Blue Water Rally 2003-5 group in Cairns (August, 2004)
Liz and I (with Glenda & Warren who also plan to do the rally departing Cairns 2006) met the group in Cairns - this is our report.
Information given here is given in good faith, but you should do your own research to verify this.
They are very friendly 'family' group, eager to share their experiences with others. LIz found the ladies have their own support network to help overcome the homesickness of missing families. They usually contact each other by radio each afternoon to discuss the day's adventures, meal plans, etc.
The organisers meet the group at many ports along the way. Richard and his wife, 'Boot' (Yvonne), were in Cairns for the week (from the UK). They make about 22 such trips throughout the two year cruise with stays mainly between 1 to 3 weeks.
We attended part of the briefing in Cairns where pilots gave advice on navigating the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. Things such as currents of 7+ knots, radio transmissions about water heights in the Straits, avoiding ships, and the like were discussed. An excellent piece of invaluable information !
We attended a sunset BBQ on the beach organised by the Yorkeys Knob Yacht Club for the group. This was an excellent chance to meet the cruisers and ask many questions.
All cruisers we spoke with thoroughly recommended travelling on the Rally. They said it was professionally organised, if not a little over-regimented, but kept them to a planned trip. In particular, they liked having a basic departure date which kept them moving on their journey. Otherwise, they might end up like others they met along the way that had just stayed in places, missed the weather window, and consequently have not completed their circumnavigation. That said, it is not mandatory that you continue all way round with the rally.
Not all cruisers will go to Gibraltar to complete the rally. Some have in the past, and some on this rally, are planning to stay in the Mediterranean for longer. We are planning to stay for 6 months, and go to Gibraltar in time for the following Rally and take it back to Australia. For those who don't know, the Rally starts and ends in Gibraltar and takes 20 months. There is an OZ-Med section of the Rally and you just continue back to Oz with the following Rally. In 2004, five yachts joined in Cairns. Yachts do join and depart along the way. Basically, this is a two year round the world rally - you can join anywhere and depart anywhere.
Other things we learnt
All but two cruisers carry an Iridium phone for 24 hour contact with home. www.iridium.com
Only half the cruisers have watermakers on board. They wash dishes, clothes and shower with salt water!