- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

11 March 2019; Corinto, Nicaragua.

We are always a little bit apprehensive when we approach Corinto with a ship. The port of Corinto is reached via a narrow channel about 3 miles long which leads towards the estuary of a river along which the docks are located.  That shallow water poses a problem when there is swell. If a long rolling ocean swell comes in, the waves heighten when they come onto the shallow part. Waves have amplitude which is half under water and half above water, when looking at the mean height. When we see the down part of the wave it is really a hole that is normally filled with water. On very shallow depths, that hole cannot go down. It still has to as the waves roll on. So the whole wave system has to go up.  As a result ocean waves rolling in over shallow coastal areas get higher until they crash on the beach.  (This is the simple explanation, if I have to do it 100% correct, it will take me two pages) You have a similar phenomenon at rivers where there is a bar outside. Such as the Colombia River going to Astoria /Portland or the Garonne River leading to Bordeaux.

Thus the long ocean swell rolling towards the Nicaraguan coast in this area can and will build up considerably before it gets there. When a cruise ship comes to the pilot station it has to slow down for the pilot boarding (and for squat) and thus the stabilizers do not work very well any more as they need flow for their lifting effect. Flow caused by speeds over 6 knots. And thus we start rolling. Because of the shallow waters all around we cannot approach under another angle that would make the ship handle the rolling better and thus we roll. Roll considerably.  I have been going in by ordering the guests to sit down and stay down until we were safely inside. Going out is often a lesser problem as the waves first hit the bow and thus get less grip on the ship’s hull.

A little chart of Corinto and approaches, Blue is less than 10 meters on low, low tide, then going outwards the next line is 20 meters which is half way down the fairway.  then just outside the fairway it drops off to 30 meters. It is this going from 30 to 20 that pushes the swell up in height, and then the next lift to 10 meters only makes it worse.

As the weather has been the same for the last few days, hardly any wind, the long oceans swell have been remarkably low. And that benefited us today. No more than 3 to 4 feet of swell rolling in and that does not make the ship move. We need about 9 to 10 feet for that. Everybody happy and before 08.00 hrs. we were safely docked in Corinto.

What are we doing here? Tours to Leon (A similar town as Antigua yesterday), volcanic mud baths, equestrian shows, a Banana Plantation and a Rum distillery to name a few. Tours of all sorts of lengths depending on what elements are included. But you do not have to go on tour, as the town of Corinto is right outside the container terminal. And although it can be very warm in town, it is quite nice to walk around and have a look at the various things. Corinto is one of the poorer areas and most people here live off the port and cruise ship visits do give a nice boost to the local economy.

In the mists of time when I was Captain on the Statendam, we sponsored a school here which was mainly attended by children of the local dockworkers. Poor people. Those happenings are well described in my blogs from those days and also on the company blog https://www.hollandamerica.com/blog/tag/corinto/

The port of Corinto from a not so recent air photo. Some of the sheds were removed last winter.  We normally dock at the left end of the cargo terminal from where it is the shortest walk into town.  The main square is about 3 blocks down from the Gate.

I am still grateful for the (financial and material) support of a considerable number of my readers who donated generously. Those donations paid for a new roof and sufficient school supplies to last for two years. Holland America “supplied” white and blue paint and thus this is the only school in the world painted in Holland America colors. Other ships do other things and unfortunately it has become quite difficult to do anything here and thus the ships have now other ports where they try and help.

We left from Corinto at 16.00 hrs. partly because we have to race to Costa Rica and partly because at this time it is near high water and thus more water under the keel to sail out smoothly.

Weather for tomorrow: sunny again and even warmer 94oF / 34oC. The wind will pick up, from the east and thus partly over land and that does not help with having a cool day. Depending on the angle of the wind it might also whip up some waves and that is not good for being at the dock as the swell is rolling right under the open pier and that can cause some movement while alongside. So we keeping our fingers crossed.  Easterly wind, but better more to the North East than to the South East.


  1. I read all of your posts about helping the school. It is too bad that things have become difficult and the work does not continue. Sometimes, it is hard to understand these things.

  2. I have been reading you for long time and remember and remember your good works with this little city and their school!! I hope that tradition is still in place, because education is the ticket out of poverty!!!

  3. Hi Captain:
    I fondly remember the combined effort of HAL and your readers to do what was necessary for the school in Corinto, mainly to replace the rusted corrugated (and leaking) corrugated roof. I learned a lesson there, do not contribute goods but money, as money doesn’t have to go through the local customs/gendarmes. Your solution, and those of your hotel manager then were very good: you hosted a group of kids on-board and gave them backpacks (loaded with school supplies).

    I remember those days well, I was “all in”. I don’t know what the current obstacles are to supporting the Corinto school. Too bad that whenever something good happens, officialdom gets in the way.

    Your faithful reader…..Ruud

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