- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

25 Feb. 2020; At Sea, Day 2.

Today is our second day at sea and we are now firmly embedded in the Old Bahama Channel between Cuba to the south and the Bahama Bank to the north; and that stopped any swell out there. As a result the ship is now as steady as a rock and we are having a wonderful day at sea. We have a following wind, so there is only a gentle breeze on the deck as the ship is almost traveling at the same speed / velocity that the wind is blowing.  Going this way, we have the current with us, as this is the current that will eventually join the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida. It is given us a push of about 0.7 knots per hour and that translates roughly in an average of a 0.5 knots all the way from St. Thomas to Ft. Lauderdale. Yesterday when we were in the open there was a lot less water current and early tomorrow morning when entering the Gulf Stream there will be a lot more. But a following current saves speed and thus fuel, so our Chief Engineer is a happy camper. Continue reading

24 February 2020; At sea, day 1.

When I mentioned yesterday that we were going to take the Old Bahama Channel route to evade heavy swells, I forgot to say that we first had to get there. So after departure St. Thomas we had a lively night as we were still in the North Atlantic Ocean. Then by 11 am. we came under the lee of the Turks and Caicos Islands and that took most of the swell away. Now we are sailing North of Hispaniola and the ship is it’s steady self with only a slight movement caused by the regular swell that runs here anyway. This swell is caused by the Trade Winds that have been blowing again on a regular basis and that eventually creates some higher waves. But being south of the Bahamas for the remainder of the cruise means that what is generated at Cape Hatteras cannot reach us. Continue reading

23 February 2020; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas.

St Thomas considers itself the cruise capital of the world, due to the number of cruise ships calling here. But today there was little of that noticeable as we were the only ship in Havensight. For the shop keepers disappointing as the area is geared up to handling 10 000+ guests a day and then only having 1200 is not very exciting. On the other hand you can give some of your shop staff a day off before they roll in again in their thousands.  But at least for us an empty pier worked very well, gangway right across the main gate into town, what else you ask for. Continue reading

22 February 2020; San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan is blessed with one of the best and largest natural harbors in the Caribbean. Hence the very apt name, Puerto Rico = Rich port. The Spanish were quite quick to realize its potential and built very quickly a large fortress – Morro Castle- at the entrance to the port / bay to keep the enemy out. They did something similar at Cartagena, a port with again a narrow entrance (Boca Chica) and a very large bay and sheltered harbor behind it.  So this morning when we sailed into San Juan we did so while sliding past the guns of the castle looming high above us. Guns so close that it would have been impossible to miss us if they would have gone off. The fortress proved so strong that neither the Dutch, nor the French, nor the British could get at it. Continue reading

21 Feb. 2020 Cockburn Town, Grand Turk Island.

There is a difference between the way we as sailors see the weather and the way the guests see it. For the latter, it is nice, or it rains, or it is cold or a combination of the various options. For a sailor, especially a ship handler, it is not important if it is cold or sunny or gloomy; it is all about the elements that have a direct influence on the ships behavior.  Wind, Swell and Current. 14 days ago the guests had a great day at Grand Turk, although we had to share it with a mega liner from Carnival. Today we had an even better day as we were by ourselves.  But for the captain last cruise was a very bad day as docking was on the edge of what was possible with the Veendam. Strong winds from the wrong side so when docking we had to push full power against the wind to get alongside. The current made it even worse and the help that the Carnival ship could have rendered by acting as a wind breaker, did not happen as she only arrived 2 hours later. Then today things were much better. First of all we docked at the other side of the dock, so instead of pushing against the wind, we could break the momentum that the wind was giving the ship, which is much easier; and there was a lot less wind, swell and current, so everything was well within the parameters of feasibility.  On top of that as a bonus for the guests, we were the only ship in port today. So all reserved solely for the 1200 guests we had on board. Continue reading

20 Feb. 2020; At Sea.

Regular Caribbean Sea weather to day. Although we are in the North Atlantic Ocean, this area is fully under the influence of the Trade Winds, which also dictate the weather in the Caribbean Sea, so there is really no difference. They decided to name the Caribbean Sea, the Caribbean Sea because it is enclosed all the way around with Caribbean islands. Starting with Trinidad and going up all the way to the Western Tip of Cuba. I just wonder how history would have treated the area if Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Cuba would have been missing and there would have been a completely open area all the way up to Freeport? Would it have been the Greater Bahamian Sea or the Gulf of Jamaica? Who knows, the naming of locations do not always make sense. Columbus discovered the America’s but we have called the America’s after Amerigo Vespucci who came sometime later. (Although while Columbus thought he was also in India, Amerigo was the first who proved that North and South America where not part of Asia) Continue reading

19 Feb. 2020; Fort Lauderdale.

It is always nice to be in Fort Lauderdale as the only ship in port. It somehow harks back to the days when one ship in port was standard and everything revolved around it. Now we have some sort of shock when we want out if we are the only ones and have to adjust to the luxury. And not only us, a lot of people in the port as well. I heard this morning from our shore side people that there was even a lack of taxi’s in the beginning as a lot of cabbie’s had taken the day off or had focused on something else, “because there was only one small ship in port”. That of course corrected itself but it shows what I mean.  But for the rest it has a lot of advantages. There is no traffic jam at the entry security point of the port and even the bunkering of fuel goes faster as there is a higher pressure in the shore piping system as only one ship is taking fuel. Continue reading

18 Feb. 2020; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

It was a beautiful day, sunny not too warm but a little bit windy. As a sailor I would like to have seen a bit less wind at the anchorage but luckily we had shore tenders today as we were the only ship. And for the guests it did not matter at all as the beach and most of the facilities are on the lee side, so it was perfect and the breeze kept the temperature down. We had all the shore tenders available because we were the only ship. If there is another HAL ship in, then the biggest ship gets the two large shore tenders and the smaller ship (and the Veendam is always the smaller ship)  the two smaller shore boats but often then has to augment the tender service with its own ships tenders. I would not be amazed if the company will keep investing in more ship – to shore transport so it will get easier and easier all time.  But today we were all by ourselves and thus not a worry in the world. Continue reading

17 Feb. 2020; Sailing around Cuba.

When going from Grand Cayman to the Bahamas, Cuba is always in the way. And every time I wonder, if there would be a canal that would cut straight through the center of Cuba, North/South, how many ships would use it?  Looking at the traffic at Cabo Maisi, there is a lot of potential but it would come at a cost and then sailing around Cuba would most likely be cheaper. But there is no canal, so we sail around, and this morning around seven we came out of the Caribbean by sailing through the Wind Ward Passage. This is with Cuba (Cabo Maisi) to our portside and the west point of Haiti to our Starboard. Haiti does not really have a “most eastern point) that really sticks out. Its coast is more ragged and has multiple bumps which protrude into the ocean. So regardless of whether we are on the Cuban side or the Haiti side, the sailors speak about rounding Cabo Maisi. Continue reading

16 Feb. 2020; Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

The rain forest did its job much better than I had hoped for and on arrival it looked more like the autumn weather in Alaska than Caribbean sunshine. It was windy and rainy but not cold of course. Luckily once the sun got hold of the clouds, they burnt off and the sun came through. Unfortunately my prediction was better than the official forecast so we had a shower during the day. Not nice as you get wet, but not as bad as it could be, as the rain is warm.  Although one gentleman was upset with the rain, as he was ashore in a group and they all decided to take shelter in a shop. It turned out to be a jewelry shop……… do I need to say more? As the rain shower took a while, the shop attendant was able to work her charm and the local economy was stimulated with a considerable investment. Continue reading

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