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My favorite boat, with its crew from Black Point Settlement, racing to victory

Several times throughout the year, Bahamian sailors from all over gather to compete in a series of regattas featuring traditional boats each hosted by a different settlement or town. We’d been hearing buzz about one such event known as the 5F (Farmer’s First Friday of February Festival) on Little Farmer’s Cay, and we couldn’t wait to check it out. Sailboat races? Beach parties? Island culture? Don’t mind if I do!

Anchored in the harbor adjacent to Ty’s Beach Bar we had a front row seat for all of the festivities. We reunited with friends Allison and Bo on s/v Selah (last seen in North Palm Beach), scooped up some new friends Molly and Carl on s/v Shoestring, and headed to Ty’s porch for a happy hour that had been the talk of the VHF all afternoon. We had a little too much fun (and rum punch) meeting lots of new friends and stayed out till almost 10PM, a first for us since we left Florida.

Just before sunrise we awakened to the sound of music pulsing through the harbor. The mail boat was passing through carrying a DJ, three sailing sloops and crew, plus a bunch of spectators, who had presumably partied through the night all the way from Nassau. The commotion stirred up excitement in the anchorage and got everyone going – the races were about to begin!

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No visit to Little Farmer’s Cay is complete without stopping for a drink on the porch at Ty’s. The announcement on the VHF promising free conch fritters, $3 beers, and $5 rum punch brought all the cruisers in the harbor to shore for a big Thursday night pre-party.

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Dinghies beached in front of Ty’s at sunset

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We awoke on Friday before dawn to the thumping bass of rake and scrape music (dance music that’s de riguer among the locals). We stuck our heads out of the hatch just in time to see the mail boat come though carrying three Bahamian Sloops (you can see the masts in the photo – these are slow boats that do not easily sail long distances), a DJ, and a bunch of spectators. They had already been partying all night on the boat from Nassau to Little Farmer’s Cay.

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Rigging a sloop for the race

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This team is comprised of school kids and their instructor – the sloop was a winner in previous years and had been donated to the cause of teaching the tradition of Bahamian Sloop racing to younger sailors.

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Piles of conch ready to be cleaned for feeding the crowds. The fishermen had punched small holes in the shells and strung the conch together on an extension cord.

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Sloops getting lined up at the start

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The crew anchors the boats at the starting line. When the starting gun fires, the crew pulls in the anchors and raises the sails.

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The committee boat, making sure that the boats set their anchors in the same spot.

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And they’re off!

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The sloops were flanked by dinghies carrying cruisers, coaches, and more. Brian drove me around so I could take photos.

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Dinghy spectators

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The race culminated with a shit-show finish in the anchorage in front of Ty’s. The sloops weaved through the sailboats at anchor.

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A man called Turtle making conch salad beach-side.

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Conch salad is a refreshing ceviche made with conch meat, lime juice, veggies, and hot peppers

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Partying on the beach with our friends Bo and Allison of s/v Selah

There were more dinghies carrying spectators than there were racing sloops, but for a high-stakes race (with serious prize money at stake) the organizers seemed pretty lax about clearing the field of dinghies, so we cruisers all had front row seats. Between races we enjoyed a fun, lazy day with friends old and new. Later, we were invited to escape the brutal sun and take in the final race from the top deck of a Salty Turtle, a motor yacht owned by Gigi and Vic, who I happened to meet at the laundry room in Black Point a few weeks prior. It was just the finish to a perfect day, one we will never forget.