On April 23rd 2019 The Annual Out Island Regatta starts.
Over the next five days the population of Exuma escalates as visitors from many of the family islands descend on Great Exuma to enjoy some great boat races, loads of Bahamian food and one heck of a lot of Kalik, rum punches and Bahama Mamas.
The regatta started 66 years ago with the intention of preserving the boat building skills that the islands possessed from generations of fishermen and boat builders. The type of boats are called skiffs. They are entirely built of wood, usually around 30ft long with a forward mounted mast of exceptional length.
The long boom means the boat can carry enormous sails for such a small craft. The boat carries several lead blocks for ballast and a crew of around 10, some of which will sit on a hefty plank well out to the beam of the boat, to act as a counter-weight to the sails and wind force.
The skill is to slide back into the boat and back out the other side as the boat rounds a marker.
The boats are divided into classes A thro’ E depending on their size. Each boat must be designed, built and skippered by a Bahamian.
Each race is two laps around a triangular course inside Elizabeth Harbour and there are some large financial prizes.
There are about ten boats in each race and they line up and anchor on the start line. The commodore of the Regatta fires a cannon to signify the start of each race. Then its chaos as the crew scramble to lift the anchor, raise the sails and steer clear of the competitors.
Following the race are a series of spectator boats cheering on the boat from their island. In addition there are more spectator boats at the turn bouys, which is where collisions and capsizes are most frequent.
While the main focus is on the water, back on land you find wooden shacks lining the streets of George Town, each offering drinks and/or food and LOUD music. ! So by early evening you can imagine that many visitors and locals are well lubricated and dancing the night away.