Excerpts from All At Sea interview with David Crafa, this years Port Captain for the Salty Dawg Sailing Rally to the Bahamas.
How did you become involved with the Salty Dawg Rally?
Several years ago I purchased a Hylas 54. Serendipitously, I met my wife Peggy Huang at the Newport Boat Show years later.
Peggy is the COO of Hylas Yachts and she is part of the third generation of family members who have been building Hylas Yachts for 40 years. Peggy is head of US operations and her brother is the CEO and runs the shipyard with the rest of the family in Taiwan.
Peggy and I have sailed several seasons in the Abaco islands. We were so impressed by the beautiful beaches and vibrant community. The warmth of the Bahamian people were a stand out. We decided to get married in 2019 at the Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas.
I have sailed about 12 SDSR Rally’s give or take including the “one off” Rally to Cuba in 2017. Prior to that I have sailed on the Caribbean 1500 in 2011 and Bermuda cup rally 2005 as well as a lot of racing in the New England/ Long Island circuit and also I was a bowman on the Fastnet race 2007.
"We were so impressed by the beautiful beaches and Vibrant community. The warmth of the Bahamian people were a stand out."
Linda and Bill Knowles founders of the Salty Dawg Rally and president Hank George, are personal friends and mentors of mine.
Although I have another career in the entertainment industry in NYC, I help my wife and her company with US operations as Director of Field Marketing and as the acting Commodore of the Hylas Yacht Club. I also help with event planning with our partners at David Walters Yachts as well as major sailing rally’s, sponsorships/endorsements, boat show logistics and writing articles for various publications.
When the SDSR approached Peggy and myself about taking on a leadership roll in the Salty Dawg Rally this year we felt honored. Hylas has been sponsoring the Salty Dawgs for some time now and it felt like a good fit. Since we knew the Marsh Harbour area so well and we were married there, we proposed that we bring the rally to that location. I have sailed to most of the islands in the eastern Caribbean but the beauty of the Bahamas and warmth of the people who live here is really something special.
The SDSR 2019 rally was scheduled for Marsh Harbour. Peggy and I organized all of the activities. We arranged for dinners, happy hours, mini cruises to other cays, pig roasts, the official arrival dinner on November 12th, pool parties, socials with the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club and so on. We scheduled these events with the help of our good friends in the Abacos that we have met over the years sailing to the Bahamas.
Then Came Dorian.
We still haven't been able to contact some of our closet friends in the Abacos.
Harbor Island: In your words, what makes Harbor Island such a great destination to finish a cruising rally?
In the aftermath of the storm, Tom Saxe the director of the SDSR and I began to try and think of other possible destinations for the Bahamas rally to arrive at. I suggested Eleuthera. Peggy and I had visited Eleuthera earlier in 2019. We found the island and its people delightful. Although we never actually sailed to Eleuthera, (we had flown in for a friends birthday) we stayed in Harbor island and explored Spanish wells. It was a brief visit but we were impressed by the beautiful beaches and the vibrant community and township. There was plenty of resources for arriving sailers to utilize from easily assessable grocery stores to chandlers as well as great restaurants and bars to plan happy hours and dinners at. The town in itself is a wonderful destination to stroll through and browse the interesting local shops and strike up conversation with locals. It not a touristy place at all. Its accessible via dinghy and the need to have a vehicle is non existent.
Besides the two marinas that we based the SDSR at, (Valentine and Romora Bay Resort Marina) there is a very well protected anchorage which allows captains to have the option to get a slip or anchor out. Both Romora Bay Resort Marina and Valentines Marina have extended deep discounts to the Dawgs this year. Both facilities are 1st class resort marinas with pools and highly rated restaurants with amazing local cuisine.
There are also many resources available for re-provisioning in both Spanish Wells and Harbor Island. For Spanish Wells there is Pindar’s Supermarket, Island Mart, Value Liquor store (thats right folks, Spanish Wells is no longer a dry island!!) and a large supermarket called Food Fair. Marine resources such as Spanish Wells Marine and Hardware, Spanish Wells Yacht Haven Marina, Papa Key Dockage, R & B Boat Yard.
For Harbor Island there are well stocked supermarkets such as KHY Markets and niche gourmet markets like Captain Bobs Market Place. Limited marine resources, repairs and parts can be procured through most marinas in Harbor Island. For larger jobs this might mean a trip to Spanish Wells where there seems to be more options available.
Activities: Could you describe some of the rally-related events that will take place in this destination at the end of the rally this year?
We chose Romora Bay Resort Marina as the location for our arrival dinner in Harbor Island for November 12th. It was a difficult choice between Valentine Marina and Romora. Both marinas have been extremely helpful and generous with their assistance. Here are a links to both Spanish Wells and Harbor Island event destination.
The schedule looks something like this:
As we waited for all boats to arrive, some of fleet had anchored out at Spanish Wells. While others pulled into a slip at one of the local marinas in Spanish Wells until everybody arrived. Then we all made arrangements for pilots to take us through the Devil's Backbone and into Harbor Island safety.
While at Spanish Wells, we organized happy hours and dinners in local watering holes and restaurants/ bars such as The Shipyard, Wreckers, Bikini Bottom Delights as well as exploring Russell Island beach and dinghy raft up/ snorkeling adventures. There were fishing charters and dive trips available for hire as well on an individual or group basis.
In Harbor Island we had our annual arrival dinner at Romora Bay Resort Marina. This was the centerpiece of our activities at Harbor Island. There were various happy hours, pool parties that we scheduled at both Romora bay and Valentines Marina. In town there were many wonderful restaurants and bars with views of the harbor and spectacular ocean views on the main beach such as The Rock House restaurant and Aquapazza wine bar on the harbor side and Latitude 25 and the restaurant at the Coral Sands Hotel on the ocean side.
One of our favorite activities was the the "Salty Dawg Bar Crawl" to Beyond the Reef, Sammy's Bar and Gusty's for great local food and drinks and if you want to get super local you can grab a drink and get your dance on at Daddy D’s. We were especial lucky to find a local Junkanoo band rehearsing for the holiday season and we joined in the parade and then followed them down main street with what seemed like the entire population of Harbor Island in tow! What a night to remember.
The next morning we spent nursing ourselves back to life on the most spectacular pink sand beach that Peggy and I have experienced in the Bahamas besides Treasure Cove in the Abacos. We ended our stay in Harbor Island with a send off dinner at the stunning Runaway Hill Club. It was bitter sweet having to say goodbye to all of our friends new and old but we know we will see them again soon because once you become a Salty Dawg you're a Dawg for life! Its kind of like being a Hylas owner ;)