- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

14 June 2019: Quebec, Canada.

At 23.00 hrs. we boarded the St. Lawrence River pilots at Escomins and then sailed up the river for a 06.00 hrs. approach to the port. For that we pick up a docking pilot about 3 miles away from Quebec port itself. We use a local docking pilot as he can talk to the linesmen for the rope configuration etc. once we come alongside. Not an un-necessary service as the local linesmen here belong to the most argumentive linesmen we have during our cruises anywhere. So when the ships want something,  they do not always agree and that makes the port pilot very useful. On departure we do not have one, as letting go the lines does normally not result in too many heated exchanges. I speak a certain amount of French but not Quebecois but this morning on arrival I heard a few choice words which I have to try to remember as they might be very handy for the future. They sounded quite impressive but maybe not to be used in refined company.    Continue reading

13 June 2019; St. Lawrence River, Canada.

The weather is not in sync with our cruise. Why did we need to have all this wind yesterday and today we have a nearly wind still day. Strong winds at sea do not bother us but it does in a port. It would have been so much better the other way around. And then tomorrow when we are in port again, the wind is supposed to pick up. Making our life difficult again. But luckily Quebec has tugboats and it has a plan B, which Charlotte town did not have. If the wind is too strong in Quebec you simply continue the journey or initiate the blow away maneuver and have the ship pushed back to mid river by wind and current. The St. Laurence River is wide enough to do so without getting worried. But tomorrow should be no problem; either the winds are favorable or we use tugs. Continue reading

12 June 2019; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

What we were afraid of last evening happened; the wind was very strong when we approached the pilot station. Gusts to 50 knots were observed when the frontal system reached the island. The question is then always: How to deal with it. If you already know that it is a no-go the night before then you can try a deviation to another port, stay in the same port or just sail directly to the next scheduled port. The last option is the easiest as it has the least impact on the ships operations, but it has quite an impact on the guests as they now miss a port. So we only do that if we think that there is absolutely no other option available. But that is seldom the case and that was also not the case today. Continue reading

11 June 2019; Sydney, Canada.

Under a sunny sky we sailed into the fjord at which end Sydney is located. There was a chilly wind blowing but from a nautical point of view that is a good thing as it keeps the fog away. So the guests could see the whole approach and I think that most guests did as we had an official arrival time of 10.00 hrs. That meant a pilot boarding time of 08.00, arriving at the turning basin at 09.00 hrs. and then going astern to the dock with first lines ashore by 09.20 and 09.45 all fast. Guests could see it all during breakfast. We prefer to swing on arrival as it is always better to be pointing with the nose to open sea, so if the weather becomes inclement (read wind increase) then we can just race away. With nose in, you have to go slowly astern to the turning basin and then swing around before you can race to safety / open waters.  We do sometimes dock nose in, if we have been delayed and want to save some time or if the Bo ‘sun wants to paint the portside; but only if the weather (read no wind increase during the day) is nice. Today the Bo ‘sun did not feel the urge to paint the portside and thus the Captain swung on arrival and docked starboard side to. Ready to get out. Continue reading

10 June 2019; Halifax, Canada.

And we were lucky with the weather; the cooler temperature caused by a cool wind just kept the air/sea temperature in balance and we did not have any white clouds descending on the water and thus on the ship. Life is full of these little surprises and we cherish them if we get them. The run from Bar Harbor to Halifax is quite tight as far as the average speed is quite high so instead of putting the pedal to the metal and hoping that we will arrive on time, we arrive at the official arrival time of 09.00 hrs. something that in the old days, low cost fuel days,  would have been 08.00 hrs. But to keep the time in port the same we also depart an hour later and thus the amount of quality time in Halifax remained the same.

