Sailing the Bahamian Way: Ridin’ the Pry

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On the very first day we went out on the dive boat with Dive Exuma, I noticed the beautifully painted wooden sailboats that were moored near the dock by the dive shop. They were definitely racing boats, with their names streaked across the hulls. When Jonathon, my instructor, saw us admiring them, he told us about the upcoming Bull Reg Regatta, an annual sailing race that was going to take place in a few days. We learned about “ridin’ the pry,” which refers to the outrigger boards for the crew to sit on to keep the boats from tipping over. It was like hiking out on steroids. We immediately decided we wanted to go watch the races, and he told us that Fish Fry was the best place to watch. Fish Fry was a local hangout made up of colorful shacks, all bars and restaurants, located along the shore a ways up the road from town. We had already heard the name thrown around a bit in the few days we had been there, so we figured it was a pretty happening place.

A few days later, the morning of the regatta, we decided to go down to one of the shacks that served as the hub for sailors on the island. The race was advertised to start at 9, so we came down around 10, expecting that 9 meant about 10 in Bahamian time! There were no boats racing, so we chatted with a few locals to find out what was going on with the regatta. We found out it was postponed until the next day, in hopes that the currently-howling winds would calm down a bit. 

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One of the bars at Fish Fry

We came back the next day to find that the races were on! Locals gathered at the shack pictured above, chatting and drinking beers at 10 in the morning, and waiting for the races to start. The start–wow! The one minute horn went off, and the eight or so boats were still sitting anchored with sails un-hoisted! Aren’t they going to get ready? The race is about to start! I was thinking. But then, when the horn blasted to signal the start of the race, bam! Within 5-10 seconds, all of the boats had their anchors up, sails up, and were racing! I couldn’t believe how fast they got moving! And when they did, we found out just how big of a thing sailing was in the Bahamas. The locals were about as bad as Americans watching football! They were pointing out the window of the open air bar, yelling “red boat!” and “Long Island boat!” …And that was about all we could understand through their thick Bahamian accent and the fact that there were about 6 people talking over each other. I had no idea how they could even see what boat was ahead, let alone which boat it was (if it was the red boat or the blue boat, etc.), since by then they had sailed far from shore, and all you could see was their graceful white sails. When they came around the mark close to shore, we were able to see better, and watched as the crew scrambled out onto the pry. It looked incredibly fun! Buzzy, the son of Bull Reg, who the regatta is named after, won the races. 

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On our third to last day on the island, we came back to Fish Fry (which by then was our 4th or 5th time there), and tried to find a sailor to take me out as crew. My dad and I were talking to some men, and we asked if Buzzy was around. They all started laughing, and soon we figured out that we were talking to Buzzy himself! He told us he had to put his two boats on a barge the next day to take them to Nassau for another regatta, so he might not have a boat to take me out on. We said we’d meet him down at the dock after our dive that day, but when we got back the barge was already there and they were getting ready to load the boats. So, I never got to sail, but that’s just one more reason for me to come back again!