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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

17 Feb. 2020; Sailing around Cuba.

When going from Grand Cayman to the Bahamas, Cuba is always in the way. And every time I wonder, if there would be a canal that would cut straight through the center of Cuba, North/South, how many ships would use it?  Looking at the traffic at Cabo Maisi, there is a lot of potential but it would come at a cost and then sailing around Cuba would most likely be cheaper. But there is no canal, so we sail around, and this morning around seven we came out of the Caribbean by sailing through the Wind Ward Passage. This is with Cuba (Cabo Maisi) to our portside and the west point of Haiti to our Starboard. Haiti does not really have a “most eastern point) that really sticks out. Its coast is more ragged and has multiple bumps which protrude into the ocean. So regardless of whether we are on the Cuban side or the Haiti side, the sailors speak about rounding Cabo Maisi.

I fished this picture off the internet from an unknown source. And I think is was taken with a Tele Lens because we can see this from the ship when we sail southbound and are very close (approx. 4 -5 miles) from Cabo  Maisi.

If you are a little bit an experienced sailor you notice it at once when you are coming out of the Windward Passage. The ships starts to move. Not much, but there is a movement. This has to do with the fact that under normal, nice weather, there is no rolling swell in the Caribbean Sea. Only waves whipped up by the Trade winds which then often lessen during the night. But once clear of the lee provided by Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, the ocean swell comes rolling in, a swell that is always there. Even when it is wind still in the area, it still comes rolling in from far away. And so it was this morning, a small change in the rhythm of the ships movement, telling us we were back in a larger basin. The islands of Great Inagua and the Turks and Caicos block a lot of swell when you sail north of Cuba and Hispaniola but there are some many gaps or passage ways between the islands that you will always catch something. We will keep that occasional swell until tonight when we enter Crooked Passage, which derived its name from the fact that it is crooked because the shape of the surrounding islands creates a curved fairway. But then we are back in the shelter again with sailing past an occasional gap between those islands.

Our route to Half Moon Cay.

We will approach Half Moon Cay from the South and expect to be at the anchorage, around 07.00 hrs. Half Moon Cay is part of Little Salvador Island of which Holland America has leased 13000 acres of land. In agreement with the Bahamian Government about 7000 of those acres are left alone as a Nature Reserve. Guests can go there but only for walking around. 6000 acres can be used and Holland America is slowly developing more and more of this area, by adding more and more facilities for the guests to enjoy. The company does this step by step in a careful way so there is at all times a balance between the expansion wanted and what the area can handle. Therefore Half Moon Cay is much less built up than some of the islands of our competitors. Putting up a whole fancy village is not difficult but if you want to provide an unspoiled beach experience then you have to thread carefully. And it seems that we are doing that very well. Every Year, since 10 years and more, we have been voted Best Island by Conde Naste Travel. And as we all know, keeping the vote is a lot harder than getting the vote.

We only use the area around the Crescent Bay. The East side (left of the photo) is too rough for tender purposes and the whole area around the lake has been designated a Nature Reserve.

I had promised a few photos from our Mass Casualty Drill of yesterday. The whole objective here is to create a condition where Medical can do more, save more lives, than they are technically capable of. For that I ask for volunteers, who get a sign with their specific “problem” and they are then asked to act accordingly when the medical triage officer appears. Sometimes we have real Drama Queens who really enjoy themselves, even if the Doctor does not appreciate the “continuous” effort. Yesterday I had 26 volunteers so Medical and the 6 stretchers teams really had their work cut out. But with a lot of planning, it went very well, and all involved gained a bit more experience in an evolution we hopefully never have to imitate.

Thus tomorrow we are in Half Moon Cay. Weather is expected to be partly cloudy with a noon temperature of 26oC / 79oF and a moderate breeze. Luckily HMC is on the lee side of the prevailing wind and thus not really a concern for those who are longing for a beach day.

Our volunteers each with a sign depicting their problem. (All photos by our Ships Photographers)

A casualty carried away to the Emergency Hospital and Triage Zone.

A patient being prepared in the triage area for final disposition by Helicopter.

The Ships Doctor and Nurse discussing support with the Hotel Director. It is the hotel department who has to supply the support troops for this drill as the fire teams (deck and engine) will still be involved in securing the area after the initial disaster has been dealt with.

The Forward Medical Officer (FMO) with one of the stretcher teams. It is the FMO who decides who goes first out of the disaster area and to the treatment areas. This is one team, we had in total six running, with six gurney;s and casket stretchers,



  1. Roger D Tollerud

    February 18, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Captain A
    Always like reading your training stories. From my US Air Force experience training is often inconvenient but good training develops muscle memory and muscle memory is what kicks in when the world is collapsing around you–and in the case of your exercise–saves lives.
    Thanks and regards,
    Roger T

  2. How about checking into Cuba, Havana, It is a very interesting and accommodating island and the people are welcoming and very, very friendly. A few years ago it was opossible. I am discussed about the decision for HAL not to call on Cuba.

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