- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

11 June 2012; Gulf of Alaska.

We started the morning with a bumpy ride, courtesy of the South Easterly Swell rolling in. As expected it started to ease off as soon as we passed Cape St Elias and the depth of the water increased from 50 meters to about 1500 meters. The energy of the wind had now more water volume & depth to disperse into and the waves lost their – short chop- nasty edge. By late afternoon the ship was as steady as a rock again. For the rest it remained overcast with rain in the distance. We still do not have much luck with the summer finally starting. Also the long range forecast (for whatever value that has in Alaska) does not mention “sunny spells” at all, so we might be in for a few more gloomy days. Not that this affects the quality of the cruise very much. As long as we have visibility, we can see the scenery and that is what it is all about. Most shops in the ports do sell umbrellas and that will take care of the rain as well. We are sailing with a speed of about 12 knots as we have to adjust for our arrival time in Glacier Bay. Tomorrow we will be the late ship, e.g. we will embark the rangers at 10.00 as the Westerdam will be the early ship and already up in the bay. By the time we make it there, she will be coming out and we can just change position without being in each other’s way. 

Going slow, means that I have time up my sleeve and that is always handy for “just in case”. In an embarkation port you never know if you will leave on time, as there are many variables that might make guests late. Buses can break down, or even get lost, luggage might be late, or flights been delayed in arriving. All reasons for me having to decide that I might have to stay longer. There are some guidelines that we take into account when the occasion arises. The most important one, will it in any way affect the safety of the ship. There might be inclement weather on the way or during the coming passage if we do not leave on time. If safety wise it is all in order then the next question is; have these guests booked with Holland America for travel and transfers or not ? If they are independents, then I do not have to wait for them, it was their own decision to travel the way they decided to travel. I will try to stay but I will not endanger the schedule for it.

If they had all arranged through HAL, then as the company representative it is my responsibility to help where possible. Then the next question is how many are there and what is the cost for me staying longer. With the high fuel prices you cannot avoid looking at the total price tag. Also when this happens in Vancouver, the big question is at once, can I make the tide at Seymour Narrows and what is the impact on the other guests and the ships operation if I have to go for the later tide.

The final question and quite often difficult to answer by Shore Operations, is when are these people, who are delayed, arriving? I need a certain ETA to work with. Especially coach drivers have the frustrating habit of saying “I will be there in 5 minutes” and then not to be seen for another 30 minutes. A few years ago we once lost a coach on the way from Anchorage to Seward. There are a few stretches on the winding road where there is no cell-phone connection and so coach 5 out of 7 in a row suddenly disappeared. Bus 6 and 7 clocked in on time but Bus 5 was nowhere to be found. Major panic in shore operations but very little action, as they all relied on the cell phone. (Welcome to the modern world……….) So in the end I ordered one person to get in the car and drive back along the road and look. (Novel concept this was, but in the end he complied with the order)

After an hour they found the coach just turning back on the road. It turned out that the bus driver offered the guests on the coach to have a look at a “real Alaskan Home stead” e.g. the farm of his parents. This was greeted with great enthusiasm and he turned off the road, parked behind the barn and took them all for Tea. Great Alaskan hospitality (his mom sold a lot of home cakes and made money as well) but not so handy for me who wanted to leave on time. In the end we pulled out about 30 minutes late. Not much of a problem for the schedule but it delayed the passenger boat drill and thus also the start of the dining room and the shows.

Tomorrow we will be in Glacier Bay. The weather is again unsettled but it looks like a dry day as the weather system from yesterday has pulled away to the South.

1 Comment

  1. Ahoy Captain Albert,
    Wonderful Post! You certainly give some excellent insight into what goes on behind the scenes and discission making process on the bridge. Many thanks.
    PS: Small World, I was on that Westerdam vessel with a family group from all over the United States. Saw your vessel as we passed. Little did I know that was you. I’ll be sure to waive next time. Thanks Again for the informative post!

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