control of the thinking for the group — some of that thinking is willingly surrendered to them.

This brings up another very important point regarding rallies. The Salty Dawgs, being loosely organized with bottom-up decision-making creates a group that is only as strong as its loudest voice.

The Caribbean 1500, conversely, has a core leadership team of professional sailors, weather routers, safety inspectors and others. Not to say that being professional makes you any more knowledgeable than someone who has spent a lifetime at sea for pleasure – but it forces you through certain standards along the way as you gain qualifications. Nobody is going to give you the helm of a ferry boat or daysail schooner just because you’ve got lots of experience. The dominant voices in the Carib1500 – at least prior to departure – are the organizers, and ‘groupthink’ is kept largely at bay.

In Summary

I want to finish by emphasizing the sentiments of proper seamanship – essentially, that it starts long before you ever leave the dock. A successful voyage ought to be uneventful and free from drama. The best passages are the ones with the least sea stories. I’m very proud to say that I personally have few of these. My longest passage to date, 23 days across the North Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland on our 35-foot yawl Arcturus, was drama free and wonderfully enjoyable. It wasn’t by accident that it went that way.

I’ve been put in a position as manager of the 1500 where I have an opportunity to shape the way people learn about offshore sailing, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I hope that my own experience and qualifications make it clear that I do actually know what I’m talking about, and I hope people take some of my advice whether they go with a rally or not. And we’re not selling any illusion with the 1500 – dreams of a lifetime? Yes. But we’re not promising anything.

You’re only as safe on the ocean as your knowledge, skills and most importantly your preparation make you. When someone gets in touch with me about ocean sailing questions, whether they’re signed up for the rally or not, I feel a responsibility to SET THEM UP for success as best I can. Once they head offshore, their preparation will determine their success and their enjoyment of it, and at that point I no longer have any control over it.

Finally, I’ve learned a lot myself about ocean sailing and how to best organize a fleet being involved with the World Cruising Club since first working on the ARC in 2009. I’ve got a new perspective on rally sailing that I didn’t have when I first started, namely a much more positive one.

Last year, my 5th on the ARC, saw nearly 300 boats cross the Atlantic between the ARC and new ARC+ fleets combined. That’s over 6 years of the average Caribbeean 1500 fleet, and there were few incidents. There is a method to the madness, that’s been tried and tested over the past 30 years of running events, a lot of which goes on far behind the scenes in the months before the event ever starts. The ARC, and all World Cruising Club rallies have historically had very good track records, and that’s no accident either.

This article was syndicated from Sailing Blog - 59º North

20 Responses to “Ocean Sailing Rules: The Salty Dawg Incident of 2013”

  1. Greg Leonard says:

    Andy:

    This is a shallow and untruthful slam of the Salty Dawg rally and a distortion of the events that took place last year. Yes, you state that your goal is to make a “convincing argument for joining the Caribbean 1500 over the Salty Dawgs” so perhaps any reader should expect you to distort and selectively report the facts, but even still this piece is a terrible disservice to anyone considering joining one of the rallies or sailing south on their own.

    I took part in the Salty Dawg rally in 2013 and unlike the anonymous Salty Dawg crew you cite offering criticism of the rally, I am happy to make comments non-anonymously. We departed on Tuesday the 5th. We made our own decision when to depart based on the information available and our own analysis. As we should, we owned that decision. Knowing what I know now, I would make the same decision. And, I would sail again with the Salty Dawgs.

    You set up many more false distinctions between the rallies and unsupported slurs at the Salty Dawg rally than I care to devote the time to rebut (do you really feel you need and are even qualified to chime in that the Salty Dawg nonprofit designation “is beyond me”?), but take a look at a few:

    You don’t even get basic facts about the circumstances correct. Shortly after our departure on the 5th, we had winds slightly north of east, completely different from the “southwesterly breeze ahead of a cold front” you state was the weather for the boats that departed on the 4th and the 5th (I believe you are wrong on the dates as well as I think that most boats left on the 5th and 6th). In fact, looking at our logbook, we never had winds close to southwest on the passage at all.

    You state: “The Salty Dawgs, while claiming to be organized enough to call themselves an event, accept none of the risks of their fleet as a whole and refuse to get organized about it, opening the door for exactly the type of incidents that occurred last year.”

