NARC Rally 2023
North American Rally to the Caribbean
Let's Rally to the Caribbean

NARC Rally 2023 – North American Rally to the Caribbean

Let's Rally to the Caribbean

Each year hundreds of boats sail south in the fall from North America to the Caribbean or east from Europe via the Canary Island to the same West Indies. While many make the passages on their own, a growing number of boat owners sign up in organized rallies. What is a rally? Like the caravans of old where travelers were tethered by strings of camels travelling between oases, offshore rallies today tether their boats by AIS, e-mail and satellite trackers.

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Many people buy boats to be free to do what they want when they want. Very often weather patterns dictate the best times to depart to popular cruising grounds. How do you convince a bunch of free-spirited people to follow a schedule? Offer discounts and socials to entice registration and then deliver on what you promise.

The NARC Rally was started in 2000 when Hank Schmitt, who runs the "Offshore Passage Opportunities" (OPO) crew network, started moving a fleet of Swan Charter yachts that needed to be moved twice a year between the French St. Martin and Newport. Since there were ten Swans departing together Hank decided to invite other boats to join their departure at the end of Hurricane Season. The charter company went out of business a long time ago but Hank kept the Swan Program and NARC Rally going. What once was mostly a group of professionals moving boats from one sailing center to another has morphed into a rally. The goal was to help the amateur sailor sail south in company with a core group of professional skippers who have completed the passage hundreds of times between them. Since the purpose of the rally was never to make money, the rally remains free with a per head fee for socials and meals ashore.

The dates for next year's rally are all set with Saturday, October 28, as the date to be ready for departure. There is discount dockage in Newport up to a week before departure at the Newport Yachting Center. We will keep the new format of a week full of activities in Bermuda and St. Maarten. This is especially designed for first timers who have not sailed south before and who are in no rush since they are taking the winter off.

With mentors galore to give advice and answer questions in port, the rally offers a sense of community. While most helpful ashore, sailing south in the fall is serious sailing. Every boat needs to have at least one or more crew who have been offshore before and have the skills and fortitude to make the right decisions. With AIS there is usually a boat within tangible distance. Regardless, participants need to understand and accept a certain level of responsibility and not expect rally benefits to include refueling at sea, push button evacuation or culpability.

But what if you do not have a boat? You have two options. If you have been offshore before and can be an asset aboard you can volunteer as a crew in the rally. If you lack sailing connections and sea miles but think you and are ready for some challenging offshore sailing the north-Atlantic, you can apply to the Swan Offshore Sailing Program.

In 2022, after 22 years of organizing the NACR Rally we had plans to help the Salty Dawg Sailing Association take over the task of organizing boats departing from Newport to merge with other fleet departing from the Chesapeake Bay about the same time every year.

We are a big proponent of departing from Newport over the Chesapeake Bay and always making a stop in Bermuda. Of course, if you are living aboard your boat you do not want to stay in the cold Northeast. The normal migration is to head to the bay for the warmer weather and the Annapolis Boat Show. However, even if you are departing from the Chesapeake Bay you should make a stop in Bermuda first. The first two boats that made it to Antigua in the SDR this year were one that left from the Bay and went to Bermuda first. They departed a day early. The other included a boat in the SDR that left from Newport on time with the NARC Rally fleet. They stopped in Bermuda for a week and were still the first boat to arrive in Antigua. The skipper e-mailed:

Stopping in Bermuda was fun. We were not planning on stopping. I think the more important point you make is that it is a better angle of attack on the Eastern Caribbean to depart from Newport regardless of whether you stop or not. It's 240 miles east of Hampton. That is a lot of Easting.

Additionally, Newport can handle a lot of boats that time of year. As with the Bermuda race in June, there is one cold night and then everything gets warm.

It was really great to hang out with Thorpe and Mike/Song and get to know them better. We had a really great time in Bermuda.

The Pitch to making landfall in SXM:

There is always work to be done after a sail south in the fall. Half the worklist were things that did not get done before you left or broke soon after departing because they were newly installed. Other things to fix are things you did not know were a problem until you went offshore on a big passage. When you finish the long passage to the Caribbean you have time to get things fixed in SXM where it is warm and the drinks are cheap. (Happy hour at the Soggy Dollar Bar are still $1.00) Most of the real Caribbean cruising does not get started until after the holidays and after the Christmas Winds and strong January Trades Winds calm down a bit. You have time to get boat projects, big or small, done and be on an island that is fun and cheap to be on while working on the boat or waiting for parts. SXM is a Duty Free Island and has the largest airport for flying parts and people in. If you plan to fly home for Thanksgiving and or Christmas, SXM is a good place to leave the boat and them come back and provision with cheap liquor and provision in stores that rival US stores for selection. That is why I have been using SXM to base out of for the past twenty years. The last five years I have planned a lot of my annual maintenance in SXM in November when most of the marine trades are just getting started after a slow offseason and are very happy to welcome us to start the Caribbean season.

