“Sloop” is derived from the Dutch and French languages, the Dutch word is sloep, and the French word chaloupe, both mean the same thing, a small boat that functions as a gondola or water taxi. Bahamians have adopted the word sloop to describe a boat with two or more headsails (the smaller sail in the front) and one main sail.
Originally called Bermuda rigged; these unique sailboats are seen throughout the Caribbean islands. The frames are made out of wood with carvel planks over sawn frames with a single keel. Flat decks are placed across the frame with an open cockpit for the captain to steer the vessel.
A famous feature of sloops is pry boards. These are long, sturdy planks of wood that, depending on which way the sloop is tacking; extend out on either the port or starboard
side of the boat. The crew sits on the pry boards to keep the sailboat from tipping over due to the deep arch of the hull. There’s nothing more exciting than watching a sloop with crew seated on a pry board taking advantage of a full Bahamas breeze. It is one of the most photographed moments in local regattas and many a new sailor has taken a spill off the pry board in the excitement of the race.
To tack: To navigate the boat in a zigzag manner for the sail to catch the wind while moving up wind.
The first Bahamian sloop regatta took place in Elizabeth Harbour in George Town, Exuma in April of 1954. The first race featured seventy sloops, schooners and dinghies that participated throughout the 3 race days. The first regatta was such a success; it started the beginning of the Out Island Squadron, the first sailing group in The Bahamas.
Now there is an annual regatta in Georgetown, Exuma specifically for Bahamian sloops. No longer a working boat, sloops are still made today, and they can still be seen gliding through Nassau harbor, as well as through many of the other Bahamian islands.