    Sure the Carib1500 provides safety inspections, seminars (like the Salty Dawgs) and I bet a lot of other resources on safety and seamanship (again, like the Salty Dawgs – the resources they made available to skippers in Hampton was impressive), but do you really accept “the risks of your fleet?” If I were to enter the Carib1500 and follow all of your guidelines and still lose my boat offshore due to some unforeseen development, would the Carib1500 accept the financial responsibility? Do you have your participants sign liability waivers? Credit to you if you don’t and perhaps that could be a reason for joining the Carib1500. It is readily apparent that you care deeply about and are personally invested in the safety of the participants in your rally. Are you seriously suggesting that the organizers of the Salty Dawg rally care less? If so, have the courage to say it directly and provide the basis. A difference in philosophy about inspections and top-down dictated departure dates doesn’t mean one group cares more than the other. Further, the implication that the Salty Dawg rally doesn’t provide the resources and organization to mitigate the risks of the passage is nonsense and not reflective of the reality that I saw firsthand in October and November 2013.

    Without citing any support, you state: “The Salty Dawgs, being loosely organized with bottom-up decision making creates a group that is only as strong as its loudest voice. The Caribbean 1500, conversely, has a core leadership team of professional sailors, weather routers, safety inspectors and others.” Did you actually investigate this? While I wasn’t part of the organizers’ discussions, I had zero impression that decisions were made because of or by the “loudest voice”. In fact, regarding the departure timing which you criticize heavily, Chris Parker, a well-regarded professional weather router, appeared to be among the most regarded opinions. Further, we were repeatedly impressed by the level of experience of the folks running the organization and the volunteers assisting folks preparing to depart. If you want to assert that your leadership team is better than another, how about providing a direct comparison? I certainly don’t know how it would turn out, but I wonder if you would come out on top.

    In paragraph after paragraph of self-praise and attack on the Salty Dawg Rally, you imply that the boats that ran into trouble in the Salty Dawg rally (as you put it: the “seven boats that experienced serious gear failures”), would not have faced similar problems in the Carib1500. You even state that the Salty Dawg approach “open[s] the door for exactly the type of incidents that occurred last year” and “it was obvious that there was a lack of leadership from the top – this was not one isolated incident we were talking about, and from the outset of the creation of the Salty Dog’s concept, many people feared this day would come.” And “Had the Salty Dawgs really done their job, they’d have advised those boats before ever leaving that maybe they ought to think twice.”
    Yet, other than talking generally about inspections and telling anecdotes that don’t address the issues experienced by these seven boats, you provide no basis for the implication that your procedures would have prevented any of these serious issues. Specifically which of these seven boats would you have “advised before ever leaving that maybe they ought to think twice?” What would you have advised them of? Do you inspect rudders and rudder posts in such a manner that you would have caught the impending rudder failure experienced by at least one boat (incidentally a boat that had significant offshore sailing experience)? What about the other high-profile failures – which part of your inspections or procedures (and how) would have caught these problems or would catch them on a boat in 2014? If you do think that the Carib1500’s procedures would have specifically prevented these issues, please share the specifics so that anyone heading south can benefit from that knowledge.

    Other than these “serious gear failures”, you only cite “reports of several torn sails and damage to deck gear and sailing systems” and an anonymous anecdote about a boat that allegedly wasn’t prepared (though your anonymous experienced crewmember sailed on despite noticing issues at the dock). Is “several” out of over 100 boats unexpected or abnormally high? Do boats in the Carib1500 not experience torn sails and damage to deck and sailing systems?

    A fact-based analysis of the problems experienced last fall as well as in prior rallies could benefit huge numbers of offshore sailors by increasing knowledge of potential problems, of how to more effectively prevent them, and of ways to deal with them offshore. Too bad, you seem driven instead by mudslinging at a competitor rally.

