This time the ship is going to stay only two days in Tilbury instead of three. We are still working on the Greenwich schedule, which requires arrivals and departures at high water. That normally takes a three-day call to make it work but this time, with the spring tides, it just worked out that the high water cycle coincided with our guest change overtimes. As can be found in the archives, we do not call at Greenwich anymore as it turned out to be logistically not possible to do a good change over there, due to lack of a proper cruise terminal and dock. For a regular port call it is a great spot, if the tide is right of course. So Seattle management agreed with my proposal to deviate to Tilbury and we have been going there for the whole season, much to everybody’s satisfaction. However with only a two-day call, we were going to have the change over of guests on the first day and the second day will be the regular port call at London for the new guests. That meant that I had to dock as early as possible to start unloading luggage at 0200 in the morning so that the early disembarks could leave at 0400 and arrive at Heathrow at 0600 hrs.
The plan was thus for a midnight docking and then the harbour master stepped in. There would be a car carrier docking at the top of the pier and that meant that the Prinsendam had to dock “nose up river” in order to fit alongside the dock in such away that the guests could leave via the shore gangway and the luggage via our shell door on deck 4. Docking nose up river means that you have to come in during the ebbing tide so that you can stem the current while docking. It is not so easy to dock at the Tilbury Landing stage with the current, as it tends to push between the ship and the dock and also runs under the dock. The latter; because the landing stage is a floating pontoon that goes freely up and down with the tide.
Nose upriver is what it was going to be and that meant arriving at the latest by 10 pm. At 21:56 it was going to be slack tide according to the local information and then there is a window of about 30 minutes before the flood tide starts to run properly. It takes four hours to get up the river and that meant a pilot pick up time of 1800 hrs. It had been very windy during the day again but as it was from the “regular” SE direction that all of us were now very much used to, it would have no influence on docking as the wind would set us gently towards the dock. We docked on time and the car carrier was nowhere to be seen. Not unusual, cargo ships do not run their schedules like clockwork as we do, as they can only sail when the loading has been completed. The ship showed up in the early morning of the 11th. instead.
Coming alongside, meant the end of my 3-month tenure on the Prinsendam. Same as last year the final cruise was the biggest adventure of the whole period. Tomorrow I will hand over to the alternating captain and then I am scheduled to be back on 8 November 2010, joining in Athens. I hope that you have enjoyed my daily observations of the past period. Apologies for the last few days, but when the weather gets wobbly, the captain has to be on the bridge and not behind the computer. As during my last leave I hope to post some more HAL history on the website when I get a moment. However during the coming weeks I am helping my 95-year-old mother in Holland to move to a retirement home. She has decided that “before she is getting old” she wants to be settled and will not become a burden on her neighbors and me. Being the only child and living in England that is an interesting logistical challenge. Still there are friends to help, so all will be well.
I hope to welcome you all back on November the 8th. or what is even better maybe welcome you on the Prinsendam.
As a final note, my schedule for next year just came through:
8 November 2010 to 5 January 2011
12 March 2011 to 13 May 2011
27 June 2010 to 26 Sept. 2011.