Apparently St Maarten/St Martin is all about racing. This Caribbean island is divided between European colonial masters and folklore has it that the formal division was the result of a race between a Dutch and French participant who were supposed to speed walk in opposite directions around the circumference. Outside of Herve V, it would probably not surprise anyone to learn that the French runner was accused of cheating by running, and, as a result, the French portion is quite a bit bigger. The French side is an Overseas Collective (read mini French colony) while the Dutch side is effectively a province within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch side is supposedly working toward full independence but the population tops out at about 42,000 so it won't be a world superpower any time soon (the other side has been condemned to never-ending French governance... but the food is supposed to be good).
Our first race of the day involved a speedy breakfast and a competitive speed walk down the pier and along the road to Philipsburg. Why the need for speed? There were six other cruise ships in town at the very same time as ours. That added up to 23,000 passengers descending on a small town with a total population of 1,500 residents. Yikes!! We wanted to have a look around before the town turned into a mosh pit (fortunately for us, many of our fellow cruisers had to oil up their walkers before heading out so we were able to enjoy a fairly relaxed stroll through town and along the main beach).
There wasn't a tremendous amount to hold our interest so we still had the better part of the day in front of us and DH decided that she wanted to sign up for a yachting experience- I voted against it, so, of course, in short order we were headed for the harbour. She-who-must-be-obeyed has added "learn how to sail" to her list of must-do's now that she's enjoying retired living- I'm not sure how you normally start learning how to sail but it's probably not a yacht racing adventure with us being drafted as working crew members. Whenever confronted with an overly bubbly organizer on a caffeine high who is looking for volunteers, I tend to find cover very quickly so when this yachting dude started looking for 'captains' for the two competing boats, I immediately moved to the back row. DH stepped up and volunteered- the only hitch with that kind of enthusiasm was that she volunteered me! I was now the paper captain of a number of Canadians on the True North (an Americas Cup racer) and we were up against a gaggle of Americans on the Stars & Stripes (an Americas Cup Race winner). The Americas Cup is the Superbowl of yacht racing events and it was quite the thrill to be using these honourably retired vessels for our first ever yacht race. We were all assigned jobs and it turned out to be a blast and somewhat tiring. We completed three exciting laps around a designated course and although, as captain, I was tempted to encourage a couple of folks walk the plank to lighten our load, we still managed to make it across the finish line in first place.
Definitely an adventure that we'd recommend- and if anything were to happen to the Maasdam captain, I'm ready to step in and help out.