    Greg Leonard
    SV Hurrah

  2. David Comroe says:

    I have read Andy’s article with great interest, as well as the posted replies and can’t help putting my 2 cents in. I was part of the 1500 fleet in 2010 and the Salty Dawgs in 2012, both on my Hylas 54. I am a Coast Guard licensed captain, have crewed in a number of off shore deliveries, and am constantly amazed by what I don’t know. Let’s admit that taking your boat off-shore in November, across the Gulf Stream and around Hatteras and sailing non-stop for 8 or more days is a stupid way to travel, when you can board a Boeing or AirBus and get to the VI in 3.5 hrs. Getting there is not always half the fun.
    I am sure Andy is a fine individual but his selective application of facts is worthy of a Presidential political campaign. I an not in favor of institutional amnesia. I was a participant in the 1500 in 2010 when Rule 62 was lost and one person died. This was certainly not the 1500’s fault or responsibilty, neither was it the responsibility of the Dawgs for what happened in 2013. I walked the docks before we left on the 1500 and saw several boats in the fleet that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable sailing 5 miles on the Bay. Some had significant damage, but eventually arrived.
    I have no stake in either organization. Both are worthy and have their place. For example, a friend of mine with some offshore experience, although none of it as a captain of his own boat, is taking part in the 1500 and I think that is a wise decision. I will be doing the Dawgs again.
    It is without question that safety must be the first priority in any offshore passage, and the 1500 excels at that, perhaps to a fault. Example: When I was in the 1500 Type 1 life jackets were required for all participants. As most of us know, when you go to sell your boat your Type 1s will be at the bottom of your lazarette in one moldy green heap. One of my crew, who owned an Open 60 and has logged many offshore miles, opined that when he took a safety course, it was impossible to get into a life raft from the water while wearing a Type 1. Now, we all had PFDs, etc., and would wear them at all appropriate times, but a Type 1 would not be our choice. The Salty Dawg rally requires that participants have completed an offshore passage. Maybe there should be a list of recommendations in terms of equipment, training, etc., but the lack of one does not absolve anyone of taking those steps independently.
    Lastly, if Andy had done even a cursory investigation, he would have found that the Dawgs provide many perks, such as free moorings at Bitter End till Dec, 20th, reduced mooring fees ath Bitter End for the season, a day of free dockage, reduced prices for groceries at several markets in the BVI as well as many other perks of being a Dawg.
    I sense strongly that he feels betrayed by the Knowles, but that hardly justifies such a one sided evaluation. Andy is obviously a highly qualified and experienced sailor; however, I do not find his article without flaw.

  3. Nick Bigney says:

    Just a comment from a SDR non participant. I was with a very experienced couple just before they left. Very few people have the mechanical skills of this man and his wife. They went over their boat like the very experienced cruisers they were. They bought insurance. They had their boat surveyed. They combed their hair and brushed their teeth. And then they had a very bad day and their boat broke.

    Point number one is that no rally could have prevented or mitigated their issues.

    Point number two is that they took the responsibility for their own rescue and waited their turn until they could be towed in (They even had purchased 200 mile tow insurance but the company refused to come out).

    I wish we could reduce risk by blaming people or claiming that a rally could take the responsibility away from us. Stop it. It’s life. The 1500 sounds worthwhile simply because it teaches preparation and mitigation of risk. It accepts no risk, it simply helps mitigate it. You always make the decisions. Always. I do believe that we are becoming a society of wimps.

    The last time I was hurt seriously on a horse, I didn’t blame the horse, didn’t blame the person who sold me the horse. I didn’t even blame me. Control of everything is an illusion. Be a man. Reduce the risks a much as possible, take your lumps and carry on. Life doesn’t work any other way.

  4. George Arey says:

    I have met both Andy and Mia at a seminar I went to for offshore sailing a couple years ago. I found the seminar to be well organized and the organization to be very professional.

    After reading this article, I have to agree with Andy. I know very little of the Salty Dawgs rally.

    As far as joining the Caribean 1500, which I still hope to do someday. I like the concept of joining a group, that gets to know each other. Bumping into each other as your independently cruising the Carribean, gives you people to raft, party and enjoy together. I like the fact that the rally provides experienced offshore sailors to inspect your boat before the crossing. I especially like the weather routing that is provided. To me it that alone, justifies the cost of joining the rally.

    The debate seems to be over which is safer, going it alone or joining a rally. My thinking, joining a rally is safer. There are boats that get in trouble every year making the crossing alone, but they don’t make front page news because its just another boat that got in over there head. But when a rally gets in trouble, there are hundreds of boats and of course its going to make the news. However the fact that some of these rally have been operating for 30yrs or better and have had very little news exposure, attest to just how safe they are. Offshore, having other boats in the vicinity does provide the possibility of a rescue, in lets just say you hit a lost container in the middle of the night. It’s rare, but it happens!

