Today I returned to the Prinsendam while the ship was docked in Piraeus, the port of Athens in Greece. I ended my last blog with the remark that the challenge for the coming leave was to move my mother to a retirement home and that was accomplished without too much of an upheaval. As the Old lady (she is 95 years old) said: I will now be in the right place for when I am getting older. The nice thing was that her new room has the same layout as her previous apartment, just a bit smaller. So the paintings, furniture and her two favourite chairs (one for knitting and one for reading) could go back in the same location and the bed lined up in the same way in the bedroom. All and went well and thus reasons to be grateful for. The Prinsendam docked early, to facilitate guests to make it on time to their flights as this was the end of the cruise. I was brought to the ship by the agent at 0800 as I had come in the night before from England. This will be a shorter contract than normal, being just over two months as my colleague and I work our dates around the shorter and longer cruises. With the Prinsendam, longer cruises are interspersed with shorter ones and the normal three month cycle does not work unless we would relieve each other in the middle of the cruise. That is never ideal and thus our contract lengths vary accordingly.
The port of Piraeus is under normal circumstances already very busy with the ferry traffic; today it was also a very full port. The tourist season is coming to an end and a lot of ferries and smaller cruise ships for the inter island trade are being laid up for the winter. So when we drove along the port, there were rows and rows of ferries all lined up next to each other with only a fender inbetween to keep them apart. A impressive sight for a ship lover. Still the regular cruise ship season is not over yet and today we had in port, the Costa Mediterranea, the Prinsendam, the Zenith, the Cristal and the Aquamarine. The latter going into lay up due to the end of a charter contract, or issues with the charterer, according to the pilot. So lots of things to see.
I did not see much of all those ships during the day but I did see a lot of paper work and e-mails that were still “Open and in Progress”. Although I think we are finally getting closer to a more paperless society as the storing of emails in standard folders on the computer is starting to make the hand over folder less and less thick. This is one of the objectives of the company as a whole and the records show that we are doing better every year. It now starts to trickle through also into work patterns of the individual functions onboard. I think if we would compare the paper consumption of the company in 2000 with the current situation, I think the figures would be very impressive.
By noon time we both signed the ships log and I took command of the Prinsendam again until 5 Jan. 2011. The rest of the afternoon was spent worrying about the weather, sorting out my uniforms and keeping an eye on the departure time. As it is autumn in the Med. the weather is very variable. The normally standard Northerly or Etesian winds are giving way to more and more other directions and that makes it all less and less predictable. In the morning it was wind still and by 5 pm. when we departed it was blowing up to 35 knots from the SW. When the ship is docked in Piraeus it lays North – South but the narrow port entrance is almost East – West (249o – 069o to be precise). That means once you have lined the ship up, it starts drifting. So the challenge is to make speed as quickly as possible to reduce that drift. However outside it was already very choppy and thus the pilot had to disembark inside the port. He showed no interest in going with us to Naples. Due to the speed of his pilot boat we had to go no more then 6 knots and thus we would drift.
The only option for the pilot was to leave as soon as we were lined up and still in the lee of the port buildings. The moment he was gone I could speed up and race out of the port. Tonight we will sail South and around midnight we will round the South point of the Peloponnesus by sailing through Steno Elafonisiou. with Nissos Kythira on the South side. That is a sort of short cut for all the ships coming and going from Piraeus and or the Bosporus and it can be very busy there; plus there are always a few ships that interpret the Rules of the road in a very original way. Hence I will be on the bridge to give moral support to the navigator on duty. The weather is supposed to remain quite horrible to at least very late tomorrow night.