When the Salty Dawg Rally departed Hampton Virginia in early November, the majority of the fleet pointed their bows to the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua, the “Sailing Capital of the Caribbean”, where, for the third year, the island rolled out the red carpet to celebrate our arrival.
As Port Officer in Antigua for the rally, my “job” was to organize a week of events to celebrate the arrival of the fleet. Fortunately, everyone that I was working with on the island was thrilled to have us visit so lining up a full venue of events was pretty easy, actually.
Part of the appeal of having our group come to Antigua as we arrive several weeks before the season really gets going so our presence is really appreciated. I was talking recently with Angie, who runs the Antigua Yacht Club restaurant, “The Clubhouse” in Falmouth and she told me that there was quite a buzz from other businesses in the area that were thrilled with how busy they were so early in the season, thanks to our rally.
We packed the docks at Nelson’s Dockyard, perhaps the most beautiful harbor in the Caribbean. Before we arrived in mid November, the docks were pretty much empty. One of our first events, and one of our most popular with over 120 skippers and crew attending was an authentic Caribbean barbecue, compliments of Nelson’s Dockyard. Ann-Marie Martin, the Director of the National Parks, and the Dockyard really went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The event included a rum punch cocktails followed by a full dinner, complete with poured at the table during dinner. The event was totally over the top. They even had a DJ and a professional photographer, Ted, who’s photos of the event follow. Thanks Ted!
Ann-Marie was welcoming to us, as always. I have enjoyed working with her over the last few years and the enthusiasm that she showed for us is emblematic of the reception that the Dawgs have received in Antigua. The Chairman of the National Parks joined us and delivered a heartfelt welcome to us all. It turned out to be a capacity crowd, double what I had estimated which caused a bit of last minute scrambling for Ann-Marie but her staff pulled it off in great style.
The evening got off to a great start with liberal amounts of rum punch all around,.No event is complete without awards and we recognized the crew of Hector, home port Germany. They had a medical emergency while 0n passage and was visited by a USCG C130 Hercules, that dropped vital medications by parachute. Their determination in completing the trip to Antigua was an inspiration to us all. That orange canister was one of two that the USCG dropped to them. All and all, a really wonderful evening. And that was just one of the week long calendar of events that the fleet enjoyed.
As in past years, we had our “Safe Arrival” dinner and cocktail parties at the Admiral’s Inn. Inn owners, brother and sister, Paul and Astrid, went out of their way to make us feel at home. Of course, who doesn’t want a rally flag? Poolside, the perfect spot to hold our dinner.The Inn is a spectacular venue in the heart of Nelson’s Dockyard, the only operating Georgian Dockyard in the world, once home to the British Navy during the age of sail. Of course, we needed a “class photo”. The Navy fought hard to retain control of English Harbor and nearby Falmouth Harbor, as the island is perfectly located as the eastern most in the Caribbean. It is quite simply the perfect place to “cruise” to anywhere else in the Caribbean. For that reason, it remains an ideal spot to begin and end a season of cruising.
Max Fernandez, the Minister of Tourism, addressed us at a complimentary cocktail reception courtesy of The Antigua Yacht Cub. AYC also hosted a special member/guest Thanksgiving feast to make us feel welcome. Owner and artist Nancy Nicholson invited us to her gallery, Rhythm of Blue, for a free rum and reggae party to kick off the season. North Sails Antigua hosted what was probably the most original event, Hermit Crab Racing, to the delight of the Dawgs, complete with plenty of Carib beer and snacks.The week of events, many free, were capped off by a special toast from the Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda. As a card carrying member, I was thrilled to introduce the Dawgs to this wonderful tradition once again. Plans are well underway for the arrival of the fleet next November and it promises to be even better so stay tuned for more info. Better yet, follow this link to the Salty Dawg site and sign up for the free newsletter so you will “in the loop” on what’s planned.
Yes indeed, Antigua just loves the Dawgs and the Dawgs love Antigua.
We’ll be back!