What could a photographer possibly wish for during the traditional Sami Sail event in the Bay of St Michiel? A big crane vessel, for instance, to provide a helicopter view of the races? Perhaps the biggest crane ship in the world? A few days prior to the yearly maritime event Heerema’s SSCV Thialf made that wish come true. In the early morning of April 25th the huge vessel popped up providing a nice platform for me and an extra challenge for the yachts that headed for the finish of the first leg of the first of May race.
The traditional two-day event around the Dutch Queen’s birthday and Labour Day is hosted by the village of Boca St. Michiel, locally known as Boca Sami, or simply Boca, just a few miles west of Willemstad.
Usually Boca is a quiet and cozy fishermen’s village. People from Boca are famous for their own personal way of living. Family ties are very tight and most locals are dependant on the sea for their living. They show a deep respect for the elements.
During Sami Sail the sea again is in the centre of interest, not only for the races. The village attracts many visitors who pack the seaside to sample food at numerous stands and listen to the bands. The festival is fun, crowded and noisy, drowning out the monotonous sound of this year’s extra attraction, the Thialf.
During the races, traditional fisherman’s boats race against each other fanatically, probably since a hundred years. In more recent years the local sailing yachts, united in the Curaçao Sailing Association( CYA), add to the fun in their own race starting in Spanish waters, making a luncheon stop in Boca, and returning in the second upwind leg.
The weather was fine, sometimes surprisingly choppy, particularly on the way back when racing cruiser Venus Calippyge took advantage of a strange wind far out at sea that pushed the boat harder than her competitors and made her win the race and the overall trophy. Tipped winner Curaçao Marine 1010 just fell four seconds (!) short to take the coveted win. The J-24 Chamba II once again won the racing class, thanks to a good maneuver passing by the Thialf in the first leg. Merlin and Demarrage, both J-24’s too, manned by young Sea Scouts crew, successfully followed their leader.
On the inland waters the Boca-based micro boats of the local youngsters sailed their own competition, as usual a part of Sami Sail. The contrast between the Thialf and the colorful mini boats couldn’t be bigger!