    This debate has gone on by sailors since the start of rally’s. I think they finally feel vindicated. See we told you so!

  5. Scott Nielsen says:

    I read the article by Andy & Mia and comments through July 18. First I need to describe myself so that my comments may have some merit. I have been sailing for over 30 years. The Only real offshore Passages I have made were from Newport, RI to Charleston, SC in November and Charleston , SC to Norfolk, VA in June, with both passages accomplished in 1991 and 1993 respectively. I mostly sail lower Chesapeake Bay and Charter larger sailboats or catamarans mostly in the Caribbean every few years as time is the factor for me and my crews. However, as to ocean experience, I am a retired Naval Officer who has driven a couple of pretty big ships through the ocean and in some nasty weather. So here are my comments: I believe there is a lot of fencing going on in these discussions. I also believe there is a place for both rallies. For my first rally I would most likely go with the Caribbean 1500 for the benefit of the seminars and other eyes checking the boat. After that I would most likely do the Salty Dawg Rally as I believe the concept of the individual is ultimately responsible for their boat and crew and that means the preparation of both for the event. We all live in a society where personal responsibility and accountability is pretty much gone and it is s “Not my fault” mentality prevails. I do not adhere to that concept. I firmly believe we are in our station in life by choice. I firmly believe there is room for both rallies, for different reasons and each would be better served supporting the other for those respective differences. the sailing community is a great one and like all communities there are those who just don’t get it some of the time, most the time, or all the time. Just like the rest of society. Usually the strengths of the many overcome the weakness of the few. However, I think that can and has been severely tested on the ocean. I came from a professional background where there is no room for luck, only preparedness and strict adherence to procedures. I understand there are no set procedures while sailing and with that being said, I wish both rallies the best of success.

    Scott “Squatty” Nielsen

  6. First Last says:

    “The best you can do is to go out and to come back.
    It is what happens in between that determines
    and defines your seamanship.”

  7. Steve Hanes says:

    I don’t think it’s a question of who is better or worse or value for your dollar, but one of risk reduction and organizational responsibility. This years rally marked my sixth passage under the advice and assistance of Steve Black or Andy and Mia (5 as crew and this year on my “Intruder II). First on the point of risk reduction: 25 years as a military pilot has taught me the importance of a structured and documented approach to risk reduction. Not to say that an individual can’t be safe without it……. just saying that time and again it has proven to (simply stated) make things safer…. i.e. “reduce risk”. The C1500 excels at this from pre to post rally through handbooks, emails, experienced advice and suggestions, and direct support.
    On the point of organizational responsibility: This will be a little less winded. When you organize anything be it a school bake sale or an ocean rally you take on some assumed responsibilities. I clearly recall the SDR back-peddling on the question of responsibility when things didn’t turn out well…….. To paraphrase “Nothing to see here…. every captain/skipper is responsible for his or her own actions”. M-m-m-m, interesting perspective from a rally organizer.

  8. William Chappell says:

    Charbonneau was one of the SDR entries which experienced a blown out sail causing us to divert to the Bahamas. There was never a question that the decision to go was entirely mine. I was fully aware of pending weather conditions and my boat condition. The fact that we incurred a weather related sail failure was totally my responsibility. In hindsite, SDR grew us tremendously, forcing us to consider our options and proceed with boat and crew safety in mind. Rather than blindly proceed to the BVI, Charbonneau was re-rigged and turned to the Bahamas. The sail failure forced growth that could not occur if it was simply a cake walk to the BVI. Now with all new sails, standing rigging, and running rigging, Charbonneau is preparing again to make the run this fall.

  9. DeadTiredDave says:

    What a bunch of cutthroats! You folks make sailing sound as much fun as a flogging.

    Get a bunch of humans together and things mostly go asi asi; put boats, cars, bikes, horses or soap box racers under their butts and you wind up with a perfidious passel of piss ants.

    . . . and rum tastes like lighter fluid.

  10. Andy says:

    I’m learning that I am never going to change the minds of people who have already decided what they are going to think.

