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The Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash in 2010

This summer, Marama, a 100-foot aluminum ketch and a newcomer to the Caribbean, was the last to leave the marina at IGY's Ile de Sol. Her departure was historic and heralds the start of a new tradition, the Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash from Sint Maarten to Curaçao.

In the mythological origins of Maori society, one of the three states of evolution and the progress of creation is Marama, the concept of emergence and light and reality. Marama is a common name for moon.

Determined to sail under the light of the moon, Marama's owner, captain and crew, made their final tour of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. While their friends at Uncle Harry's Bar stocked their ice chests for the world-renowned August Monday in Anguilla, Marama's crew celebrated their imminent departure at Rancho's Argentine restaurant in Palapa Marina. They hoisted the Rancho flag to their port yardarm and stocked their freezer with adequate portions of Rancho's famed chili con carne for the voyage.

Crowds on both sides of the Simpson Bay drawbridge cheered Marama on as she led the parade for the 17:30 bridge opening.

Marama moored off to the west of the channel for the evening while the crew checked all systems and waited for their record-setting passage conditions to develop. As they enjoyed their first meal of chili paired with the owner's preferred French rose, they discovered that their timing was impeccable. The first tropical depression of the season was threatening to sweep into the vicinity.

Marama passed the night like a thoroughbred ready to bust out of the starting gate. All systems go at 10:50 as Marama passed over the starting line, which lies to the west of the channel, along the transit from the tower of the small church through the corner of the white building immediately to its east.

The first leg of the Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash was south toward Saba Bank keeping the other Dutch Windward Islands of St Eustatius to port and Saba to starboard. Beyond Saba Bank, the general direction of Curaçao is 240°. Butterflies, seabirds and flying fish accompanied us for a while and then we were on our own.

The rules, records and yarns of the Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash came to us as we sailed along.

With a single reef in her mainsail, her yankee flying, Marama danced through the waves as we celebrated our first dinner under sail - Rancho's chili con carne. We fell into our watch routine, and at 02:30 on our first night under sail we noticed a dark black cloud off to port.

The first blast of cold air hit before there was time to shorten sails. The pelting rain flattened the seas and the young filly, Marama, sprinted like never before. Before the squall was over, Marama established the first record for The Dash. She clocked 18.5 knots. It was the owner's proudest moment.

The answer to the question, where to end the Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash became clear as Bonaire faded in the haze and lights began to appear on Curaçao's headlands. Marama crossed the imaginary finish line between lights of Punt Kanon, on the southeastern tip of Curaçao, and Klein Curaçao at 20:18. Powered by wind and fueled by chili con carne, Marama, her owner, captain and her crew established the elapsed time record for the inaugural Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash of two days, nine hours and 28 minutes.

Marama's owner smiled with glee when he realized that his yacht, sporting the lucky numbers, 888, posted a time that included an eight in her 558 nm journey.

After hailing the authorities, Marama set a course for the shelter of Caracas Bay, five miles to the east of Willemstad. The opening of Caracas Bay was wider than our other options at Fuik Bay and Spanish Water and inside the seas are calm. Words of caution - do not go too close to the far shore, only enter if you are authorized to do so and don't attempt to enter the Marina until you have confirmed that there is ample depth and width to allow you to do so. It's a welcome resting place where the bay's waters are too deep to lower your anchor unless the winds are onshore.

By the time of the second running of the Dutch Island to Dutch Island Dash, construction of Palapa Resort and Marina, Curaçao, should be nearing completion. The ritual of greeting Dash sailors with Rancho's Curaçao chili con carne and a Caracas Bay cocktail to match the indigo waters of its depths should be well established, and the promoters of The Dash tradition will have a way to record a history that will grow richer by the year.

Lynn Fitzpatrick's articles on sailing appear regularly in international publications including AARP The Magazine and Cruising World. She has been a highly competitive Snipe sailor and was the 2008 Sports Information Specialist for sailing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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