The Oyster World Rally start was quite the event. It began with getting the fleet off the docks in an orderly fashion.
Stern-to docking involves backing the boat toward the dock after dropping the anchor from three to five (opinions vary) boat lengths out, usually in high winds, tight quarters and with the entire fleet looking on. Well, the smaller boats were all settled on the dock when the larger boats came in and parked on a big dock perpendicular to ours. To simplify, they dropped their anchors and chains right on top of ours! As we prepared for departure, in usual Oyster fashion, they gave us instructions as to how to leave the dock without casualties. There was a very loud steel drum band playing on the dock to help us with our communications from the helm to the windlass. WHAT?! Oyster had a team of divers on hand to check anchors. It went off without a hitch. Whew.
I have to say that leaving the dock was a really emotional experience. For many of us, getting to the start was a long journey itself.
Thirty boats left English Harbour and were tacking around in 20+ knots of wind, waiting for the start cannon and trying not to hit each other. Oyster emphasized that this was NOT A RACE, but a photo shoot to make memories for us all. Ha, try telling a bunch of Type A Yachties that. It didn’t help that they were counting down the time in seconds on the radio. Add chase boats and a helicopter with cameras into the mix. No stress at all.
Some boats did the start and then went straight back to the harbor as they still had repairs or provisioning to do, some boats set off to their next destination, and some of us tucked around the corner to anchor. We wanted a light dinner and a good night’s sleep for an early start the next day. Good plan. I shared a video of the start on FB. It can also be found on the OWR website.
We set off for Bonaire, about a 500 mile trip. There was a small group of us; Talaba, Vela, Boysterous and Altair. We agreed to keep in touch via radio for our own little safety net. This worked well and made us feel comfortable. Strong winds and ‘lots of squalls pretty much sums it up. Throw in a microburst here and there. It was all downwind, my least favorite point of sail. The danger of an accidental jibe terrifies me, but we always set a preventer. We set up wing and wing and that was it for most of the trip. We reefed the headsail(s) and main at night. Ken and Neil caught a lovely dolphin fish (NOT a dolphin!), which was delicious!
So we arrived at Habour Village Marina to be welcomed by Vela and Talaba. Boysterous arrived at their mooring soon after. Cocktails on Altair that evening!