- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

14 December 2019; At Sea.

Final day of the cruise. Sailing with glorious Caribbean weather towards Ft/ Lauderdale. The nice thing about it is, that it is warm but not hot. Thus the guests have a hard time deciding what to do. Sit and absorb the last sun rays before they return to snow and ice, or run around the ship and try to catch all that is going on. I got caught in the jewelry raffle this morning while doing a shop inspection and free lottery tickets had to be returned before being eligible for a prize. Somewhere the idea had come up with some guests that the tickets had to be returned as early as possible and hence a large line of Ladies were already waiting at the Promo Shop. As I am in a guest cabin I receive those free raffle tickets as well and I am always tempted to put them in, just to see what will happen. I am on the crew list as I work for the company but I am also a passenger/guest because the CBP says so as I have a visa. I am crew for training but I am a guest for my lifeboat station. So every time I see these tickets  coming by, I always wonder, how would the Shop Manager treat me if I would pop up to claim my prize.

The Gulf Stream

As mentioned yesterday the Gulf Stream is rushing past Cozumel and when the ship leaves the dock it gets at once caught in the current of up to 4 knots. That current does not remain 4 knots all the time. As soon as the ship clears Cozumel Island it goes down to about 1.5 to 2 knots as the water has room to spread. Still most water stays in the axis, or center of the flow, and that is where we try to have the ship sail. Then closer to Cuba, the Captain has to make the decision to stay in the axis and catch as much current as possible or cut the corner and follow the Cuban coast near the West Point of Cabo San Antonio. Whatever he thinks that will gain the most as by Cuba there is a bit of current that helps as well. Although not as much as on the Mexican side.

That is a bit of a gamble as some of the Gulf Stream current is branching off here into the Gulf of Mexico. How much is hard to assess and thus you do not know if you get extra current (because the available water space is getting smaller again) or that you even loose some more as more water flows into the Gulf. Thus most ships including the Nieuw Statendam, sail by the Cuban Coast and then once clear try to get back into the axis of the Gulf Stream. And there it then tries to stay all the way to Fort Lauderdale. If the navigators are on the ball (and a bit lucky as the Axis cannot be predicted for a 100%) then sailing with the Axis can save a considerable amount of fuel, courtesy of the free mileage given to the ship by the Gulf Stream push. If I have make a rough calculation off the top of my head: we have received at least 48 miles of free speed and that translates in saving 15 tons and that translates in roughly 6,000 dollars.  Now you will also understand why captains like a loop around Cuba, going westwards as you have, for the majority of the time, wind and current with you.

The Gulf Stream in Temperature infra red view. As you can see some of the current goes into the Gulf of Mexico, but we  never know how much and we also never know how much will come back.


 The approximate location of the west wall of the Gulf Stream as of

              Dec 14, 2019 at 1200 UTC…

   7 nautical miles east northeast of Fowey Rocks.

 16 nautical miles east northeast of Port Everglades.

 12 nautical miles east southeast of Lake Worth.

 16 nautical miles east southeast of Jupiter Inlet.

 This data courtesy of the Naval Oceanographic Office.

This is the forecast of NOAA for the Gulf stream and it looks as if the Gulf Stream is a bit to the East at the moment and thus the ship will have to leave the Gulf Stream near Miami and aim for the Pt. Everglades Sea buoy. The ship will do that under an angle as going 90 degrees will only cost more fuel as the current will keep pushing to the North and then you have to buck against it to remain in line with the pilot station.

This will be my last blog for a while. Tomorrow I will be flying home from Miami, as KLM now has a direct flight going from there, with an early Monday morning connection from Amsterdam to England.

I hope that you have enjoyed my daily musings for the last 10 weeks and might have even found it educational at times. (However who can beat Wikipedia?????)

Famous last words………. if nothing changes………: I will be back on the blog on February 01, when I will visit A Seabourn ship, followed by 2 HAL ships.

(See my schedule on the blog)

‘I have a few Captain’s biographies in the pipe line, including one who got torpedoed in 1941, and they should appear in the history section after the Holidays. First I have to get home as I have already been told off by my wife that I forgot to get the box with Christmas Crackers out of the loft.

Wishing everybody a Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous and Healthy New Year.

This is the Christmas tree on the bridge. A problem for the navigators is that they cannot switch it on at night as it would affect their night vision.

13 December 2019; Cozumel Mexico.

Cozumel is a favourite port for the 7 day Mass market ships and thus we had The Carnival Glory, The Liberty of the Seas and the Anthem of the Seas in port today. (I think this is at the moment the largest cruise ship in the world) This as the port fits right in the triangle, Miami, Grand Cayman and Labadee /Haiti (for RCI). We call here as it gives another port when we alternate our cruises. But it is hard to get here for an early morning arrival and hence we docked at 11 am. Ships that go the other way, normally spend a day at sea while sailing towards  Grand Cayman or  have a late morning arrival there in the same way as in Cozumel.  Most ships stay in Cozumel until 23.00 hrs.  Holland America tries as a standard to have one evening call in port during a cruise but that does not always work out, if there is nothing to do in the port after 18.00 hrs. Cozumel is blessed with an exciting night life as long as you think in the terms of Carlos & Charlie’s, Senor Frogs and you want to brush up on your Conga Line Dancing. Which is normally not a problem after consuming a bucket of beer, or one of their special Margaritas Continue reading

