- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

10 July 2019: Haines, Alaska.

Haines is always an early morning arrival as the first tour, with the tour boat, from Haines leaves at 06.00 hrs. That is a very beautiful scenic cruise up the Lynn Canal to Skagway and by that time it is full day light so nobody has to miss anything from the scenery. Today it was day light with a golden glow. It was wind still all day and thus the smoke/soot of the forest fires hung still between the mountains on either side of the fjord. Beautiful to see but it should not be there of course. The people inland are praying for rain so the fires will be extinguished and then we will only have the golden glow again, at the time it supposed to be here, during the Indian summer in autumn. But it made for wonderful views today.

Something very unusual happened today; we were in port with two ships. That is very unusual for Haines as it only has one dock. There is space to anchor, plenty of space to anchor, but then you have to rely on a good and wind still day. The wind can generate considerable waves in the bay and can be a challenge to operate a safe tender service. With us in port was the Star Legend, which once was the Seabourn Legend before Seabourn sold the three small units off to Windstar Cruises and built the bigger versions, which offer more amenities to the guests and can still get into most of the small ports. So the Captain of the Legend was lucky today as there was not a wind ripple to be seen, and the only swell in port was caused by his own tenders, but that was his own problem.  Thus the total number of guests ashore in Haines increased by a whopping 120 guests on top of our own.

Aerial view of Haines. The town is much larger than can be seen from the ship. And a little walk around the bay can be very rewarding. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Most of our guests are on tours in the morning or afternoon and thus spend only a few tours in the town. And a few hours is enough as the town is not so big but something would be amiss with your cruise experience if you did not do so. It has a few souvenir shops and a few restaurants, but it is also home to a local brewery (bringing your own bottle saves cost) and the world famous and unique Hammer Museum.  Both are located close together you can make it a combined educational and fun trip. (https://www.hammermuseum.org/) There are over 1400 hammers on display, including one donated by Yours Truly, while on the Veendam in the grey mists of time, when the art auctioneer was upgraded to a new gavel and the old one became surplus to requirements.  So I thought that a donation was a perfect way of recycling.  The brewery has an indoor restaurant and a beer garden and is wonderfully out of date with the times as it accepts cash only. Right up my street but I did not get the chance.

The Vista/Signature Class belongs to the largest cruise ships calling at Haines. Any longer and the dock with its catwalks would be shorter than the ship making it difficult to place good mooring lines ashore.

I spent the day sitting in the tender and I could not have picked a better day to do it. Golden skies, nice temperatures and no wind. All Tender Drivers have to undergo a yearly tender refresher course after they have qualified for the Tender Operator Course. Those courses are given near Manila in the Philippines where we have a dedicated training school for Deck and Engine skills. Once year or whenever they have to drive a new sort of tender, the sailors and quartermasters need to take a refresher. Because Holland America takes this very seriously, the requirement is that the Refresher is conducted by a Sr. Officer (Master License and experience) Now it is not really feasible for the Captain or the Staff Captain to do this in Alaska themselves, the standby hours are already long enough, so I normally volunteer to do the review and provide extra training for those who do not have that much routine or who have never seen the Westerdam type tender before.

On one side it is a pity that we have several types of tenders in the fleet (courtesy to the fact that the ships are not all built in a same time period) on the other side our constant moaning about im-perfect tender design is resulting in ever better tenders. The latest tenders on the Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam even have a bow thruster and the company has now started to retrofit the other ships as well. With so many new cruise ships coming out, manufacturers have figured out that it increases sales when they listen to the suggestions from the ships, because the ones who do so, will get the order. It is nice to have a fancy pillow to sit on but it does not help if the tender is bumping around in windy weather. An extra rubbing stroke does and thus that is what we ask for.

We sail tonight at 21.00 hrs. and then we try to fit in, in the parade of cruise ships that is coming down from Skagway. Then it is a short hop to get to Juneau where we are tomorrow. We will be in with 3 other ships, The Norwegian Jewel, The Celebrity Eclipse, and the Amsterdam.

Weather for Juneau: 66oF / 19oC overcast with a 50% of showers. Hopefully the shower band reaches north so the people in the forest fire areas will have their wish come true.




  1. Ahhhh Alaska. We have just been there last month. Thank you so much for all the interesting insights. The weather is gorgeous, we unfortunately weren’t that lucky but seeing Glacier Bay in the mist is also breathtaking.

    One question Captain: we have also been to Skagway (just passed Haines on the way out Lynn Canal) and saw the „wall of fame“ with all the ships and captains including your name with the Noordam (old one I presume) and other officers there. How is that painted???

    Keep up the excellent work.


    • Captain Albert

      July 12, 2019 at 4:00 am

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      About 20 years ago the Railroad dock was renewed and there is now a gap between the dock and the rockwall. But before that time you could just walk up to the rock face and paint something. My name and Capt. Kievits name were only 5 to 10 feet above street level so the bo’sun used a small ladder. Now you have to use a cherry picker but the local authorities are not in favor anymore of it happening since a few ships painted over the older logo. The highest logo is on the top of the mountain, Royal Viking Line, painted in the 80’s by means of a helicopter and the oldest one still visible is the Princess Louise (I think from 1906)

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. Dear Captain Albert,
    Next time I am in Haines on one of my so many-eth Alaskan cruise I’ll look for the hammer of Thor, eh no, I meant the hammer you donated ,haha !
    Greetings, G.

  3. Oh btw, on a totally different subject, I love that painting of the old ship Rotterdam which you use as your blog background.

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