Today we had a bit of luck and we were a bit unlucky. We had luck with the weather. This morning while at sea, it was gloomy, windy and rainy. Not exactly the weather that you want when going on a cruise and when going to Key West. But the closer we came to the pilot station the more it improved. The frontal system which caused the cold weather yesterday in Tampa just moved on along in time and the sunshine followed nicely. So by the time we docked the sun was shining and it kept doing so for the remainder of the day. By lunch time we were dealing with a balmy 76oF or 24oC and hardly any wind.
Our unlucky part was that we had to dock at the Navy dock although there were no other cruise ships in port. Both Mallory dock and B pier were empty. And that had to do with this sunset business here in Key West. Docking at Mallory and B pier is allowed as long as you do not block the sunset. If you do you need a permit and you only get so many a year and only if the Navy pier is already occupied. We already have been blocking the sunset at B pier for two calls and then the natives get restless. Last cruise the Eurodam was at the Navy dock and thus we lucked in. This time we are alone and thus the captain had to follow the rules and dock at the Navy Pier.
This makes it a little bit more complicated for the guests. What we call the Navy pier is really a complete little port which was once in daily use by the Navy. The United States Coast Guard still has a presence here and they have an old Coast Guard Cutter laid up in the inner basin. We docked at the outer mole which protects the inner basin from the swell of the open sea. To get out of the dock area you have to go all the way around the basin. That is quite a walk, even more if you attempt to do this by Rollator.
To solve this issue they run little sightseeing trains between the ship and the dock entrance around the basin. Then from the dock entrance it is about 10 minutes to be completely back in the center of the town. Not such a bad walk as you pass quite a few mansions from the 1920’s and related structures. All standing along a road you might not have ventured on if you had been at the other dock. Did the captain have any other options? Not really. Our sailing time is 18.00 with all on board at 17.30 hrs. Sunset is at 17.39 hrs. This meant that the ship would have had to leave at 17.00 hrs. at the latest to ensure that with swinging around, it would have been out of the line of sight by the sunset. That would have meant an all on board time of 16.30 hrs. Given the fact that during the last 2 calls we did not sail on time due to (very happy) stragglers returning late we might not have been clear before the magic moment of sunset. So we would have had to set our departure time even earlier or have left with –straggling -guests still standing on the dock side.
Arriving earlier is also not an option as the time schedule between Tampa and Key West is really tight and we cannot leave any earlier from Tampa as guests are boarding late and we are loading supplies etc. Doing the cruise the other way around (Key West as a last port of call) is not an option either, as we would then have full United Stated Customs and Border Protection which would reduce our time in port as well. The ship would have to be cleared first with everybody presenting themselves to the Inspecting Officers. So the Navy Pier was the only option and thus we docked there and can now stay until our official departure time. If we make that time remains to be seen as it can be expected to have “happy stragglers” again.
Yesterday we also had a change of Command. Captain Robert Jan Kan went on leave and will return 3 months from now. (See the Captains schedules on under Current Captains. You can also find his biography there) the alternating captain for this ship is Captain Michiel Willems who will now be on board for the next three months. Under his command the good ship Oosterdam will leave Key West this evening and then sail into the Caribbean Sea heading for Mahogany Bay in Honduras. We are expecting a sunny day tomorrow but after that it is a bit uncertain again.