12 Dec. 2019; Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

Thus today we arrived in Georgetown, Grand Cayman and here we have to anchor or drift. There are only two small docks for the local cargo ships that call here and I doubt if even our Seabourn ships would fit in. But there was a small cargo vessel alongside and thus it was not only cruise ships. There were supposed to be five of us. NCL, RCI, Carnival, MSC and HAL. The first 4 are regular callers and thus they were assigned the 4 anchorages and because we are only coming in once in a while would have to drift further out. For reasons not entirely clear the MSC Armonia cancelled the call and anchorage number four (which is the closest to town) was vacant. Although we are too big to be safely at anchor here, we still had the chance, and used it, to poke the nose as far forward as possible to reduce the tender distance into the port. I think it reduced the tender distance by at least 5 minutes and that is 50% of what it could have been. Grand Cayman has been debating for at least 10 years about putting a cruise ship pier but it gets delayed and delayed so for the time being we stay at anchor or drift around. Continue reading

11 December 2019; Falmouth Jamaica.

And thus we docked at Falmouth Jamaica. Mickey Mouse was sitting next to us, by means of the Disney Fantasy and we had the other dock. Normally all ships dock here nose out, to have the pointy bit towards the open waters as that is normally the best escape possible. But that logic does not always work for an Azipod ship which has much more power in the stern then in the bow. Based on the weather forecast the captain opted for nose in. In case the wind went beyond what the Weather Forecast predicted then we could still  leave as the strong Azipods would hold up in the wind and then use the bow thrusters for steering. This would make it possible to leave while the Disney Fantasy would have to stay in port. Unless that ship can make speed very quickly so she would not be affected by the drift of the wind. But that is something I do not know as I have never sailed on her. Continue reading

10 December 2019: At sea.

Today we are sailing at a leisurely pace from Half Moon Cay to Falmouth Jamaica. That is a pace of 14 knots. This is one of those distances which you cannot make in one night because if you would go full speed you would arrive around midnight and Falmouth is not known for its thriving night life so we adjust our speed and have a nice day at sea. Because that is part of the package anyway, a cruise is not just about the ports, but also about the ship. Although those who are new to cruising tend to select a cruise with as many port days as possible. Continue reading

09 December 2019: Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

I was amazed about the internet last night. When I verified the weather for today, I typed in Half Moon Cay instead of Little San Salvador Island (which is the official name) and Low and Behold the weather forecast popped up. So the Weather Guru’s must have decided that HMC was an official enough name to add it to their database. Holland America is going up in the world…………. And they were right with the weather. The sun was there, the clouds were not there, there was just a bit more wind than anticipated. 30+ knots on arrival. Lessening to 20 knots during the day. If we would have been there with the Prinsendam it would have been complicated but the Nieuw Statendam has so much power that staying in position was still a doddle and we had a very good day. Continue reading

08 December 2019: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

The end of an old cruise; the beginning of a new cruise. This is cruise 045 of the Nieuw Statendam since she left Civitavecchia on 05 December 2018. So the ship is now just over a year old.  Voyage numbers meant something in the past when most passenger ships would make journeys of roughly the same length. Those days are long gone and now a ship predominantly assigned to short cruises will clock up a much higher voyage total than ships assigned to long voyages. Thus could it be that the Veendam had cruise 996 last week and the Amsterdam was at cruise 474. Courtesy of a World Cruise every year. We are not making a world cruise this week but a seven day to the Caribbean. A different cruise than last week and so we have over 200 CVG guests on board who were on their 2nd cruise, or even more cruises in a row. Continue reading

07 December 2019; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

The weather forecast that promised us nice weather yesterday, is what we got today, and thus it was a good day. We were the only ship in and thus it was an even better day. There was just a gentle breeze blowing as we are sandwiched again in between various weather systems laying off the East and West Caribbean systems that will not bother us but helped with keeping the Trade Winds down to something very nice and gentle. Continue reading

06 December 2019; At Sea.

We are sailing back the same way as we went to the East Caribbean, outside the Bahamas, in the North Atlantic Ocean and right inside the Bermuda Triangle. The sea is a bit choppy as Cape Hatteras has yet turned out another 3 day cycle special and this one did not go directly to the North East but more straight across and thus a bit more swell is reaching our area than was the case when we were going southbound.  We do not notice it very much but if you pay attention to the movement of the ship it rides as if it is going over a lot of very small bumps. No rolling, no pitching, just little bumps. Courtesy of this wave pattern mixing up with remnants of older wave patterns. Overcast skies and rain showers made for a day that was not “very exciting” outside. But the good news is that, tomorrow is going to be a sunny day again and today was the day to explore the ship as it is the last sea day of this cruise. Continue reading

05 December 2019: Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

The weather did what it was supposed to do, follow the Trade Wind rule and have the wind blow from the East. Thus the dark clouds that gathered during the night time (see my Caribbean cloud story from a few blogs ago) dissipated with the sun warming up the atmosphere and we had a glorious Caribbean day. Quite warm but the Trade Wind did blow through the port and that made it bearable. We were in port together with the Norwegian Bliss (4990 guests) and both ships docked at Havensight: that is the downtown cruise ship dock. Otherwise known as the pier of the West Indian Dock Company.  So together with our 2500+ guests there were about 7500 guests ashore which is nothing compared to what St. Thomas can handle. Put a few RCI mega liners in and you go well over the 10000 for a regular day. So it was a nice and quiet day for St. Thomas. And no traffic jam to and from downtown around the bay Continue reading

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