Our final port of call is Philipsburg St Maarten. We set our alarm clock to wake us up at 6:30am. Our intentions were to have an early breakfast, get off the ship at 8:00am and do some shopping in Philipsburg and then get ready for our shore excursion. Things did not work out as planned though.
We had breakfast and took some photos of the sun rising.
While we were eating breakfast the captain made several attempts at docking the ship. The sea swells at the pier were too large and after 5 or 6 attempts and several broken ropes, he determined that it was not safe to dock the ship and made the announcement that we would be anchoring in the harbour instead of tying up at the pier. Once at anchor we would then be tendered ashore in the ships lifeboats. It was a good plan in theory, but the reality was a fine example of disorganized confusion. Without going into a big long story, we finally stepped foot on shore at noon, almost 4 hours later than the scheduled arrival time, and barely moments to spare before our shore excursion began. A lot of the passengers missed their shore excursions, at least we managed to get to our excursion.
The lifeboats take us to shore.
Our shore excursion today is the 12 Meter Challenge. A simulated, shortened version of the America’s Cup sailing race, aboard 2 very famous America’s Cup sailboats, Stars & Stripes and Canada II.
Here in these photos that I took from the ship, we watched Stars & Stripes and Canada II sailing in the harbour while they waited patiently for us to get to shore.
At the 12 Meter Challenge office and store, we were given a brief history of the America’s Cup and then the teams were chosen as to which boat you got to sail on. There is no preference given, so just because we were Canadians and would have preferred to sail on Canada II, as luck (or bad luck) would have it we were assigned to the American boat Stars and Stripes. There are 18 people on each boat and everyone is given a duty to perform onboard. Karen was assigned to be the time keeper and I was assigned to be one of the two main grinders.
All onboard were given quick instructions as to what they were required to do.
Myself and another guy were assigned to be the main grinders, we sat opposite to each other so we could each have our hands on the grinder. My assignment as ”main grinder” was to turn (grind) the winch handles that pulled in the rope (main sheet) that controls the boom. There are 3 different gear settings and the captain would call out which gear to use and how fast he wanted us to grind (pull in the main sheet)
As time keeper, Karen’s job was to keep track of and count down the minutes and the seconds to the start of the race. We didn’t want to cross the start line too early, so her responsibility was to verbally communicate to the captain and make sure that the captain knew exactly how many seconds remained to the start of the race. The final 30 seconds before the start, she had to call out every second as the clock ticked down to zero.
The winds were light, which was probably a good thing for Karen’s sake as she has never been on a sailboat before. I would have preferred much stronger winds, but we still had a great time. It would have been a great experience and really exciting to get the rail under but I may have never convinced Karen to ever go sailing again if that were to have happened.
We trailed behind Canada II throughout the whole race by several boat lengths.
I was pretty much convinced that there was no way we were going to catch them, but on the last leg of the race, the captain of Canada II made a tactical error and tacked way too early and did not have a good enough line to get across the finish line, he was going to have to tack again… we on the other hand, held off a bit longer before making our final tack, so we were in position now to sail straight to the finish line. We also caught a bit of a lift in the wind which gave us better boat speed and as you can see in these photos.. we slowly overtook Canada II and won the race.
We all cheered and congratulated our captain (in the red shirt) for the win, then the beer and other drinks were brought out to celebrate our win.
I am glad that we won because there was some mention (jokingly) from the captain, that if we would have lost, he was going to blame the loss on Karen and I, as we were the only Canadians onboard. His excuse for losing was going to be that we had somehow sabotaged the American boat and caused him the loss.
A great day was had by all, winners and losers, lots of drinks onboard and back on shore. So even though we did not get to sail on Canada II, we at least got to sail on the winning boat this day, and what an opportunity to be able to sail on an America’s Cup boat.
After the race, Karen and I did a quick dash in and out of a couple of the shops near the pier, buying some souvenirs and then we boarded the tender for the ride back out to the ship. Once back onboard we had a very late lunch.
We watched the sun set.
We changed into our smart casual attire and went for dinner in the Manhattan Restaurant.
We raised anchor at 7:30pm and set sail for Baltimore, some 1400 miles and 3 days away. We have had a small taste of the Caribbean and I am sure that we will return in the near future.