Last fall when we went to the Newport Boat Show we joined the Seven Seas Cruising Association. According to its website, the SSCA is the oldest and largest worldwide organization supporting the live aboard cruising community. Its members consist of people who are cruising, who have cruised, or who are planning to cruise. We had thought about joining in the past, and after spending some time talking with some SSCA members at the booth we signed up without hesitation.
In addition to offering camaraderie, a great monthly bulletin, and access to helpful hosts around the world at various “cruising stations”, the SSCA also has annual Gams at many locations – including Essex, which is just 40 minutes from West Hartford. The Essex Gam is a weekend-long event that brings together members to meet, share information, and listen to a number of speakers who give presentations on assorted topics. We were very much looking forward to our first Gam, so on the weekend of June 17-18 we found ourselves driving to Essex instead of Shenny.
The Essex Gam lived up to our expectations, and we enjoyed being amongst our “tribe”. Everyone there understood exactly what we wanted to do, and why. We met people who had been cruising for years, others who were out cruising right now and had come to the Gam on their boats, and some, like us, who plan on cutting the dock lines in the future.
Presentations ran the gamut, from two sessions with Chris Parker (a weather guru who is revered amongst the cruising community), to a Coast Guard helicopter pilot stationed at Cape Cod who talked about the Coast Guard’s resources and explained exactly what happens from the moment you make a Mayday call until the (hopeful) rescue. We watched a life raft get inflated, and we all turned into kids as we piled in to see how many people we could squeeze into an 8 person raft.
A few cruisers gave presentations on their travels, including the Leeward Islands and tips for traveling on the ICW. The head of NV Charts flew in from Germany to discuss how their charts are developed and kept up to date, and Chuck from Sound Rigging Services (who did our new standing rigging) talked about what to look for in your rigging, along with showing us how to make soft shackles. There was so much more, but the downside to being a few weeks behind in blog posts is that I can’t remember it all!
The Gam also had a silent auction with a number of items for people to bid on. Jeff and I judiciously chose a few and managed to win our first set of foreign charts (the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Spanish Virgin Islands); the Waterway Guide to the ICW; a winch handle (Jeff insisted we needed a third one as a backup in case the other two go overboard); and we scored a Personal Locator Beacon at half the retail price. It’s one of those items that we hope like hell we’ll never need, but it’s very good to have.
All in all we had a great, informative weekend. We will definitely be attending next year’s Gam! Next up: vacation!