And thus we sailed out of San Juan, north and east of Puerto Rico and then south again between the east point of Puerto Rico and the west point of St. Thomas. This is called the Anagada Passage and is one of the entrances to the Caribbean Sea from the North Atlantic. Other well-known ones are the Windward Passage (Cuba / Haiti), Mona Passage (Dominican Rep / Puerto Rico) and the Sombrero Passage (Virgin Islands / St. Maarten) Tomorrow evening we will use this passage again to sail out in the North Atlantic Ocean and then head back in the direction of Florida.
Before I continue I have to correct a blog entry. I mentioned the Yacht Eclipse yesterday as being owned by the late Paul Allen of Microsoft Fame. A good reader of this blog sent me a comment (thank you) advising that the owner of the Eclipse is the Russian Oligarch Abrahamovich. This is of course correct and I should have remembered that as the Eclipse was the yacht that pinched my anchorage at St. Barts on Boxing Day when I came there with the Prinsendam in the grey mists of time. The full story is somewhere in annals of this blog either 26 December 2010 or 26 December 2011. As a result we had to deviate to Antigua. So my apologies for the confusion caused.
St Thomas has two cruise berth locations. The old one, since times immemorial, is the pier inside the natural harbor of the island. In the Danish days and the Pirate days the sailing ships would find a safe haven here and later on it became a fixed point of call for the cruise ships sailing to the West Indies. Now we call it the Caribbean Sea, but St. Thomas has remained the same. This dock is called Havensight and is administered by the West Indian Company or WICO. Through the years the dock length has been expanded and it can now handle 3 mega liners, or more ships if they are smaller. Today there were three, The Star Pride, The Veendam and the Viking Sea. All three considered small ships by nowadays standards and thus there would have been space for another one.
But the other one, one of the Celebrity ships went to Crown Bay. This location is on the other side of Haven Sight, where the US Navy used to have a Submarine Base. This base closed in the early 80’s and after some years of neglect, Carnival Corp. sponsored a dock there for two ships. Needed because Havensight was full, full full, on mid week days with all the ships who sailed on a Saturday or Sunday departure. Holland America docked at Crown Bay for years until RCI came with the mega liners such as the Oasis of the Seas. For the ships that are so long it is nearly impossible to make the turn to the dock at Havensight and they were then assigned to Crown Bay as that is a very easy dock to get in and out of.
On our ships the discussion raged for years about what was a better dock. For the guests, Havensight has a larger shopping area right next to the ship. (Crown Bay only has a small one) But to get to downtown Charlotte Amalie you have to take a cab / transport around the bay. From Crown Bay it is only a short drive and you can even walk it. For us sailors Crown Bay is much easier to get in and out of. Entry is a North West course into East Gregerie Channel with a small course change to 270o and departure is by going astern, making a 45 degree turn to the South West and sail straight out via West Gregerie channel. For crew with a short time to get ashore Havensight is better, for crew wanting to go to Downtown, Crow Bay is better. Among ourselves the subject was never really solved. But with the mega liners going to Crown Bay, Holland America is once again back at Havensight.
Today the captain opted for docking nose out, which meant swinging on arrival. It really does not matter what side you go alongside, you either have to swing on arrival or on departure; whereby the departure maneuver of backing out is slightly more favored as you are backing the ship into deeper and wider water instead of towards the dock. But the Staff Captain had some good arguments about maintenance and lowering lifeboats so the Captain had no other option than to do as he was being told.
We are scheduled to leave at 1800 hrs. By that time the Viking Sea in front of us is supposed to have sailed already and we will have a clear way out. One 90o turn to port, followed by one 90o turn to Starboard and we will be back in the open sea.
There is no change of weather predicted. So the wind that was blowing against us all the way down will now be in the back, together with a following sea. And a following current that should give us at least an extra knot of free speed and that should make the Chief Engineer a happy camper as he can get some of the fuel back he lost while we were going the other way.