Doug off Cameo has done the rally three times. He tells other people that joining the rally is almost like getting paid to sail south with all the benefits and discounts. In 2022 boat owners in the NARC Rally paid $100.00 per boat and $150.00 per person for all three ports. With the exception of the Thanksgiving meal, all socials were included. The boats arriving in SXM early got a free final party at "The Pub" for those who had to rush home and could not stay longer. Boat owners and crew who signed up for the extended tour in SXM and paid an additional $300.00 per boat also got the following NARC Rally socials and tours to introduce owners and crews to the island.

  • Welcome Dinner at Lagoonies
  • Toppers Rum Tour
  • St. Maarten Yacht Club Happy Hour and Trivia Quiz Night
  • Bus Tour of the Island
  • Pelican Brewery Tour
  • Tropical Sail loft Tour
  • Bingo Casino Night
  • Thanksgiving Celebration Lunch

Boats in the rally also get introduced or pointed in the right direction to all the Marine Servies on the Island through the local Marine Trades Association. All our major sponsors offered discounts. Benefits of being in the rally in 2022 NARC Rally included:

  • IGY Marina – Two free days dockage and 10% discounts as long as you stay
  • FKG- Rigging-Fabrication-Hydraulics-Mechanical- Free Rigging Inspection and 10% discount on work done after that inspection
  • Budget Marine- Largest Budget Marine Store in the Caribbean – Arrival Goodie Bag. Get an Account and get Discounts
  • Bobby's Mega-Yard – Discount on Haul Out
  • St. Maarten Yanmar Diesel -10% discount on word done upon arrival
  • Tropical Sail Loft
  • Divico - Provisioning

Next year we can build on this list if we can get more boats to come to SXM from Bermuda.

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NARC Rally 2023 Preliminary Schedule of Events

NARC Rally 2023 Preliminary Schedule of Events: Summary

Boats assemble in Newport anytime but no later than Thursday October 26, 20223.

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Friday, October 27

Start Date Saturday, October 28

If there is a weather window we depart on Saturday, October 28, for Bermuda It is a 4 to 6 day sail to Bermuda (635 miles from Newport). If there is no delay the first boats will arrive 4 days later Wednesday, November 1, and the last boats by Friday

Friday, November 3

Saturday, November 4

Sunday, November 5

Monday, November 6

Monday, November 13 (in St. Maarten)

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NARC/SDSA Rally Benefits 2023

NARC/SDSA Rally Benefits 2023
Newport - Bermuda - (Sint Maarten*) - Antigua

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Newport

Arrive up to one week before departure and get discount dockage at the Newport Yachting Center, our Newport home base.


Bermuda


Sint Maarten*

All NARC Boats are more than welcome to only plan a short stop in SXM. Or they can bypass it if they wish and end the rally in Antigua. If the weather cooperates you may be able to do both with a two day stop with free dockage in SXM to provision or crew change and still make all or almost all of the Antigua events since we depart the states 4 days before the Chesapeake Bay Fleet does.


Antigua


Pricing and Sign Up


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NARC 2023 Weather

Weather for the NARC Rally

Weather provided by WRI Weather Routing Inc. We will have a skype weather briefing on Friday, October 27, in the library on the second floor of the Seaman's Church Institute. Attendance is required.

We will have a written five-day forecast and chart of the Gulf Stream with recommended entrance and exit waypoints. This is provided for free. We will get another update before departure in Bermuda.

If you would like to sign up for additional weather based on your onboard communications (e-mail or Satellite Phone) you can sign up for additional services directly with David Cannon and his crew at WRI. We have been working with them for the last 5 years and they provide excellent service. They are a big outfit. Here is more information about the additional options. Please contact WRI directly if you would like to get additional weather while on route.

Weather Routing Inc. (WRI) is happy to offer customized services to those interested participants in this year's NARC Rally. WRI is a worldwide weather forecasting and meteorological consulting firm, providing personalized routing and forecast information based on individual needs. Information can be provided verbally over the phone or in a hard copy format, in an e-mail format or as abbreviated text messages compatible with mobile devices such as InReach or SPOT. Charges are on a per forecast basis, though forecast frequency is completely left to the discretion of the client, and WRI is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions, address any concerns, or provide further consultation. WRI also provides constant surveillance prior to departure and while underway and will contact you directly in the event of any changes to forecast or routing information.

As a supplement to their customized services, WRI also offers an online weather information service, SeaWeather, online at www.seaweather.net. Subscribers to SeaWeather will have unlimited access to:

WRI offers complimentary 15 day trials of SeaWeather, under no obligation to subscribe. For further details on SeaWeather (including the new SeaWeather OnBoard program) and customized services, you may contact WRI anytime at:

Phone: +1-518-798-1110
EMail: wri@wriwx.com
Website: www.wriwx.com

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