  11. Wayne Martin(Meander) says:

    I participated in the 2011 Carib 1500 as well as the 2013 SDR.  In the 2011 Carib 1500 rally there was tremendous pressure to leave on time even though the weather forecast was not good.  I made a personal decision at the time not to leave with the fleet because of the concerns with the weather.  It was not until early morning of the planned departure day that the rally was postponed.    This procedure of last minute postponements went on for a week until there was a break in the weather.  There was always pressure to leave as soon as possible.  My belief that this pressure came from the fact that the delay was costing big dollars and the need for the crew to be in St. Lucia for the ARC arrival.  I have done many off shore passages and this departure caused me the most stress because of the pressure to leave with the group.  I would never join the Carib 1500 again no matter what it cost.  

     Now on to the 2013 Carib 1500.  When the Carib 1500 fleet left early last year there was considerable chatter over the airways about the weather they left in.  None of it good.  At the time I suspected their motivation for doing so was more, “Lets get these boats off the dock so we can get out of here” than safety.   I am not suggesting that the Carib 1500 would do anything  unsafe,  but suggest they have conflicting priorities.   Steve Black never had this problem because a delay was not problem for him.

    I think Andy’s comment are mostly inappropriate, a lot of BS and not helpful to the cruising community.  

  12. Andy says:

    I knew this would happen – positive feedback on my thoughts, and negative. I stand by what I said (and wrote). It’s a very good point what ‘Captain Ron’ (nice work being transparent by the way) said – I was not indeed at the rally. But I also don’t recall writing or saying anything about the weather or skippers briefings. In fact, I made the point that the weather had precisely NOTHING to do with it. It was down to preparation.

    I’m doing my best to promote ocean sailing – it’s honestly my passion, which should be obvious by now to anyone who knows me. But I also passionately believe that there are right ways and wrong ways to do that, and I’m expressing my opinions – based on my own experiences and the advice I learn from people I look up to. Those opinions other may disagree with, which is great – discussion makes everyone the smarter, and I’m not wedded to my opinions to the point where I won’t change them when I hear something better.

    I dread the day that the ‘shoe drops’ – and if I do this long enough, it will. Ocean sailing is risky, and the consequences of those risks we take at sea can be ultimate. I said as much in the podcast – my heart jumps every time boats are at sea and I get a sat phone call. Sometimes it is just down to luck, but we can do our best to prepare and be ready for those unlucky days.

    People are going to continue going to sea. With the Salty Dawgs, with the 1500 and on their own. All I can do is try and educate people to the risks – and the magical benefits – of ocean sailing. My point was not to denigrate the SDR – it was to point out how things could have gone differently, and hopefully will in the future.

  13. Bryce Elliott says:

    I have to agree with Phil Worrall. The Caribe 1500 is great for first timers but really not worth the money for subsequent passages. As you quote Andy: ” But, as Andy Chase, Master Mariner and instructor at Maine Maritime Academy so eloquently put it in an article about the sinking of the tall ship Bounty, “Every voyage carries a degree of uncertainty,” experience or not.” Meaning it doesn’t matter which rally you choose, bad stuff can happen. You also fail to mention the Caribe 1500 vessel, “Rule 62″ which, in 2010, resulted in a death! The point here is that there is room for both rally’s! STOP THROWING STONES!

  14. Phil says:

    As a veteran ocean sailor having sailing over 10,000 miles in 7 Caribbean 1500s or Atlantic Cups, I can’t see how the Salty Dawg group can consider just ONE “bluewater passage” as they describe it, as being qualified to sail the open ocean. They don’t even define “bluewater passage”. Is it one night offshore? 100 miles? One thousand miles? Having done 7 of these I have found that each one was different and under different conditions and having done just one does not mean you are totally qualified to make other passages. I learn something new on each passage which enhances my ability to successfully complete other passages and contribute to the safety and satisfaction of the crew and owners that I sail with. One passage does not an experienced sailor make. I have much more experience than I did after my first offshore passage but I still have room for improvement and there is still much more to learn.

    Plus there is the added element of having “no formal inspections” by the Salty Dawgs. If there are no safety standards in a group ocean passage, why participate in a rally? Is it expected that someone will be nearby if you run into trouble offshore? Does one think about the fact that that someone may have less ability to help you than you expect? A false sense of security is worse than knowing you have no security. Knowing that you have properly prepared to successfully complete an offshore passage is the best insurance that you will do so. The organizers of the Caribbean 1500 by the World Cruising Club are the only group that do this properly and provide the best possible experience for their participants. This includes not only making sure each participant is optimally prepared, but good judgment is exercised with weather routing and overall support.

