Like minded, blue water sailors together!

Ok, perhaps the title of this post doesn’t exactly flow off the tongue.  Let me explain.

For the last six years my cruiser friend George and I have been putting on an event in Essex CT at the Essex Yacht Club, with the goal of offering what George would refer to as an opportunity to bring together a group of “like minded people”, folks that enjoy being on the water.  Every June we have put on a two to three day event that includes a series of talks about cruising on small boats in partnership with The Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA.

This year, with all of that free time I have on my hands, I thought that I’d try something new and likely more complex.  Silly me.   Free time you ask?  Did I mention that Pandora is on the hard and I am stuck in this Arctic place for the ENTIRE winter?

Well, here I am and as I write this it’s -1 degree F outside so at least I can think about sailing to warmer waters.   However, if doing an event with one group wasn’t complicated enough, how about organizing an event with three?    Along with my membership in SSCA, I am also a member of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, SDSA and am a fairly new member of the Ocean Cruising Club, OCC.  That’s three groups with complimentary missions so three it is.

At the risk of someone taking issue with my description of what these groups are all about, here’s how I see their missions.

SSCA is the group that years ago brought me and Brenda into the fold of cruising and living aboard for extended periods.  Simply stated the group celebrates the cruising lifestyle.  A simple mission and a group loaded with many folks like our friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo and the Melinda and her late husband Harry of Sea Schell, that nurtured me and Brenda along the way on our first winter heading south on the Intra Coastal Waterway, ICW.

Of course, there were many more SSCA members, as we made our way south, that held out hands as we adjusted to life afloat during that first eight month run south in 2012.  Maureen and Melinda, were so great and went out of their way to make Brenda feel special for her birthday that first year.   That’s Bill in the background waiting for his piece of chocolate cake. The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, a group that in only a few short years became the organizers of what is now the largest rally to the Caribbean from the US East Coast.   SDSA, is dedicated to educating sailors and their crew to prepare for the rigors of offshore sailing and they do a wonderful job at it.   It’s very exciting to be part of the nearly week long events in Hampton VA as skippers and crew from nearly 100 boats attend seminars, have parties and get ready to head south.

For the last two years, I have held the position of Port Captain for the rally in  Antigua and let me tell you, it’s been a wonderful experience.  Along with the fun I’ve had with the folks headed to Antigua, I have also made some great friends on that island.  Antigua isn’t the only landfall for the group and some boats opt to go to the BVIs or the Bahamas, but I’m biased and feel that Antigua is THE PLACE to make landfall in the Caribbean.  I wrote quite a few posts about Antigua but perhaps this recent post best sums up the fun we had when the fleet arrived in November.   I can not stress enough how supportive everyone in Antigua has been to our rally.

The third group that is involved in this year’s event is the Ocean Cruising Club, a group that I joined just over a year ago when I was in Antigua.  They celebrate blue water sailing and to join you must complete at least one ocean passage of a minimum of 1,000 miles, and you have to do it in a boat that’s less than 70 long.  No 3,000 passenger cruise ship rides for their members!

Just for fun, I wrote about my joining the group last winter in this post along with a bit about the wonder of sitting on Pandora’s bow and ringing in the New Year, complete with fireworks, in historic Nelson’s Dockyard.  OCC is out of the UK and has around 2,500 members worldwide, making them one of the largest groups of it’s kind.

As a side note, Brenda and I were trying to decide where in Europe to go in the spring and hearing about the annual meeting of OCC, to be held in Wales, clinched the deal.   So, we’re headed to the UK for a few weeks in early April.  We plan on covering a lot of ground in England, Wales and Scotland while are there so it will be great to get some local knowledge from the folks at the Wales event.  So far, they have been amazingly supportive and we are getting very excited about the trip.

Part of the three day event will be held in clubhouse of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club.  Among their claims to fame is that their clubhouse, located in a castle no less, is the oldest clubhouse of any yacht club in the world, originally built in 1283.  However, the club isn’t nearly that old.  Heck, it’s practically brand new as it was only founded in 1847.   Ok, perhaps the place doesn’t look quite the same these days as in this etching below, but it’s still in a castle, which is awesome, for sure.  I couldn’t come up with any decent photos so you’ll have to wait till April.  I wonder if they serve mead in the bar?  Hmm…There wasn’t much yachting going on in the 13th century, more like sailing around and pillaging, I expect.  One way or the other, it will be fun to visit a club that can say, with a straight face, “our home is a castle.”  

These three groups share a common bond as cruisers who love to spend time on the water but their missions are unique and very complimentary.  Happily, all three, along with the Essex Yacht Club have agreed to be involved.

