By midnight we had come around the eastern corner of Cuba, called Cabo Maisi and we were heading North West into the Old Bahama Channel. We did not see much of the coast here as we are hugging the right hand side of the Vessel Traffic Separation Scheme, our highway at sea. It looked like all the captains had been reading their Rules of the Road booklet as every ship was in the right lane for its route. We only had one yacht that decided to sail in the separation zone between the two lanes but I think they suddenly saw the light when it became sandwiched between a South going ship and a North going ship; because suddenly she veered sharply to starboard and joined the right lane. Either there was an “Aha Erlebnis” with the officer of the watch or the skipper arrived on the bridge and saw what was going on. That was all the excitement that the navigators had to report during the course of the day and that is the way we like it. We do not mind a lot of traffic but we do not like anomalies in that traffic. You never know what such a ship will do next, if it is already not following the prescribed route. That is something that worries a navigator all the time and too much worrying is not good for your health. It is much better if everybody does what they are supposed to do.
One person who did not do what he was supposed to do was the harbor master of Fort Lauderdale. I had given my ETA as 05.45 tomorrow morning as I like to be docked early, giving everybody the chance to start up at a normal pace without any frantic last minute scurrying around. However there are more ships in port tomorrow and thus he has to regulate traffic. That means we are going to our 15 minute line up again. Island Princess at 05.45, Seabourn Quest at 06.00 and the good ship Statendam at 06.15. We are scheduled last as we are assigned to Pier 21, which takes the least time to get to. It is right near the entrance and is basically a breaking speed/ hard- a-port/stop maneuver. So I can afford to have the later time but it will still mean that we might not have the gangway out at the exact time of 07.00 hrs. There will be one more cruise ship in port and that is the Seabourn Spirit but she will already be there, having an overnight stay.
Today we had the correct weather and current for this area and that helped us in maintaining a good speed. Last cruise coming this way; we had North Westerly winds full on the bow and that really reduced our speed. At the same time the following current we normally have here was nowhere to be seen as that current is mainly wind driven by the Trade winds. 2 days of Northwesterly wind and all that free power is gone, this time is was all according to the books. During the night a North Easterly breeze arose and helped us a little bit and then the current was at its regular flow as it was not hampered by a wind system from the opposing direction. On two days sailing that can make a difference of 30 miles and that translates into a fuel saving of around 9 tons x $ 681 = $ 6129.; just as a gift from mother nature. Needless to say, where we find the current to be in our favor, we will use it to our benefit.
Based on that we have at the moment a little experiment running on the ship. When you leave Cartagena, the current will push you first to the West and when coming closer to Jamaica it will push you to the East. When you order the ship to stay on the course line, it has to use extra rudder force to compensate for those currents. Now you can also simply stay on your heading and let the ship be pushed first to the West and then to the East which costs less power and thus less fuel. We did that last year and now we are doing the other option: Stay on the track and let the ship drift. It results in 13 miles of extra distance to cover, but less fuel. Now we will make less miles, but use more fuel. At least that is the theory. Over a number of trips we should be able to figure out what works best. We need a number of trips to come to an average as the wind, also a big factor, is different for each voyage and also we do not always start our sea voyage in the same spot nor do we end at the same position each time. Thus we are all following this happening with great interest and we really do not know if it makes a big difference on this particular run.
Tomorrow will be the end of the voyage. Arrival will be less nice than the whole voyage has been as there is a weak cold front laying over Florida bringing rain and wind. It should get better during the day though………..at least on paper.