  15. Miles Poor says:

    I think the unsupervised “rally” concept is a flawed concept that seems to try to divert responsibility away from the organization running the event and place it back on the participant. I feel that boats join rally’s for several reasons. First is the friendships formed between like minded individuals. Secondly, dissemination of information from true sea dogs. And lastly because there is some safety in traveling in a group.

    I think we (ARC 1500 and ARC USA) do a great job in all three areas. We don’t let folks leave on a whim, without standards that all offshore vessels should adhere to, and we certainly are not a “covey of inexperienced novices”. Any inference to us as a “rally for inexperienced” sailors is incorrect. Yes we have first time offshore passage makers but I would venture that none of our participants are novice sailors or boaters. We also do not accept vessels that should not go offshore, just so we can have “numbers”. We also do not solicit aggressively boats that have already signed up for another rally. Yes, we pay to join the WCC events we want to participate in, but then when did you get “something for nothing” in this world?

    I would like to close with a thought: Let’s not denigrate any serious effort to promote offshore sailing. Let’s all work to keep the myth that sailing small vessels across large bodies of water is an inherently risky undertaking from being reality. I can think of many worse modes of travel…….

  16. Andy Schell says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    George, you’re wrongly labeling the 1500 as a ‘newbie’ event – year after year veteran sailors come back, including several who have been around the world, or are about to depart around the world. The 1500 is about the ‘event’ and the excitement surrounding it.

    Steve Black, if you recall, started the rally as a way to offer organized ‘races’ – ‘rallies’ – to cruising sailors – he was a racing sailor himself, and back in the early 90s, there were no opportunities for cruising sailors to participate in an event that was larger than the sailing itself.

    So I think you’ve got the ‘simple difference’ between the SDR and 1500 wrong – it’s not experienced v. inexperienced, it’s an ‘event’ versus a cruise in company. I keep going back to marathon running, but it’d be like offering a Sunday jog with your friends versus running an organized event – not all the participants are in it to win, but all are there for the fun of being part of something bigger than themselves. Experience, in the 1500’s case, has nothing to do with it.

    So I’m glad everyone has had a chance to give their two cents on this – like I said in the podcast intro, I think there is room for both events to coexist. People can read our comments and decide for themselves.

  17. Patrick O'Donnell says:

    The record needs to be put right.

    My wife and I are pretty typical cruisers. In 1995 we took Steve Black and Hal Sutphen’s Safety at Sea seminar. Then we signed up for the Bermuda Rally that June. In 1996 we signed up for the Caribbean 1500 which was the start of a magical year with our 12 year old daughter, home schooling and making passages between islands first down the outside chain, then back up the inside chain.

    The Caribbean 1500 was a very good choice for a couple of newby’s. It helped us sort out what equipment we needed, how to outfit the boat, how to listen and interpret weather forecasts.

    We were back home the next year and my wife crewed on a 1500 boat headed south in 1998. That trip was routed right into Hurricane Mitch, a freak storm, proving that even the best weather routers can’t always steer you in the right direction (a fact admitted by Schell).

    A few years later we wanted to head down again. The cost of the 1500 just did not measure up to the benefits. We had already made three offshore trips under the tutelage of Steve and Hal, and just didn’t feel that we would gain much by another round of inspections and rum parties.
    So we set out on our own, headed south with the benefit of Herb Hilgenberg, and we had a rough trip but made it largely without incident. (By now we were sailing short handed, but we weren’t in a hurry and it worked out.)
    By 2010 we were home and ready to do it again. We decided we wanted to go in a rally format, for the camaraderie and just to have some friends in the area on the way south. We looked at the 1500 website and found out the expense, and the fact that the “welcome” party would take place, no matter what, 10 days after departure from the Chesapeake. Well, we can’t possible make it to the Caribbean in 10 days. Clearly the 1500 didn’t want us and we were pretty sure that we didn’t want it.
    That’s when we heard about the Salty Dawg Rally, a free rally which would let us, as the captains to the ship, make the decisions. We were the people the SDR was designed for, experienced off-shore sailors, people trained by Steve Black and Hal Sutphen, people who didn’t need the Nanny State to tell them what to do. But also people who wanted cruising company.

