- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

10 September 2009, La Coruna, Spain.

Thus with a large swell on my mind we approached the pilot station of La Coruna, also known as A Coruna. Indeed a large swell was running, pushed up by the shallow waters of the entrance bay to the port. Ahead of me were the MSC Orchestra and the Aida Luna. I could not follow the discussions between the Orchestra and the pilot as they spoke Spanish but the Aida Luna was easy to follow. They had a hard time getting the pilot onboard due to the swell. In the end the pilot had to go back further inside before the swell was low enough to make a safe boarding possible. I knew enough. I was going to keep up the speed to enable the stabilizers to work properly and board the pilot near the breakwater and not out in the open. So with a fairly steady ship I sailed into the bay and made the turn lining up towards the port. By the time that I was a mile from the breakwater most of the swell was on the starboard side and the pilot could climb onboard on the portside.

While it was still blowing wind force six outside, it was wind still inside and that was great as the dock they had me scheduled for was not the easiest one. On the corner there was a coaster docked with the bow sticking out and on the dock there were several cranes parked. They could be an issue for the lifeboats, as on the Prinsendam the lifeboats are sticking out about 4 feet. The dock itself was just long enough to fit and that gave me three extra items to deal with while moving into position. So I was glad for not having any wind as the Prinsendam likes to drift and that would have been yet another factor. We had been assigned to this dock as the MSC Orchestra was parked at the cruise terminal and took up the space where normally two medium size cruise ships can dock. The Aida Luna was across from us at another cargo dock which was longer but normally more exposed to the swell rolling into the harbour. The breakwater keeps the swell out but if the swell is a bit too much on a Southerly angle then it bounces back off the shore to the south of the breakwater and directly into the port. We had a little bit of it and all day long the ship went up and down by half a foot or so.

In the end we just fitted between the cranes clearing the lifeboats aft and the bridge wing (also sticking out) forward. Thus we had a beautiful day in La Coruna. Sunny and mid 70’s temperatures and our second day of sunshine. It looks that we are back to normal cruising. Apart from La Coruna being quite a nice city; it is the hinterland that is very beautiful. So our guests fanned out all over the country side on the various tours. One of them went to Santiago de Compostela which is a worldwide known pilgrim centre. It is always busy there but today it was not “too bad” according to the agent, only a few thousand in and round the Cathedral. Next year is a holy year and then the crowds will swell to enormous levels. I have never been there but I have seen documentaries and one of the highlights is when they swing a very large canister with essence through the church interior. From what I remember from the TV it is almost the size of a small lift compartment. It must be very impressive.

On departure the pilot was so clever to leave the ship inside the harbour to avoid all problems with the swell. The wind had died down a little bit and so had the swell. Luckily a gale warning for the area had not come to pass as the weather front collapsed before it reached the south point of Portugal. Still the swells were running about 10 feet in height and were quite short in length. Perfect length to make a ship pitch and slam on the waves. Thus I sailed out of the port very slowly and let the Prinsendam ride the waves as a children’s horse in a Merry-go-round at the fair. Nice and gentle. I had advised the guests before hand to “fasten their seatbelts” incase the ship would lurch but it went all very nicely. By the time we came in deeper water the swell was mostly on the beam and while the ship still moved, it was more of a steady pattern. Still a lot of our guests felt uncomfortable and that remained so until 10 pm. Then I could change course to the south and we got following seas. The Prinsendam started surfing again and all was well in the world.

Tomorrow we are in Leixoes, the entrance port for Portugal. That is a bit of a tight affair, but they say that we fit in. So we are going to try.

1 Comment

  1. Tomorrow is your last day before you begin your well-deserved break until you rejoin Prinsendam in Ft. Lauderdale, January 2010. — For all your many readers a 4 months hunger-period now begins! But: we have high hopes you continue your excellent HAL History . —- May we thank you for your interesting, and amusing, daily (almost) entries. We look forward to meeting you (again) on board, January 13th, for what promises to be a great sailing, filled with your insights and ” This is your captain from the bridge!” at mid-day.

    Wishing you good vacation, fun with friends and family, a festive Christmas season and then a blast for New Year.

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