Friday, April 29, 2011


George Town, Exumas 23º30.9N | 75º45.4W

National Family Island Regatta, Georgetown, Bahamas.    ©2011 Tammy Kennon
Bahamians have turned their seafaring and boatbuilding heritage into a grand sporting event. Their beautiful sloops are elegant and graceful vessels, their masts raking the clouds, their puffy sails large enough to challenge credibility. Once used for transportation and cargo delivery, these gracious boats now compete for a national title in an annual event, party actually, in its 58th year.

©2011 Tammy Kennon
The largest class of sloops are shorter than Cara Mia with masts that tower overhead six stories high. Under full sail, they look destined to flip right over in a big puff of wind -- and sometimes they do. As counterweight to the enormous sheet overhead, the crew slides a board way out over the water and perches precariously on it, sliding it the other way when they change direction, out over the water, and the crew clambers out on the other side.

A sloop in mid-tack, the crew shifting the board.

The boats start from anchor, sails down.

When the cannon sounds the crew lifts the anchor while at the same time hoisting the sails. The starting line becomes quite a laundry display.

While the sloops are elegant and silent, slicing gracefully through Elizabeth Harbor, the floating fan base is more like an aquatic demolition derby, darting right up to and sometimes all around the racing boats.

Dinghies (us), small fishing boats, recreational power boats, police boats, kayaks, everything, far outnumber the racing boats. With no proscribed course, the fan boats rush from mark to mark trying to get the best view of the race, everyone looking at the regatta boats and nobody at where they're going. Add dodging boats and riding wakes to the already choppy waters of this harbor and spectating at the regatta becomes something of an extreme watersport of its own.

You spend a lot of your time nervously looking over your shoulder:

The modern thrill of darting through roaring power boats is certainly equalled by the ancient thrill of watching history wing by on a tropical breeze. Breathtaking.


  1. Incredible pictures and blog, Tammy. Thanks for the vicarious thrill!