- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

09 April 2018: Key West, Florida.

Tampa to Key West is a “Pedal to the Metal” run and with going full out the ship can just dock comfortably before 11 am. If you have a fast transit down Tampa Bay then you have a bit of leeway in the schedule but if you have to wait for opposing traffic or you have slow tanker ahead of you, then it is a tight stretch to remain within in the schedule. Luckily Tampa transit was fast last night and the weather good and thus the ms Rotterdam was at the pilot station at the arranged time of 10.00 hrs.

Navy dock mole, swinging on arrival. If you compare the size of the ship with the size of the channel you can see it is not very wide and with a lot of wind there can be problems in the approaches but you cannot go outside the channel as you can do here.

Because everything here is as flat as can be, I think Key West Mountain is 60 feet high at the maximum; we can talk with Key West pilot station while we are still a long distance away. That gives the pilot the sufficient time needed to get ready and we know that he will be out on time as we could give sufficient notice. It also gives the local police or harbor master the chance to carry out their pre arrival security inspections. This includes look for suspicious objects, damage to the pier, flotsam and jetsam, or boating people (canoe’s etc.) hiding under the dock.

A number of years ago when I arrived here with the Statendam we had the VHF on the right channel and we followed a rather bizarre discussion on the VHF. It turned out later that they were doing an exercise and the boat had to find a suspicious package. Because that was not happening, the man shore side was getting a bit restless as we were coming closer and closer:

Shoreside: Have you found anything yet”

Boat: yea we found a broom.

Shoreside: Are you sure it is a broom?

Boat: yea, it has a stick on one side and red hairs on the other side.

Shoreside: Never seen a broom with red hairs.

Boat: that is because it a Cuban broom, they have red hairs, it must have drifted in.

Shoreside: Cuban brooms are not allowed in the USA.

Boat: Shall I tell it to go back or shall I arrest it?

Shoreside: Hold on, let me call the supervisor……………………

Until this day, I have never found out, if this was serious, or a VHF channel 6 staged Abbott and Costello imitation performance. But I have to think about it each time now when the ship calls the pilot and we can see the pilot boat coming out and a second boat going around the dock.

Getting into port in Key West is easy because it is a straight channel with only two course changes. Getting into port can be difficult as the channel is narrow and the wind is nearly always perpendicular over the fairway. To stay exactly in the middle, the have installed leading lights, which makes it easier to see quickly if you are drifting or not. Today we did not have that much wind and we sailed in nicely according to plan.

The leading lights in the pre electronic paper days. At nbr 8 we change course to the next leading lights and then at nbr 12, and then one more time at nbr. 14. all the time there are leading lights to keep us in the middle.

The leading lights for the first course into the channel are just poles standing in the middle of a park and at the beach edge. In the chart to the left, they are located close to nbr. 14.

We were assigned at the Navy Pier. The Carnival Glory was at the B pier and the downtown pier was empty, so no ship would interfere with the sunset over Mallory Square. Today there was hardly a cloud in the sky and thus sunset should be quite sensational tonight. We swung on arrival, courtesy of being nicely on time, and thus we will not bother anybody with sunset while we head for our next port of call; Mahogany Bay in Roatan.


So tomorrow will be a day at sea as Honduras is quite a way down south into the Caribbean.

1 Comment

  1. Ah, Key West Mountain on Stock Island. It is just over 66 feet high and is the former landfill/ waste dump. It has been decorated in the past for different events. Some locals have a not suitable for work name for the “Mountain” 🙂

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