The 16th annual “North American Rally to the Caribbean” (NARC), which is free for participants to join, departs November 1, 2015 (or best weather window near that date) from Newport R.I. The NARC’s primary purpose is to encourage boats that are heading south from the U.S. East Coast to join together for socials, discounts, and shared weather routing.
“The NARC started in 2000 as a way to move the Swan charter fleet to the islands, and over the years it has morphed into a much anticipated event for boats making the annual pilgrimage south,” said Hank Schmitt, organizer of the NARC and CEO of Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), a crew network service. “We make a stop in Bermuda and end up down-island, where two exciting new NARC developments will come into play.”
New for the Rally this year is the addition of sponsor St. Maarten Yacht Club, organizer of the annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta – the first major regatta of the Caribbean racing season. The sponsorship puts new emphasis on the NARC’s finish in St. Maarten where the yacht club will host the final party and offer an early sign-up discount for this year’s St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, scheduled for March 3-6.
Also new is an opportunity to participate in the first annual Dominica P.A.Y.S.(Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services) “Yachtie Appreciation Week” on the island of Dominica. P.A.Y.S. is a non-profit organization aimed at providing yacht services and security to visiting yachts, thereby assuring future development of the yachting industry in Dominica. Scheduled for February 14 to 21, the Yachtie Appreciation Week has been organized to celebrate the installation of a new mooring field that Schmitt – working with P.A.Y.S., the Tourism Board of Dominica and generous OPO members and other sailors – has been orchestrating in Prince Rupert’s Bay over the last few years.
“All the major rallies go to popular and large islands that can accommodate their numbers,” said Schmitt, explaining that in addition to the NARC finishing in St. Maarten, the ARC finishing in St. Lucia and the Caribbean 1500 and the Salty Dawg finishing in the BVIs. “Sometimes, as cruisers, when we explore the smaller, less populated islands and get to know the people, we start thinking not ‘what can you do for us?,’ but ‘what can we do to help you?”
Schmitt, who has been stopping in Dominica for several years and two years ago shipped materials there for local “Boat Boy” Albert Lawrence to build a boat, said that the island has no marina of any kind and almost no marine services, so it felt right to make the philanthropic move of buying and shipping materials needed for the mooring field. The materials includes 50 new anchors, mooring balls and all the appropriate tackle. During Yachtie Appreciation Week, all visiting yachts will receive free moorings, discounted island tours, and nightly socials. As a bonus, St. Maarten Yacht Club will help organize a Rally/Race to get boats from the island of Dominica to St. Maarten in time for the St. Maarten Heineken regatta.
“With the mooring field, it will be much easier for cruising yachts to enjoy Dominica,” said Schmitt. “The island is 70% undeveloped and so lush compared to the rest of the Caribbean that they export produce to other islands.” Dominica also has a fascinating, if fledgling, eco-tourism trade that capitalizes on its natural beauty. Some of the island’s assets are a nearly 5,000 foot mountain peak; tours on the Indian River and to the second largest boiling lake in the world; 14 nature trails from one end of the island to the other; and a reservation, the only one in the Caribbean (established in 1919), for the island’s native indigenous people.
More About the NARC
All seaworthy boats are welcome to begin gathering the last week in October at the Newport Yachting Center in Newport R.I. The rally is geared toward larger boats that are professionally crewed and have experienced skippers. (Smaller boats and less experienced skippers are encouraged to join the “Salty Dawg Rally,” departing from the Chesapeake.)
Weather routing is presented by “WRI” Weather Routing Inc. St. Georges Dinghy & Sports Club hosts the fleet in Bermuda, while IGY Marina Group sponsors the rally finish with two days free dockage and 10% off any longer stay at the Simpson Bay Marina St. Maarten (up to and including all season).
NARC entry for boats is free, with a $100 per person fee covering three socials: dinner in Newport and Bermuda and the final Party in St. Maarten.
Discount dockage in all three ports
No Head Tax in Bermuda
Socials in Newport (“Benjamin’s) and Bermuda (Fish Fry at the Dinghy Club)
Final Party at the St. Maarten Yacht Club