As there are just over 6 months to go until the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally (NAR), interest is heating up over this first ever power boat convoy across the Atlantic Ocean.
Most recently at the Solomons (MD) TralwerFest, a seminar and Q&A session was moderated by key members of the NAR Committee including veteran passagemaker Bruce Kessler; Milt Baker, who serves as the NAR Port Coordinator; Mike Martus, Operations and Procedures Director; and Jim Leishman, PAE’s vice president and the Committee’s chairman. Interested cruisers in the audience listened to the panel discuss the rally’s latest developments.
More than 80 interested vessels had signed up to participate in the rally and last week, those qualifying applicants were sent official invitations to join the group next May. With 30 deposited vessel applications and a large pool of potential crew applications already submitted, the NAR committee is extremely pleased with the enthusiastic response to this marvelously conceived adventure. At the end of this month, a password protected NAR NAR information site will be uploaded to the nordhavn.com website so that registered participants can review crew applications and exchange information.
Later this week, a similar presentation will be given by Jeff Merrill of PAE at the San Francisco (CA) TrawlerFest. Next week at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, NAR participants are invited to join an NAR discussion panel and dinner hosted by the Committee. This takes the place of the Rally-focused seminars that were to be part of the now canceled Passagemaking Symposium.
The session in Solomons began with Jim Leishman reiterating the vessel requirements of a true ocean-crossing vessel as outlined by Robert Beebe in his classic text, ‘Voyaging Under Power’. A calm water range of 2500 miles is deemed necessary for the NAR giving a comfortable reserve for the longest leg between Bermuda and the Azores – approx. 1,800 miles. The May 2004 departure has been picked to optimize the most favorable seasonal weather conditions. Each participant is going to be required to test their own vessel prior to departure by doing some seatrials and measured runs in order to get an accurate measurement on their fuel consumption and range at various rpms. This data will be made available to the NAR organizers to assist with planning the trip.
The plan is to divide the fleet into two divisions, with the smaller, slower boats departing first so that, in theory, the entire fleet will arrive at approximately the same time.
Milt Baker traveled last May to the NAR destination ports in Bermuda, the Azores and Gibraltar with his wife Judy – one year prior to the anticipated NAR fleet arrival to get a better sense of the weather, conditions and resources available. Milt’s informative slide presentation certainly inspired the masses.
He started with a description of the route which departs at Fort Lauderdale over the Bahamas and then on to Bermuda with a south island rounding before heading west over the top of Bermuda to the Hamilton harbor. The fleet will be guests of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and this leg should last no more than 5 days. Milt’s slide show was an overview of the information provided on the NAR section of the Nordhavn website – a fantastic tool for all participants – which covers basics such as visas, banking and reprovisioning markets. In addition, Milt also covered important aspects of trawler travel arrival such as internet access, taxi availability, type of electricity, restaurants, marine supplies, laundry, haul out facilities, etc. The NAR committee has already made arrangements at each port of call for fleet mooring, water and fuel.
The second leg from Bermuda to the Azores is the longest portion of the trip; a distance of approximately 1800 miles – which will take an estimated 10 days depending upon the size and speed of each vessel. The fleet will be arriving at Faisal Island and landing at the port of Horta. Milt was pleased to report that some of the best cheese in the world can be found here. He also advised that Express Mail is the best way for friends and family to send care packages as Fed Ex and DHL are often routed through Portugal and can take much, much longer to arrive. Again, details such as trash and oil disposal, the fact that special fresh water hose attachments are required and other important considerations have been thoroughly explored and the organizers are obviously doing their best to anticipate needs and advise participants to make this as easy a trip as possible.
Still, Rally Committee members stress that although an extensive effort is being undertaken to make this a pleasurable and safe adventure, the ultimate responsibility of each vessel relies with her owner/captain and each yacht should plan for worst case scenarios and have back up plans and contingencies – an attitude of self reliance will go very far to insure that each yacht and crew has a fantastic voyage. An extensive list of requirements is being finalized and each yacht planning to participate must qualify to participate. For example twin engines or a separate wing engine will be required so that a disabled yacht could still move along at minimum 4-knot speed. Also, vessels of a certain age will be required to have a thorough marine survey with the results submitted to the NAR committee. Look for this list of requirements to be posted on the Nordhavn website soon.
After a rest in the mid-Atlantic, the fleet will then be on the home stretch to Gibraltar. A very small island with commercial air access only available through London. This leg is approximately 1,100 miles and should take the fleet no longer than 6 days. Arriving in the Med will require Med-mooring – where each yacht ties up stern to the shore bulkhead and where each boat will need to supply her own ‘gang plank’ or passerelle. Electrical requirements 50 vs. 60 cycle and various shore power attachments are part of the ‘fun’ of traveling in the Med.
Mike Martus followed Milt with a great discussion about a new communications product called SkyMate. SkyMate will be a sponsor of the NAR and each vessel will have a unit installed onboard. This is a small box device with antenna that automatically sends an hourly signal to a satellite, which will report each vessels latitude, longitude, heading and speed. Powered by 12 volt the installation takes only an hour and you use your onboard laptop or windows based PC to run email through Microsoft Outlook. It is even possible to send a typed message which gets translated to a synthetic voice which can then dial a shore based number and leave a message for those at home who don’t have email capability. SkyMate should prove to be an invaluable tool to have on board. All of the vessels positions will be organized and submitted to the Nordhavn website so that at least daily a fleet position report will be posted so that everyone interested can follow along. Plans are also being developed to keep a running journal from interested yachts similar to the crew reports filed last year from the Nordhavn 40 during the ATW around the world trip.
The trip will have escort vessels and there will be yacht mechanics, technicians and medical support always nearby with deployable tenders to render assistance.
The event has a loose schedule of dates, but a grand finale celebration is scheduled to be held in Gibraltar on July 4th. After arriving, each yacht will be on her own to enjoy the summer. Plans are moving forward to obtain a group discount rate to ship vessels back to the states as on-deck cargo for those owners who don’t wish to explore the Med or need to get back home.