Arrival in sunny Halifax. The Norwegian Dawn is just docking as we are approaching the dock behind her. She was coming from somewhere else but was clearly struggling to get alongside by 08.00 hrs. Whatever the schedules both ships docked under a sunny sky with very little wind and that gave a beautiful day. There have not been very many of them yet in Halifax so all the tourist guides, bus drivers and security personnel had an extra spring in their step and an extra wide smile on their face. It seemed that even the arrival bag piper was making more noise than normally. Continue reading

09 June 2019; Bar Harbor, United States.

The summer is starting to gear up and we have now had a few nice days in a row. With us in Bar Harbor today were the Independence and American Constitution of American Cruise Lines and the Celebrity Summit of Celebrity cruises.  The first two can carry 100 guests each and the Summit approx. 2200 with some bunk beds filled so altogether with us there were 3700 cruise guests that could have gone ashore to make the shop keepers happy. Even on a Sunday a total 3700 is not that many when compared to St. Thomas, St. Maarten or Nassau but for a small place as Bar Harbor it makes for a very busy day. The port has one very small dock and that should have been occupied by the American Constitution and thus the other one was at anchor next to us. I said should have been as later on we saw that ship also at anchor. Continue reading

08 June 2019: Boston, USA.

With glorious weather we ended our cruise today. Most guests were up and about early and could see a beautiful sailing in, into Boston Harbor. Those who did not were most likely fully focused on their last breakfast on board. This being up and about this early on the last day of the cruise is something we call “channel fever” inside Holland America. It goes back to the Trans-Atlantic days when the day before Rotterdam, while sailing into the English Channel, everybody was up and about early for last minute packing, making final arrangements or just being too nervous to sleep in. Whatever floats their boat, most of the guests were out and about very early. Continue reading

07 June 2019: Bar Harbor, Maine, USA.

The weather forecast promised a glorious day and the weather guru’s had it right this time, it was glorious. By 06.00 hrs. the sun was shining and there was hardly any wind. A perfect day for tender service, if you have to do a tender service. And we have to as Bar Harbor has only a teeny – weenie dock where only the small coastal cruise ships can dock. So we dropped anchor in Frenchman’s bay by 07.00 hrs. and we were ready to go. But nobody could go as all the guests had to go through Custom and Border Protection clearance first, before they were allowed ashore. Luckily the CBP Officers here are very much willing to help with making the process as smooth as possible. And that meant that once you had seen a CBP officer you received proof that you had been and then you could go ashore if you wanted to. This is not always the case; there are ports where all the guests have to wait until everybody has been inspected. Nothing we can do about it as this decision depends on the local CBP supervisor and we on the ships do not know why it is different sometimes.  But here it works and so the guests that wanted to go ashore early had the option. Continue reading

06 June 2019; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

I can see why the Scots of Scotland decided to settle down here and named the province Nova Scotia. It has the same weather as in the mother country. As today it was a day as if we were in the Highlands. Foggy, drizzling and with a cold wind blowing. It even came included with a bag pipe player on arrival; dressed in full Scottish gear. So it all felt real Scottish.  We had an un-expected quirk in the proceedings as the ship received an email, saying that our berth was suddenly occupied by the Queen Mary 2; which was not supposed to be there at all. But the promise was that she would be gone before we came to the dock. It turned out that she had come in for a medical disembarkation while at the end of a trans-atlantic voyage. We were a bit amazed about that as normally the Canadian Coastguard loves to come out with their boats and do a medical disembark at the pilot station. So either they did not have a boat available or the patient would could not deal with the boat ride back in again. Saving lives always comes first and costs are not taken into consideration; but this must have been an expensive detour. Extra fuel consumption to make and keep the schedule, pilot, linesmen and docking fees and this during the night hours. No wonder the linesmen were in a good mood this morning, they had a good bonus night. We of course worried that the QM2 might not have left on time due to some un-expected complication but she did pull out 0700 and we passed each other just outside the port. Continue reading

05 June 2019; Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Contrary to various forecasts, the weather was quite good. Very good for Sydney for this time of the year. On the verge of going to summer, the weather is very unsettled and as a result the various weather forecasts can be completely different. In the vein of, is it partly cloudy, or is it partly sunny.  Is the wind 20 knots or 25 knots or 15 knots?  Thus a lot of wind was predicted today, while we did not really know if that prediction would come true and that makes Sydney a difficult port. If there really is too much wind then things are easy. The captain just cancels the port as it is not safe to go in. But if the wind force is on the edge of what is within in the safety margins then it becomes more complicated. Docking might be possible but will we be able to get out again in the afternoon? If there is not too much wind to go in but too much wind to dock, then dropping the anchor and using tenders might be an option. Not a nice option as it is a very long tender distance but it is an option to be considered. All this is going through the captains mind (and the rest of the crew) when approaching Sydney. Continue reading

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