George and I are pretty excited about this event, scheduled to run for three days, beginning with a rendezvous of members of the clubs in nearby Hamburg Cove, about a mile north of Essex.  This is a beautiful perfectly protected harbor and as if that’s not enough, it’s fresh water, something that we cruisers don’t see much of.

Hamburg cove is filled with moorings.  Most of the moorings are only used on weekends, when the hordes show up, but if you visit during the week you will be virtually alone in a beautiful spot.

I don’t seem to have any shots of the harbor, that I can find at least, but this shot taken by my friend Liz shows the Onrust, a reproduction of Adrian Block’s boat, the one that he cruised the area with back in the “olden days”.  I expect that the members of the RWYC would remind you that Block was late in the game, nearly 400 years after the first buildings of the castle where there clubhouse is located was first built,  Anyway, here’s the Onrust on the river just outside of Hamburg cove.  The river is very scenic.  Just a bit farther up the river is Selden Creek, a really narrow and beautiful, cut off of the river.  It can be tough to get over the bar at the entrance but once but once you are inside, it’s plenty deep and stunning.  You can anchor fore and aft if you tie up to a spot on the bank.  There’s an iron ring cemented into a cliff on the bank.  This was our first Pandora, a SAGA 43 tied up there, way back in 2007.As tempting as it may be to climb up the rock and jump into the water, don’t do it as it’s private property.  Years ago, our son Rob broke the rules.  Don’t tell anyone. He and a friend jumped off of the “private” rock. What goes up, must come down.
So, first we will have a rendezvous in Hamburg Cove with those who are attending the event at the Essex Yacht Club.

Then off for the one mile run to the Essex Yacht Club and the village of Essex, the home to the CT River Museum ,where the Onrust is berthed these days.  She’s available for cruises on the river through the CT River Museum, also a great place to visit.   I wrote about her in this post when she first arrived in the area.  She’s beautifully built and worth seeing. Essex Harbor is quite large and while there are lots of moorings for rent, there is also plenty of room to anchor on the far side of the river.   This shot, from the air, is compliments of the CT River Museum. It’s a beautiful harbor, especially in the early morning.  Fresh water here too.
There’s plenty to do in Essex, after hours.  A particularly popular spot is the bar in the Griswold Inn, known locally as simply, The Gris.  It’s one of the oldest,  or perhaps the oldest, pubs in the country, operating continuously since 1776.My favorite event, held every Monday night at the Gris, is sea chanteys performed by the group the Jovial Crew.  They always pack the house with a very colorful mix of locals and visitors.  If you join in the rowdy fun, you’ll see  folks wearing everything from foul weather gear, to suits and even an occasional kilt, complete with waxed mustache.   Trust me, it’s way more crowded and interesting than this shot suggests, and totally worth it. And, let’s not forget the Essex Yacht Club, where the event will be held, with Pandora conveniently out in front in this shot.  The agenda is coming along nicely and will include a program on weather routing by Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center, who’s flying up from FL to speak to us.  He will talk about changes in weather forecasting and weather routing as well as some information about passages to the Caribbean.   Here’s Chris at a past event when he spoke at the museum.   Yes, that’s a reproduction of a really early submarine, the Turtle.  It lives at the CT River Museum. We’ll also have talks about cruising in Maine, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.  All with a bent toward blue water sailing.

My friend, editor and publisher of Blue Water Sailing Magazine, George Day will also lead a number of round tables with experts on preparing for blue water sailing and passage making.

The plan is also to have a number of boats on display for boarding on the club bulkhead so that attendees can see, first hand, boats that are well fitted out for ocean voyaging.  It will be fun to compare notes with the folks that are out there doing it.

I also expect that we’ll be visited by the United States Coast Guard, that’s if the government shutdown ever ends and they start getting paid again.   The plan is to stage a live search and rescue demonstration with a J-Hawk chopper along with a visit by one of their cutters.  This is a shot of one of their choppers that I took up at the USCG station on Cape Cod.  Brenda and I were given a tour a few years ago.   What an awesome machine, and one that I never hope to get plucked out of the water by.  I wrote about our visit in this post. Well, there’s still more in the planning stages but George and I are really excited about how things shaping up so stay tuned to learn more.

Oh yeah, we’ll have some great meals at EYC and Chef Michael is known as one of the best chefs at any club on Long Island Sound.

One way or the other, if you enjoy blue water passage making or dream about doing it yourself one day, you should mark your calendar for June 21st to 23rd at the Essex Yacht Club.  It’s going to be great.

As George has often said, what’s better than being in the midst of a group of “like minded” people who love cruising and that’s exactly what we plan.

Like minded people who enjoy sailing on the ocean blue.



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