March / April 2022

Bahamian Boats in the Florida Keys

Smack sailing: a lifestyle
Smack Sailing

BRONZA FOX

Above—BLUE WING (left) and SPRAY HOUND (right) are D-class Bahamian racing smacks that have found a new home in the Florida Keys. The boats are ballasted with friends out on the pry boards, and the Fox family races them over fathom-deep water.

A boat-length ahead I see my boyfriend, Bronza Fox, push the tiller of SPRAY HOUND into a slow, graceful jibe. He hauls in the massive mainsail until it is snugged tight, and then lightly, delicately even, the wind crosses the stern and fills in on port tack while his experienced crew slide the pry board across to the new high side and hike back out. And then he is off, easing the main back out, with more than 16 knots of breeze sending the little boat foaming away on a reach at hull speed. Bronza has been sailing these boats since he was about 11.

I miss the end of this beautifully demonstrated maneuver, however, because I am dealing with the consequences of my own decision to jibe. There are six of us match-racing D Class Bahamian racing smacks off Key West, Florida: Bronza on SPRAY HOUND, with two friends well experienced at smack sailing; and me on BLUE WING, with two friends of friends visiting on vacation. My crew had never sailed a smack before. I had never skippered one of these overpowered boats in that much breeze and, slightly grumpy at the crew distribution, yet determined that I would sail well and safely in spite of the general inexperience, I had sternly told myself two hours earlier as we hoisted sail, “I will not jibe!” All best intentions go out the window, though, when I’m madly competitive with my boyfriend and had, up until the last tack, been generally “winning” our zigzagging course. My blood is up, and so I too (less than delicately) put the tiller over, and we follow SPRAY HOUND down into a jibe.

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