- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

20 January 2010, Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Puerto Limon is not that far away from Isla de Providencia so with a decent speed of 17 knots we sailed in that direction on a South Westerly course. During the night we met the Carnival Miracle and the Zuiderdam. The latter makes a sort of Circumnavigation of the Caribbean Sea. Starting from Fort Lauderdale going east to Half Moon Cay and then hopping through the Carib with Puerto Limon as the last port of call before it returns to Ft. Lauderdale. By 06.30 I was laying nearly stopped at the pilot station as the pilot boat wanted a boarding speed of 2 knots otherwise the old contraption could not get alongside. With the pilot onboard and sipping tea on the bridge wing, we sailed into the port and were docked 30 minutes later. Puerto Limon is notorious for the large swells running into the port, swells that can make the gangway move considerably due to the swaying ship but today it was very quiet and the ship only very gently moved along the dock. At 08.30 we were joined by the Carnival Freedom who put out two double gangways and then approx. 3000 eager shoppers pored out and stated to invade the town. The great thing about Costa Rica is that most of the ports were developed in the past with a lot of German input and as a result things are fairly well organized. Except our agent who managed to load all our Panama Canal brochures onto the Zuiderdam. So instead of delivering them tonight we have to do it tomorrow morning at 05.00 when the Panama agent brings new ones onboard.

It turned out to be a warm day, a very warm day. We measured 80of on the shady side of the bridge wing and 102oF on the sunny side, so very little chance of the sea freezing over. My morning was filled with some more unusual scores. First there was the unloading of two containers with furniture for the new cabins. We loaded that pallet by pallet by crane on deck next to the dining room from where it was walked directly into the new cabins. I played signal man for the crane, as I wanted to ensure that there would be no damage to the pallets and neither to the ship. Longshoremen do not tend to care very much in general, about bumps and scrapes but I do. I had not played signalman since I was a cadet on a containership in 1979 but I had not forgotten the sign language yet. Next thing was to decide where the art was going in the new relaxation room in the Ocean Spa. Again not really the captains job but these sort of things tend to result in long arguments by all who think they are involved, so it is much easier that the captain makes some “democratic decision” all by himself and gets it done in 5 minutes.

We sailed at 16.00 hrs. after the last tour had made it back to the ship and we had loaded some more stores and provisions. The pilot asked if he could be excused as he was busy so we left by ourselves and he missed his chance of another cup of tea. Tomorrow we will be at the Cristobal Breakwater at 0500 hrs. and then we will see what the Canal has arranged for us for transits and sailing schedules.

Once in awhile I use my blog to answer questions and queries if a few have accumulated over the past period, so here we go:

Clark Basin; (see blog of 18 January)

A regular reader of the blog was so kind to Google some more about the Clark Basin and forwarded this URL: www.sepm.org/sedrecord/SocRec/2001.pdf
for further interest. Ruud thank you very much. You learn something new everyday, if you are a politician or a war hero they name a street after you, if you are a famous scientist specializing in Paleozoic and Mesozoic statigraphy and Paleontology, you get a piece of the sea bottom named after you.

Drills onboard and record keeping and tracking. Mr. Copper you are correct. We have onboard a system called AMOS-W = Automatic Maintenance Operating System – Windows. Here we record all the ships maintenance and it gives prompts when a certain job is due for follow up. It also has a section where we record the drills that have been done. Each drill is entered with a little narration about what we exactly did during the drill and what aspects of training were emphasized during the exercise. Also here the system warns automatically when a drill is due. If we cannot do a drill, either due to inclement weather, sailing area or some sort of emergency (NLV is a good one) then a description is entered about why the captain cancelled a drill and what the plan is to remedy it. Crew is accounted for by means of attendance sheets, but as no excuses are allowed, everybody is always in compliance. These records are scrutinized on a regular basis by Lloyds, by the Port State in various countries and by our Head office during the yearly HESS inspections. (For explanation about Hess please look in the archives of early September 2010)

Lastly the query of Mr. Elbert J. 14 January about Azipods. These pods are a natural development from similar systems used in the tugboat industry. Here they were the first to do away with the rudder/propeller combination and created a fully rotating propeller but with the motor still inside the hull of the ship. As it made a vessel much more maneuverable and resulted in less maintenance and an easier construction (the rudders and stern thrusters could now be omitted) it was picked up very quickly by the cruise industry. Hence all the new cruise ships now have these pod propulsions. There are not really any power limitations either, if you take into account that the Oasis of the Seas has 80.000 HP on the Pods and 30.000 horse power on the bow thrusters. During the development it was found out that it worked a lot better to have the propellers on the front of the pod and thus when going forward the screws are pulling the ship forward instead of the pushing as done by regular propellers. When the maneuvering starts or the slowing down, the pods can be turned side ways or around and the propeller thrust is applied to what ever direction the ship has to go.


  1. Thanks Captain!

  2. Dear Captain Albert,
    Thanks for the very interesting.story about the development of azipods. In the mean time I am still wondering why the azipod-propellers are turning in; while on ordinary double-screw vessels they are turning out when on ahead (like on the ss ‘Rotterdam’). Can Azipodpropellers be reversed, or do you have to turn around the whole Azipod when going astern?
    Sorry Captain that I am keeping you busy with my questions, but as a retired Rotterdam-pilot they keep popping-up in my mind.

    • Good morning,

      just a quick answer. the whole pod, body and prop is turned around. Basically it works as an outboard engine that can turn 360o. So instead of having maybe 3000 hp available on the stern thruster you can now put nearly the full power of the main propulsion to use for a side ways motion. Same for going astern, you have similar power available for going ahead as for going stern while in the manoeuvring mode, while with conventional ships the astern power is always less, than the ahead power due to the construction of the aft of the ship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.