We have never done one. I'll try to explain why. Back in about 1987, at the beginning of our serious cruising, the rallies became a lot more popular. People would bond, somewhere in the US or Mexico
, and then come across the Pacific. One such Rally stopped at the remote
Tuamotuan atoll of Rarroia. We were on our second trip there, and the local people were exhausted by visitors. It's what happens when you go from being the 14th in a year to the 14th boat
in the lagoon
. Our first experience there had been really good. For the locals, with a limited water
supply, the additional yachts became a burden rather than a pleasure. I wished we hadn't lauded the place to the SSCA, and now am more circumspect.
A big change happened by 1991. I remember being asked by a Kiwi, "What's wrong with this year's American cruisers? They're not friendly to us." They had come across with the "Puddle Jump", and did not reciprocate on social invitations. Kiwis had them aboard for tea or drinks, and were not offered hospitality aboard the American boats. I felt quite embarrassed.
We came to Tonga
after the Cornell Rally came through. They were like a swarm of locusts, there were no supplies available till the next ship came.
Some friends of ours who are very experienced sailors thought they might join the Puddle Jump, but some poor seamanship practices were recommended at one of the preliminary meetings in Mexico
. They were so shocked they did not pursue the Puddle Jump and came across on their own.
"Who are they a good fit for?"
I'd say they might be a good fit for someone who desires the fantasy of "help" being nearby; or for someone who feels insecure about picking a weather window and accepting whatever comes; or who prefers to socialize with like yachties and not with local people.
"Which ones are the best?" No idea.
"What are the pros and cons?" Some rallies help with entry formalities, and especially where these are tricky, that could be an up side.
A con might be the interdependency that develops, which closes options for staying longer (rallies have schedules), and getting to know the local people. Their focus stays inwards on the people they've befriended. Another con is leaving on someone else's schedule, not picking your own time to leave bases on the best anticipated trip for your particular vessel and crew.
"Plus anything else you would like to share..."
I guess the sharing part came at the beginning.
After we saw how the rallies affected people, we decided we wouldn't do them. It's a personal decision, and we had accumulated a fair wee bit of sailing experience before we left the States the 2nd time. It may be that for people with less experience, rally participation offers them a support group, and therefore, a greater sense of security
. I did say "fantasy" about that, above, and this is because if help is needed because something has failed in difficult weather
, it is perilously hard to help someone else, and a skipper's primary responsibility is to himself, his crew, and his vessel, and only secondarily to help others. Of course one would try, it is success that is questionable.
Someone will probably share some good rally experiences with you, comesatime, and I hope you remember the cons I've mentioned, as well as taking in the pros.