- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

13 June 2019; St. Lawrence River, Canada.

The weather is not in sync with our cruise. Why did we need to have all this wind yesterday and today we have a nearly wind still day. Strong winds at sea do not bother us but it does in a port. It would have been so much better the other way around. And then tomorrow when we are in port again, the wind is supposed to pick up. Making our life difficult again. But luckily Quebec has tugboats and it has a plan B, which Charlotte town did not have. If the wind is too strong in Quebec you simply continue the journey or initiate the blow away maneuver and have the ship pushed back to mid river by wind and current. The St. Laurence River is wide enough to do so without getting worried. But tomorrow should be no problem; either the winds are favorable or we use tugs.

When we think about a river, we think about shores on either side, visible and quite close. With the St. Laurence that takes quite some time before it happens. This is an estuary river with a funnel type entrance/exit and no shorelines insight. Technically we entered the river this afternoon but the shore lines were only vaguely visible in the distance; and I still have not figured out where the sea stops and the St. Laurence starts. In the sea chart there is a boundary line but why that line is exactly there, and not 1 mile to the left or right, is a little unclear.

The breached “ships hull” with water being pressed through. This is about 6 bar of water pressure and that is sufficient to make plugging the holes a real challenge.

The guests were busy with the standard happenings of Holland America, which with only one sea day during this cruise, are all packed into one day. Ask the Captain, Mariners party, Kitchen Tour, Visit the shops, shows and presentations by the concessionaires, etc. etc. So the hotel staff has an extremely busy day while for Deck and Engine it is just a regular busy day. That gave me the chance to organize a few practical things where we combine a bit of fun with some good exercise.  One of these things is the Damage Control Drill or exercise during which we simulate that the ship has a hole which needs to closed otherwise it will sink.  For that purpose I build a complete wall on the aft mooring deck with holes where fire hoses pump water through to simulate the ingress of water. Everybody gets soaking wet but the team has to think of how to close off the hole. At least to such an extent that the amount of water still seeping can be controlled by the ships pumps. We have equipment on board for this purpose but the main thing is to use creativity and use the local construction of the ship to the best effect. Good fun was had by all. The deck team and the engine team managed to come up with two different solutions but both worked and reduced the inflow.

This was the solution of the deck team. Apart from plugging the holes, the plugs also have to stay in with a moving ship. Hence the supports behind it,

2nd thing today was heaving line training with the sailors. When you are on a cruise and you watch arrival, you see the sailors throwing a heaving line as shore so the linesmen on the shore side can pull the mooring ropes ashore. Ever realized that we train for that? We do. Again it is a bit of fun but at the same time we freshen up the basic rules that you have to apply to get the proper technique to get the ball (called Monkey Face) and the heaving line ashore.  For that purpose we hung up 3 mooring buoys at a great distance and the objective is to get ball at the end of the line go through the mooring buoy. Each sailor who manages to get the ball through the lifebuoy got a six pack of Soda. Apart from the sailors also Medical was present in case the ball went the wrong way and would hit somebody.

A sailor throwing the heaving line. The orange ball is from strong plastic to help with he momentum. The lady on the left is the ships doctor, on standby in case the ball would go the wrong way. Luckily all sailors were right on target.

This evening we will be around 22.30 hrs. at Escomins Pilot station to embark the River pilots (2 of them) and then tomorrow morning at 06.00 hrs. they will be replaced by the docking pilot who will guide us to the dock in Quebec where we should be alongside at 07.00 hrs.

The weather is going the wrong way again. Windy, which is not good for us and drizzle which is not good for the guests. But it might clear up during the day. Temperatures: 60oF / 16oC.

This was the initial solution of the engine department: plugging all the holes by putting an engineer against it. He is wearing a dry suit to ensure that the water does not cool down the body. Later the engineers came up with a very good solution to stem the water using more conventional solutions and tools



  1. Sorry Captain, the correct term for the heaving line end is “Monkey Fist” vs face. I really enjoy your postings. Are you on Masdaam next week? Perhaps we can meet again.

  2. Captain,
    The knot at the end of a heaving line was known as a monkey fist in the US Navy back in the 60’s. What other names is it known by?


  3. Irma Kittelson

    June 14, 2019 at 5:35 am

    Wondering why Captain Arlen van der Loo ( spelling ?) is on neither of your captains lists – we travelled from Vancouver to Sydney with him in 2012 – and he was wonderful – like a stand up comedian – Left us in Sydney to go on holidays and take part in the NYC marathon – but it was cancelled that year ..

    • Captain Albert

      June 14, 2019 at 9:13 pm

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      Capt. Van der Loo has left the sea and is now a Director in the HAL office responsible for ensuring that all company policies are properly communicated and followed up upon. (and as he is not dead yet, he is not on the old captains list)

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  4. Captain,
    Just a note to say that the correct spelling is St. LAWRENCE river ,just like the spelling of my name…but I’m no saint !
    Really enjoy your blogs.

    • Captain Albert

      June 14, 2019 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you for that,

      I will have to advise Microsoft as that came out of the spell checker and I did not verify it.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

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