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Monster meeting for cruising association

Jan 1, 2003

When your annual meeting grows by 286%, you must be doing some-thing right. The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) is in that enviable position. The group's 1996 meeting in Fort Lauderdale drew 350 cruisers, with just a handful bringing their boats. For the 22nd annual party this year, however, the SSCA gathered in Melbourne, Fla., on November 14 to 16. Attendance was more than 1,000 as of late Sunday afternoon, according to the organizers, including nearly 200 boats, filling area marinas to capacity and packing anchorages.

Members didn't like Fort Lauderdale because marinas were charging as much as $80 a night per boat and hotels were more than $100 a night.

The association found that Melbourne opened its arms to accommodate the groupMayor John Buckley of Melbourne even addressed the group at the Saturday evening banquet. This was followed by Ocean Navigator contributing editor and keynote speaker Nigel Calder, who presented a talk on cruising in Cuba. SSCA also discovered reasonable dockage costs, an excellent anchorage with no mooring fees, a modern convention center on the waterfront, and a Hilton with rooms at just $69 per night.

"Many members are cruising and living on a budget of just a couple hundred dollars a month," outgoing president Jim Elston said. Melbourne was a good choice because boats were moving south at the time, and they could come and anchor for free.

The agenda featured a variety of seminars and presentations. Ham radio operation, electronics, diesel engines, and DC electrical systems led the list of product and technology programs. Other sessions included hurricane preparedness, ship-board medicine, receiving and interpreting weather information, and electronic navigation.

There were also presentations and question and answer sessions by veteran SSCA sailors, many having accomplished multiple circumnavigations.

The event was coordinated by an army of SSCA volunteers. "We had 50 or 60 from the Melbourne area," said incoming president Gary Powers, "and great help from the East Coast Sailing Association and the Waterway Radio Cruising Club."

SSCA began 45 years ago and has grown to 5,303 members worldwide. The group's primary function, said Powers, is to provide reliable, up-to-date cruising information to its members, primarily by publishing a monthly 48-page newsletter packed with letters and reports from members all over the world. "Even the newest cruising guide can be hopelessly out of date," Powers explained. "Our members' reports are more timely and more accurate."

The 1998 event has been scheduled for November 13 to 15 in Melbourne. For information on the event and SSCA membership ($29/year), call (954) 463-2431. -contributed by Ted Hugger