- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

15 June 2012; Ketchikan, Alaska.

I have been sitting behind my computer for the last 24 hrs looking totally puzzled at the weather forecast for Ketchikan. It kept changing about every 3 hours. At one moment I had 3 forecasts that were totally different so in the end I gave up. There is a low pressure system building over the Northern Gulf and it seems that nobody can get a good handle on it. My main concern is always the wind on arrival and thus I looked at the real time wind; e.g. wind at the moment at Ketchikan airport. That is just across from the cruise ship docks and gives a very good indication of what to expect. Thus I was very happy to see that it read CALM at 07.00 hrs. By 9 am we started our approach through Tongass Narrows and slowly but steadily we saw the wind increasing. That was not in the planning and not to my liking either. By the time we approached the dock, it was gusting up to 35 knots. However it was still dry and that is for Ketchikan already a major thing. 

web ketchikan gangway

You can see that near the stern, the dock is only a catwalk and the current can (and does) play freely around the ship under ever changing angles. In the front the gangway, nice and low, resting on the floating pontoon that goes up and down with the tides.

Wind is never nice, but gusting wind is even more problematic as it makes it nearly impossible to find a balance between the ship and the elements. If docking is still safe with that sort of high wind, what you do then is carry out a controlled drift maneuver. Find the best balance possible on the wind, so the ship sits still and then with the thrusters start a slow sideways movement without losing that balance. That is a lot safer than doing the normal approach and hoping that the wind will not change direction at the crucial moment of touching the dock. Dock four in Ketchikan has the additional issue that the current plays around the stern of the ship. Also it runs along the dock at the same time and that gives another anomaly to deal with, keeping the ship still/on location while the lines go ashore. If you would try to simulate this dock in a training center, then the computer would get a nice headache. So I brought the Statendam to a complete standstill about 200 feet from the dock and watched what the wind and current did to her and then went slowly sideways. At the same time we were planning a different line up at the dock compared to last week, so that the gangway could be on the floating part and that meant no steep ramps for the guests any more.

It all worked out and by 11.10 the guests streamed ashore, going for the culture and the shopping delights of Ketchikan. And it was still dry. While the deck dept. was doing crew boat drills, I hopped ashore with a shopping list. Sanding paper, stainless screws, bolts, nuts, window wipers and batteries. All the items that keep the lifesaving department going and the lifeboats in good order. I have learnt in the last 30 years where I can find the shops that have all the stuff that we need for the best price, and it gets me off the ship for awhile. Back on board came the challenge of packing.

 As you know I am signing off in Vancouver and thus it is time to get all my uniforms and everything else back into two steamer trunks. Or better said one, as my second trunk was confiscated a long time ago by my wife. If you start dating somebody on board as an officer and that date/fiancée/future spouse finds out that officers have steamer trunks, it is amazing what happens then. Every officer who gets hitched on board goes through that experience. Those trunks become a focus of intense fascination and then you at least lose one. If you are not careful, both. What is the most important item that has to be stored in the trunk: a miniature Christmas tree. It seems that you cannot go around the world without one in your steamer trunk.

The wind did not let down and on departure it was still gusting 30 knots and by now we had torrential rains as well. Rains that started around 14.30 in the afternoon. Those are supposed to last until midnight and then it should get better. Getting off the dock was easy. I used the –blow away-maneuver- and in no time we were in the middle of the bay. So this evening it should be windy and rainy and later on it should die down considerably. Maybe we will have a nice last day in the Canadian Inside Passage.


  1. Just wanted to leave my comments today in case I don’t see your last post tomorrow…

    Thank you very much for all of the wonderful information and photos of your voyages thus far. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned (my husband and son can because they hear it from me from time to time!:)) and all the new ideas for travel I’ve generated largely due to your descriptions and stories.

    I hope you enjoy your vacation and get to relax with your family and just have some fun!

    I too will be starting vacations for this summer: 1st up- Bermuda w/Explorer of the Seas (hubby and I will celebrate our 36yr anniversay) and in August – Turks and Cacos w/Carnival. (girls only cruise…with the exception of Turks, I’ll probably sleep thru the rest!) I’m soooo looking forward to some time off, fun and some good sleep!)

    I look forward to your continuing blog when you return in the fall. I wish you and your crew much success with the Corinto school upgrades and I hope the kids will benefit greatly from all the generous gifts from your bloggers.

    Until then, happy summer holiday and God Bless.



  2. Have a good holiday. We’ll miss you and look forward to seeing you in a few months.

  3. I shall miss your daily posts

  4. Ditto to the above posts – thank you so much, you have been my bedtime reading and I shall miss your daily reports! Hope your weather improves, down here in Vancouver we’re getting lots of rain so you will likely get the same on your way through the Inside Passage.

    Have a great vacation!!

  5. Claude Gareau

    June 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Good morning, Captain
    Have a good vacation; well deserved.
    Have you got any hint as to which ship you’ll be assigned next ?
    Are you on a ” 3-3-3-3” rotation or a ”4-2-2-4 ” ?
    Enjoy your time ”on land”.
    Thank you very much for allowing us to ” sail from the bridge” so to speak…through your good blog.

  6. Dear Captain Schoonderbeek,

    Many, many thanks for al the detailed information during your period on board MV Statendam. It was and is highly appreciated. If you cross the Northsea to The Netherlands -> well, a warm welcome.
    Enjoy your vacation.

    Respectful and with regards.

  7. Yikes! It is that time already?! Thank you for your blog posts. They have been quite fun to read, and it is nice to know that Alaska is still the same (even if maybe some of the glaciers are not).

  8. Carolyn Parsons

    June 18, 2012 at 2:32 am

    Good Evening Captain:

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs. My husband & I were on this cruise May 20 – 27 & went to Denali afterwards. On the day that we went on the Tundra Wilderness Tour, we had wall to wall sunshine & saw Mt. McKinley, grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, eagles, a grey wolf & magnificent scenery. We had a amazing time.

    I visited the Netherlands in 1972 & stayed with friends in Amstelveen. They drove us around Europe for 2 weeks & showed us some interesting & scenic places. I hope to return someday.

    Carolyn from Canada

    Carolyn from Canada

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