    We signed up for, and participated in, the 1st and 3rd SDR. The first was a breeze. The 3rd had some issues, but none worse than those encountered by Charles Doane and Hank Schmidt who had to abandon their boat off the Virginia coast in January 2014, and none as bad as one Caribbean 1500 boat a couple of years ago. The USCG thought that the SDR organizers did a great job. Certainly the USCG did a great job.

    On that 3rd rally, there were 84 boats at the dock in Hampton, with maybe another dozen at anchor. There were 8 days of seminars, events, dinners, during which we got to know a bunch of the Rallyers. One was the family which ended up dismasted and had to limp back across the Gulf Stream to safety. They were a wonderful family who had lived on board for quite a while and were making a special trip for their daughters, one of whom had just graduated from college and the other had just graduated from high school. Even after that trying experience, they wrote a wonderful endorsement of the SDR.

    Yes, two boats were abandoned, but without loss of life. Both of those boats would have passed the inspection of the Caribbean 1500 with flying colors. As a matter of fact, we walked the docks at Hampton. There were a few boats which, had we been in charge, we would have flagged as evidently poorly prepared. However, those boats made it down in short order. Those which got in trouble (busted masts, steering problems) would have passed inspection easily.

    The Caribbean 1500 is a great first-crossing experience. That was what brought it to life. For anyone who has done several crossings, it doesn’t offer much.

  18. George Day says:

    Andy:

    As one of the sponsors of the Salty Dawg Rally, i think it is fair for me to comment on your blog.

    The difference between the two rallies is very simple. The Carib 1500 is for first time passagemakers who need or want guidance and support. They pay their fees and turn over the coaching to the WCC and their veteran staffers. If you are just starting out, the Carib 1500is is for you.

    But if you have some miles behind you and the confidence that you, your boat and crew are well fitted out and prepared for ocean sailing, then the Carib 1500 is like going back to an expensive beginner’s course. That’s why the Salty Dawg Rally emerged. It was completely organic evolution by more experienced sailors to a more advanced type of event.

    Experienced skippers know that they are ultimately responsible for their boats and crews, not a rally organizer. They know they should set a departure date that suits them, not be locked into a rally schedule. And as cruisers, they know that the cruising life should be as fun and inexpensive as possible. That’s why there is no entry fee and everyone simply pays their way…as in real life. That we saw 116 boats show up last year is amazing. That six boats had issues is also amazingly few, statistically.

    Those of us who work with the SDR encourage new cruisers who need a lot of guidance to join the Carib 1500. And we encourage more experienced sailors to sail with the SDR where they take responsibility for themselves and enjoy all of the fun cruiser parties.

    And, yes, the SDR is a registered Rhode Island non-profit corporation run by volunteers who are dedicated to encouraging seamanship and safety at sea through seminars, the website, newsletter and the camaraderie of fellow cruisers. The membership fee is optional. Any experienced sailors can join the SDR rallies for free and benefit from the weather routing, the daily radio schedules and the fun parties.

  19. Phil Worrall says:

    Yea Andy…out of 116 SDR boats versus the 1500’s 26, nobody died diverting to another port(Caribbean 1500 – 2010), nor were there any significant injuries or deaths in any of the rescues or gear failures. In fact, the Coast Guard was complimentary of the actions of the SDR organizers in expediting and assisting the various rescues. From all I’ve heard none of the participants faulted the SDR Rally for the nuanced weather or the SDR operations. I’ve been on Caribbean 1500 Rallies where the same types of problems were encountered especially your 2012 Rally.

    For your information, I departed Tuesday morning with the Salty Dawg Rally and experienced the mildest voyage of the five transits I’ve made (three with the 1500). I certainly did not experience sustained winds over 30 knots for even one day, let alone three days. I do take my responsibilities as a captain seriously and understand that it is my and my crew’s decision and choice when and where to sail.

    When I participated in my last Caribbean 1500 in 2011, I thought the $1500.00 fee was a complete waste of money. Even the “free” arrival rum was rotgut (I spit it out). See my filed post rally comments.

    I agree the two events are different, as they should be, but don’t go speciously criticizing the SDR when you are trying to drum up business for the dying WCC Caribbean 1500.

  20. Doug Renfield-Miller says:

    Amen! Caribbean 1500 fee was money very well spent. Prep binder alone is worth much of the fee. Intangible support provided by you, Mia, the Palms, the Poors and others was priceless. Keep up the great work.

    Fair Winds,

    Doug

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