- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 March 2019: Cartagena, Colombia.

Well the amount of wind amounted was less than the weather guru’s had predicted and the good ship Volendam arrived without any hassle at 05.30 at the pilot station. Some ships have a dedicated pilot break but on cruise ships there are always several breaks (that is what we call the shell doors in the hull side that can be used as they are on the lowest deck).  For the Volendam that is A deck as B deck is below the water line and Main deck is passenger accommodation. There we have the Tender break, the Water break, the Bunker break, the Marshalling area (2 doors), the Provision break, and another Water break. So plenty of choice but we normally use the Marshalling area, there were we load the suitcases and store the spare parts coming on board, as this break has the most space. And it is exactly amidships, so it has a flat hull and no bow wave playing around it. Continue reading

22 March 2019: At Sea, 2nd day.

With the sedate speed of 15 knots are we sailing through the Caribbean Sea. The weather is following the weather forecast and that is appreciated by everybody. We expect that the Trade Wind will start to re-establish itself this evening and through out the night and with it the swell. But by tomorrow morning 05.30 we will be slipping inside the entrance of Boca Chica, the large inland water area where at the far North East the port of Cartagena is located. As explained in previous blogs, it takes about 90 minutes from pilot to gangway out and thus the captain is aiming to have the pilot on board at 05.30 hrs.  The ships average speed has been set up for this as arriving earlier has not much use. If we put the pedal to the metal we could be there my midnight but what then. Continue reading

21 March 2019: First Day at Sea.

This current wind is our friend. It came from the north and was thus a following wind and then fell away (shielded by) when we entered the Windward Passage with Cuba to the West and Haiti on Hispaniola to the East. Then it turned to the north but only with a low velocity blowing against us.  All due to that large frontal system that came through in the last few days and as a sort of Vacuum cleaner emptied the whole area out of wind. Well not emptied out, it balanced out the difference in High pressure and Low pressure here.  Now the Trade Wind system has to re-establish itself and then we will be back to normal. The normal will be Easterly winds four 4 to 5 beaufort but here we still have this near wind still weather (which also means less whipped up waves) and that is something to enjoy and cherish while it lasts. Continue reading

20 March 2019; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

So we were hopeful that the whole weather system that had been raining over Ft. Lauderdale and whose tail creating wind in the Bahamas would be gone by the time we arrived. And indeed 90% was gone as the wind had died down and there was only an overcast sky left. Those clouds sometimes carry wind but today the skies looked quite benign and there was no cloud formation that indicated any menace. And it worked out quite nicely. It took all day for the “silence after the storm” to move over.

Continue reading

19 March 2019; Fort Lauderdale.

And a miserable day it was. It rained all day and it just looked like England. At least the English people perceived it to be. With one difference the rain was not very cold but still wet. We are having a frontal system coming over with rain and wind in the  morning, then rain only, and then rain and wind in the late afternoon. But better today than tomorrow. Today the guests are traveling homewards or coming to the ship and that is a lost day anyway. And what comes over now is what we will not see in Half Moon Cay as that is the direction where all the wet stuff was coming from. Continue reading

18 March 2019; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

While we were coming from the South, the Koningsdam was coming from the North and in between was a Princess ship which was going west to Princess Cays, about 5 miles away from Half Moon Cay. So in the early morning dawn Half Moon Cay saw the lights of three apartment buildings coming closer and closer until the Princess ship went the other way.  We dropped the hook at 07.00 while the Koningsdam who made her approach about 30 minutes later remained on the engines. With Azipods and the latest electronic gadgetry it is as easy to float as to anchor. But the Volendam has conventional propellers, rudders and stern thrusters and then dropping the hook is still an easier option. Continue reading

17 March 2019; At Sea, Day 2.

Today we have our 2nd day at sea and we are sailing with a speed of 15 knots towards Half Moon Cay. We have outrun the bad weather and now we have just the regular Trade Winds blowing, although they are quite strong ones, reaching wind force six at times. Normally for a Trade Wind is a strong wind force 4 or a small 5. Still the sun is shining and that is what counts, the decks are open for the guests, much to the great relief of the Cruise Director. Because today was the “Walk for the Cause” and that is something you do not want to cancel. Thus far the company has raised over $ 6 million in funds for the Cancer Fund (and part of it goes to the Cancer funds in the home countries of our crew members) and a lot of good work can be done with that money. So by 11 am. we had about 40 quite excited guests getting ready to make the rounds on deck after having bought the T shirt. They had the additional benefit of seeing Cuba on the portside as we were just sailing into the Windward Passage. Continue reading

16 March 2019: At Sea.

Well, the weather system moved towards us quite rapidly and created a bumpy ride during the night. It also brought enough wind on the starboard side of the ship (As with Trade winds strong or weak it all comes from the East and we are going north) that he captain gave the orders to close off the outside decks on the starboard side. The reason that we are doing this is not so much that guests cannot walk or stand against the wind but because of the angles of the wind. You have to push hard to get the wooden doors to the open decks open against the wind. Not all guests are good at that. But then you have to step through and that is when a lot of guests run into problems. While stepping through the door normally moves a little bit and then it gets the full blow of the wind with a varying angle. And that full blow is then of a different force (due to the angle of the door) than when you started pushing the door open. Guests often do not realize that and with a bit of bad luck the door slams shut again. With or without a part of a guest in between……………………. Continue reading

15 March 2019: Cartagena, Colombia.

When I was on the Zuiderdam I blogged about the ships movement when going from Aruba to Cartagena and from Cartagena to Panama. The strong Trade Wind pushing in the back and the subsequent waves & swell caused a corkscrew motion of the ship. All with the stabilizers doing their best but limited in their success. On this run we are going the other way. So we do not have following seas which catch the square stern and lift it up; now the sea movement hits the pointy bow and lifts it up. The result in a similar movement but at the same time different. Continue reading

14 March 2019; Panama Canal, Panama.

It does not happen very often but we made it all the way through the Canal at roughly the times we had on the published schedule. In the past it was sometimes earlier but often later. Often caused by things outside the control of the Panama Canal Authorities (PCA) as ships have a mind of their own and even if they are willing then the people around it might cause a change in the routine. But today we just sailed through as planned following nicely in the convoy that had gathered in the early morning. There were still lots of ships at anchor and those not on a preferential schedule (such as cargo ships) might have to wait up to 40 hrs. The Panama Canal is going through a dry period and thus the Canal is watching its water consumption carefully. Thus the convoy system is rigorously enforced and that means that no water is wasted by having ships go through without re-using the water for a ship right behind. Continue reading

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