Farmers Caye Regatta

After immense pressure (really just tons of great stores about how fun it was) to attend the 5F Regatta at Framers Caye, we decided to go against our norm and attend the event with what we understood to be tons of people and boats. We also had heard of a remote bay nearby that doesn’t attract many boats (pretty shallow/tricky entry), which made it sound like we could have our cake and eat it too.

We had also connected with a couple who we had contacted hoping for some weather intel back before our Gulf Stream crossing because we saw they were from portland, but haven’t had the chance to connect since. It seemed like all things were lining up and pointing us in the direction of heading south a few islands for the event, so who are we to push back against the universe??

sunset and new freinds.jpg

We headed south, enjoying the sail and while a bit nervous about the “shallow/difficult” entry continued on past Farmers Caye, which was already gathering quite the collection of boats for the big event and made our way to Big Farmers Caye just south.

As we approached the bay there was only one other boat, and as we got closer it was clearly Clarity, with what would soon be new friends Nick and Megan (and sweet Shug, their also geriatric pup). Seems funny to come all this way to meet people that are also from portland, seem to know so many people/places we know and could have easily run into each other at any given event/party… but here we are.

We were immediately glad we decided to come south and had a couple of great meetups with the Clarity crew, both onboard and a day trip down to a lovely sandbar that only comes out at low tide. They are not only an amazing couple, but also have an equally inspirational story of how they got to boating and life aboard. Clearly tons for us to talk about!

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The regatta itself was a wild, raucous, and almost impossible to describe event… unlike anything we have ever experienced or heard/read about. SO very glad we listened and came!

We took off early in our dinghies to make sure we hit the beach before the first race. Really, we had no idea what to expect or how to best see the race, but hit the beach and the bar looking for some intel. We grabbed a drink and lounged on the sand with others waiting for things to start but really just saw what looked to be a haphazard collection of old boats coming in from all directions (some seemingly still pulling in from other islands).

It soon became apparent that not only was the start of the race to be well offshore, but several cruisers were taking off in their dinghies to watch the event and get photos. We quickly went from thinking that seemed crazy (the wind and rain had been off and on all morning) to deciding to hop in the dinghy and make a and rush out to the starting line.

stormy weather

As we made our way out to the boats, which were now beginning to line up into a much more formal collection that actually looked like a starting line… the seas were getting larger and we could see clouds bearing down on us from out at sea. It was almost impossible to drift beside the starting line as we waited for the gun to blow, but turned out to be so worth the effort.

These beautiful old boats (still made here in the islands) all start the race from a full anchor. As the race starts one guy on the front of the boat pulls up the anchor rode and the speed built up from the retrieval gives enough momentum and wind for the raising of the sail.

The anchor retrieval was not only impressive but seemed fairly orderly. Everything else that immediately transpired was anything BUT! The entire line of boats suddenly starts picking their tack, with countless near misses and crashes. To describe the next 20minutes as complete carnage and mayhem would be a huge understatement. Add to the excitement a squall that came not more than a few minutes after the start and 12-15 cruiser dinghies mixed in… and the race was complete insanity!

We tried to follow along as best we could despite the now huge seas and getting pelted with rain blowing sideways in the wind even before us at full throttle in the dinghy trying to keep speed with these swift boats. They aren’t only things of beauty, but as the entire crew hangs out over the side of the boat on old 2x6s to gain balance these things simply fly through the water!

Just as it seemed there was enough separation between the boats to prevent any major accidents, the race led directly through the middle of a now crowded anchorage of cruisers here to watch the event. We weaved our way through the anchored boats amazed that no major accidents happened (other than one boat literally sailing over top of a couple in their dinghy who couldn’t get the stalled engine started fast enough to get out of the way) and things mostly went off as planned.

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wet captain

We hit to beach to help the crowd celebrating the winners, but by the end of the race we were completely drenched, bailing out inches of water from the dinghy and mostly freezing. We picked a break in the clouds to return to svKarma, but even before we got half way back another squall encompassed us and we were once again pelted with rain as we could barely see to make our way back to the boat.

Fun times all around… and this is a day/memory that’s not likely to leave us anytime soon.