24th ARC Caribbean 1500 Starts in Portsmouth

Andy giving the C1500 0900 morning broadcast at Ocean Marine.

Good morning from the Carib 1500 office at Ocean Marine Yacht Center! 2013 marks the first year the event’s 24-year history that it has started in Portsmouth, VA – the city, marina and local businesses in town have thus far given us a remarkable welcome.

The office opened yesterday at 0900. Ocean Marine cleared out an office for us upstairs in their main building, and kept weekday staff on hand all day Saturday to help with the first day. Ten yachts checked in and received their welcome packs, and safety inspections began. 

There is a lot new with this year’s 1500, and the move to Portsmouth highlights that fact. For the first time in several years, all the yachts will be berthed in the same location, making for a much more festive and friendly atmosphere around the marina. And for a change, much of the Rally Program for the week before the start will take place in town in conjunction with local businesses that have shown great interest in the event moving to town. Every storefront along High Street has a Caribbean 1500 poster in their window, and everywhere you go it seems people are welcoming us.

“So far, this has been a great move,” said Miles Poor of Karina. Miles has been around since the beginning, so it’s great to hear his continued support. “Folks are going to burn a little more fuel coming up the river from the Bay,” he continued, “but it’s immediately apparent that it’s totally worth it. Great start!”

The program proper kicked off last night at Skipjack Nautical Wares. It was a short walk north along the manicured waterfront to the Skipjack storefront. There’s an old lens from a forgotten lighthouse marking the entrance to Skipjack, and just a part of the pieces of history you can find scattered all around the small city (further along the waterfront you’ll find the lightship Portsmouth, now in her permanent concrete berth next to the Renaissance Hotel). 

Joe and Alison Elder provided the space inside Skipjack for the first happy hour of the week. The place is truly incredible – room after room of nautical knick-knacks and artwork and authentic bits and pieces off of sailing ships new and old. It’s like a museum inside, but everything is for sale. 

“We had a local artist make these mugs up for you guys,” Joe said as he showed me a beautiful ceramic mug with ‘Carib 1500’ and a colorful sailboat painted on the side. They were a big hit, and several participants walked out last night having bought one.

He then showed me around back to a display in the next room showing ship-in-a-bottle models.

“These were made a 20-something girl from onboard her boat,” he said, showing me the first few. “It’s incredible how detailed these are for someone so young,” Joe continued. “We have a lot of this type of thing,” he continued, “and just sold one last week to a guy who drove down from New England just to buy it – he paid $7500 for it!” 

There was an incredible model of the Pride of Baltimore and schooner Virginia racing head-to-head past Thimble Shoal lighthouse on an ocean of clay. The scene was remarkably authentic, with seagulls suspended at the top of the bottle and the fully-rigged ships heeling to leeward against the breeze. That particular model was made to celebrate the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, which calls in Portsmouth every year in October after racing 130 miles down the Bay from Annapolis.

So participants last night were treated to beer and wine and snacks provided by the local Bier Garden restaurant (the beer, in fact, was a German ‘Hacker-Pschorr’, straight from Munich and served from a proper keg from Joe’s old-timey ‘kegerator’ near the front of his shop), while they browsed the halls of Skipjack, admiring all the ‘stuff.’ The evening was sponsored by Colligo Marine. 

Tonight, we’ll be doing it all over again at Skipjack, welcoming the new folks that will be arriving in Portsmouth throughout the day.