- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

20 Nov. 2015, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

With more wind than expected the ms Westerdam dropped the hook at HMC. There was up to 25 knots of wind blowing from the South East. Not the best angle for a safe anchorage or a nice tender operation. But because the Westerdam has Azipods and thus can put a lot of power to push the ship against the wind, a good lee-side could be made on the portside and a safe shuttle service could be operated. It must have been a bit of a surprise for some of the guests, while happily sitting on a rock steady shore tender and then suddenly to be rolling considerably. That happened the moment the shore tender cleared the lee of the ship on the way to shore and it got caught in the waves rolling in from the South. Luckily the Tender skippers always make a careful announcement about everybody remaining seated while the tender is moving. If somebody was caught by surprise then it was not a surprise as a safety announcement was made.  The weather was nice and sunny and a good time could be had by all.

I was to continue my narration about safety in the kitchen.

Part II, if the fire is too big to handle by the crewmember / cook on location. If the crewmember comes to that conclusion then we go to containment and wait until the Fire Fighting Teams arrive to take over. This does not mean that a crewmember cannot do something. We have gadgets to protect the area and to extinguish a fire remotely.

As cooks never work alone, they can do several things at the same time. One can call the bridge and report. Another one can evacuate everybody to a safe distance and a 3rd one can activate the fixed fire fighting equipment. All three things are trained, even the telephone call to the bridge. There is a protocol for calling as the bridge will ask questions. The better the crewmember is prepared, the quicker the call goes and the faster the bridge can respond. Thus when a crewmember calls, he/she has to give Name, Function, Location, Sort of emergency & what is happening and what Action has already been taken. This all together gives the officer on the bridge the time to form a mental picture about the situation which he/she can use to provide the proper information to the Emergency Response Teams that are being activated.

Activation buttons next to the emergency escape door.

Activation buttons next to the emergency escape door. A push button for stopping all the equipment and a break glass button for ventilation stop.

Removing everybody to a safe area means that there is at least one Fire Screen Door between the area of the emergency/ fire and everybody without protective equipment. Guests and Crew alike. Preferably two Fire screen doors if we can manage it. As all our cooking areas are surrounded by steel bulkheads, the only week spot are open doors and serving hatches.  Closing the hatches and closing the access doors (Which are Fire Screen Doors) will ensure that the area affected will be completely surrounded by a wall of steel that will contain the fire for at least 60 minutes. Long enough for a Response Team to reach the area and do their job. It is a company requirement for a Response Team to be on location and ready to deploy into the affected area in 8 minutes from the moment the alarm sounded.

Then the cook in the area can activate the fixed fire fighting equipment. Cooking area’s on ships are so constructed that the activating equipment is located close to the Emergency Exit door which will be used when evacuating the area. So when everybody runs out, the only thing the last person out has to do is hit the buttons and then close the door.

Not a very exciting photo except for the mariner. High pressure water mist nozzles. this extinguishes every fire.

Not a very exciting photo except for a mariner. High pressure water mist nozzles in the ceiling. This extinguishes every fire.

The buttons that are being pushed are: The emergency stop of all power supplies. The activation button of the HI-Fog. (This is a very fine water mist system which is sprayed under high pressure into the area and is very effective in extinguishing fires. Even big engine room fires.)  The shutdown of all ventilation. Then we have CO2 available in case there is a fire in an extraction hood above the cooking areas.  By the time the Firefighting teams arrive, most likely they do not have to do much anymore except checking if the fire is really out and ensuring there is no Reflash and then make the area safe for entry again.

This was the last port call of our cruise and nearly all guests are going home. As the Westerdam does the same cruise every week, we have very few back to back cruisers because there is nothing new to see.  The coming cruise is the Thanks Giving Cruise which is a real family cruise. We are getting extra Club HAL staff on board to look after the large number of children for the coming week.  I will have my own “children” to look after as my school class will be boarding tomorrow.

We will arrive early in Port everglades and as it is a normal call the whole circus of change over day will start at 07.00 hrs. in the morning. Weather forecast for tomorrow: Partly Cloudy skies 84oF / 29oC and a gentle breeze.

For those going home, it is going to be busy at the airport as apart from ourselves, we have the Oasis of the Seas in, the Seabourn Odyssey, The Independence of the Seas and also the Emerald Princess;  which together will be landing approx. 16,500 guests if they all sailed full.



  1. Thank you so much for the Fire Fighting information. It is a good thing for passengers to understand all of the plans and preparations that go into taking care of all the people aboard.
    Hopefully none of the systems and plans will never have to be used – but – it is good to know they are there. And, of course we know these type of plans have had to be used at times.
    Best wishes to your “Newbies.”
    Susan & Bennett Gottlieb

  2. Just discovered your blog. Loving the details you are providing. I appreciate the time that you take to inform us of the details that your job entails. Ship fanatic since sailing the SS Norway in the early 90’s. Can’t wait for our cruise on the Westerdam in a few weeks on December 12th.

  3. My family and I were on this cruise. I had no idea you were onboard with us. I met you in 2008 on a November cruise aboard the Veendam. I believe during that cruise you received an award from the governor in Costa Maya, though I don’t recall what the award was for.

    I do have to comment on the tenders to HMC. I definitely noticed the rolling you mentioned once we cleared the lee of the ship. The tender skippers never warned us to remain seated. I am in a wheelchair and was assisted to the lower level of the tender. I was told to park anywhere I want. Having been to HMC before, I knew the tender could be rocky, so I positioned myself appropriately in the area designated for wheelchairs. Had this been my first time, I can see where this could have been a potential problem. I’m not complaining here, just pointing out that no warning was ever given.

    • Thank you for letting my know, as this should not happen.

      I made two trips on the tenders during the call and I was happy to see & hear that the local skippers took safety very serious.
      We are there again tomorrow and I will let the island manager know.

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      Capt. Albert

      ps. The award at Costa Maya was for coming back after they repaired the resort after the hurricane.

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