- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

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.

It is quite a long sail in and once the lobster season is in full swing (at the moment the water is still too cold for the lobsters) the whole approach to the anchorage is full of lobster pots. Literally thousands of them. Also here, same as in Sydney, the pilots and the lobster potters have come to an agreement to keep the fairway open for the ships so they do not get damaged and the fishermen do not lose their buoys and thus their connected pots. But there is always one fisherman who knows better and plants his/her lobster pots right in the middle of the steamer track. And that is then normally the end of the lobster pots because if a propeller cuts the rope then you cannot find the pot back anymore. I do not know if in winter, when most lobster pots have been removed, somebody would go on a “pot fishing” expedition to find some of these lost pots back as there must we quite a few. Maybe there is a committee???

Bar Harbor -Harbor. A 10 minute tender ride from the ship. This is late spring so not too many boats and no lobster pots.

The State of Maine is one of the older states of the USA courtesy of being on the east coast and hence there are a number of peculiarities to the naming system and the town layout that you do not always see on the west coast where the Grid System is in place and a more structured naming system is followed. That makes Bar Harbor quaint and makes us Europeans, often coming from historical areas, feel right at home. Even the name of the bay – Frenchmans Bay is unusual as the whole area is full of Anglo Saxon settler roots. There are two main theories for this name: a. A French explorer, Samuel de Champlain came here in 1604 or B. it was because the bay was used as a staging area for French warships getting ready to fight the British around the time  of the USA independence. I put my money on the latter explanation as explorers tend to name places after Royalty, Place names or Famous people at home or sometimes after themselves or other crew.  But I suppose it all has been lost in the mists of time.

The anchorage of Bar Harbor, Frenchmans Bay. or Beacon Bald Porcupine Island Breakwater Light mentioned below is the white line at the bottom of the screen

Where we drop anchor is an area that listens to the grand name of: Bar Harbor Maine General Anchorage Area. Not many ports have this; often the areas for anchoring are simply numbered 1 to 5 or A, B, C etc. So this name is a real mouthful and is most of the time simplified with: “you are going to same place as last week”.  To give another example: When at anchor the officer of the watch checks if the ship remains in position, he/she does so by verifying the radar /electronic chart picture. That one is then verified again (as GPS can also have a hiccup) by taking visual bearings. One of the conspicuous points that we use (A conspicuous point is a point which you can see out of the window but also can identify in the chart) is called Beacon Bald Porcupine Island Breakwater Light. In our language “that thing at the end of that pier”.

So today we had a good day and the tenders could go to and from the ship without much hindrance. Also the tourist season has not started yet and thus the number of six pack navigators milling around is near zero. But we had one this morning; even worse, this was supposed to be a professional. A small sightseeing boat was sailing past the port with one of our tenders coming out; and although our tender had the right of way the sightseeing boat happily kept sightseeing and cut right in front of our tender. But we train our tender drivers very strictly in dealing with these happenings and thus they simply stop the tender and wait. The logic always is, the whole world is mad except us; and we will get our guests safely from A to B and back.

I have blog readers everywhere but I am quite proud to announce that the Master of the ms Zaandam is one of them and he saw yesterday that I had not posted a photo of the QM2 appearing out of the fog on the blog. So he supplied one and herewith I correct my omission.

The Queen Mary 2, appearing out of the Halifax fog. (Photo courtesy Captain Ane Smit, Master ms Zaandam)

Tomorrow we are in Boston and we are supposed to be alongside by 07.00 hrs. as long as there are no container ships, dredgers and airplanes in the way.  Weather: we are expecting another glorious day with sunshine temperatures of 71oC or 20oC and a gentle breeze.



  1. Compliments to the Master. Great picture of QM2.

    We love that part of the world and always look forward to coming back.

  2. Dave Kenat Billings, Montana

    June 8, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    Captain, I always follow your posts with great interest. Thank you for your insight and always informative blogs. Since passengers are cleared in Bar Harbor on the southbound New England/Canada cruise, do they have to be cleared a second time upon arrival in Boston? We are looking forward to England/Ireland in September on the Rotterdam, but seriously considering Canada/New England for our cruise in 2020. It would be fascinating to have one of our trips at a time you are on board to hear your lectures.

    • Captain Albert

      June 9, 2019 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      Yes there is a second clearance in Boston and it makes it all a bit confusing. In Bar harbor southbound CBP is doing the immigration part as we are entering the USA. In Boston they are doing the Customs part as that is where you leave the ship. For those who are doing a back to back cruise, so not leaving, they still have to be inspected, in order to obtain the zero count, so CBP knows that everybody on board has been – customs cleared- So I had to go yesterday as well, although I was not going anywhere and also not taking anything ashore.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. Captain, I have a quick question if you have a moment. I’ve always dreamed of flying a large jet and as opposed to having to work my way up and also putting myself and an Instructor in danger by trying to fly one first time out. I can rent a full jet simulator . As a civilian, if I wanted to take a lesson in piloting a large oceangoing vessel , are there large ship simulators that civilians can rent or is it only for real pilot training.

    • Captain Albert

      June 9, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      As far as I know there are no commercial simulators out there that are open to the non -licensed public. But there are several good simulator
      programs out there that might be available to purchase for private use. I tried one (in the dutch language) and it was quite professional but
      a challenge for somebody without out some basic knowledge about boat handling. If the phrases: pivot point, falling off, drift angle,wheel effect and related mean something,then I would to suggest to surf for a program. If those phrases are new, then I would suggest to start with a basic maneurvring course which are also for sale on various boating websites.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  4. Greetings Captain Albert, Due to computer problems I have missed quite a few of your blogs, but am grateful I’m back on the list and receiving them now.
    Not only are they very interesting and informative reading for the HAL passengers, but just think what a great “journal” you are leaving for your descendants ! Keep up the great ,but surely exhausting, work.

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