8 Bells: Bill Knowles, Founder of Salty Dawgs

SinC Bill Linda Knowles

May 18, 2022

Bill and Linda Knowles

At the end of April founder and long-time leader of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association died after a long illness.

His passing is sad of course, but his organization lives on. Some time prior to the pandemic, I had the genuine pleasure of sharing a few days with the group as they prepared to depart Hampton VA for the Caribbean. It was a great group that equally enjoyed a love of cruising safely and having a great time on boats.

Bill and Linda were long-time sailors and had spent about a decade of their retirement years sailing back and forth to the British Virgin Island each fall and spring aboard their Jeanneau 54, Sapphire. Anyone who ever stopped by Sapphire for a sundowner, any time of day, also learned that he did not like to spoil rum with too much mixer.  

Bill KnowlesIn 2011, after the Caribbean 1500, in which the Knowles had sailed several times, was taken over by World Cruising Club, the Knowles decided to break away and make the trip to the BVI with some like-minded friends. Word of this plan got out and by departure time in early November the fleet, known as the Salty Dawgs, had grown to more than 30 boats. Out of that first rally, the SDSA was born. You can read more about the ensuing history of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association here

Canadian Yachting Salty Dawg Feature Article

My visit to Hampton and opportunity to meet the Dawgs was quite eye opening. The level of both party-hearty fun was exceeded by the dedication to careful boat prep and weather awareness. I typically show up as a guest in the Caribbean but seeing what goes into it makes it clear that performance cruising takes a lot of skill and attention.

Since 2011, close to one thousand boats and some five thousand sailors including scores of Canadians have taken part in Salty Dawg Rallies and attended the SDSA educational seminars. And, true to the Knowles’ love of life, they also have attended numerous fun and memorable parties. It’s a fine volunteer run organization that keeps costs sensible, the humour upbeat while respecting the oceans cruisers share. That’s quite a legacy.


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