- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

2019 March 08; At Sea.

We are now halfway and have just passed Acapulco. Then this evening we will pass Huatalco followed by the crossing of the Golfo de Tehuantepec. Then by tomorrow morning we will be in Puerto Chiapas. With a wonderful day at sea, low swell, following wind and lots of sunshine, pace on board slowed down considerably and guests were charging their batteries for the two coming ports of Puerto Chiapas in Mexico and Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. Both ports in the itinerary because of the tours to Maya Ruins, Tropical Forests and old towns.

Today was International Women’s Day and although it does not have that much focus in the on board program, HAL is quite in the fore front of it. And has been for a long time. Currently we have Two Lady Deck Officers on board, a 3rd (Canadian) and a 2nd (Belgium) officer on board and that is the case all over the whole fleet. On the Zuiderdam which I just left, there were Ladies in the Engine room and we have one who is expected to make Chief Engineer shortly. Some companies have female captains already but I have not heard about a female chief engineer on a cruise ship so we might be the first one. With Lady Captain’s we have been unlucky; we were grooming a staff captain for promotion and then she opted to become a pilot in England and so now we are starting all over again.

Our first female cadet officer: Esse Rieke Agter, together with the Master of the ss Atlantic Crown, Capt. R. ten Kate. She did not stay that long as she got married to an engineer and I think they both went shore side.

Our history with female officers goes quite far back. While the rest of the industry was still mentally preparing for the “invasion” as one captain called it, Holland America engaged the first Lady Cadet in 1971, and placed her on the Atlantic Crown which was one of the company’s container ships, that sailed in the Atlantic Container Line combine. And we have never looked back since.  Where they discriminated? Certainly not on the wages as the Dutch sailors’ pay rules did not differentiate between male and female. Signed on as an officer, you got paid as an officer.  I joined in 1981 and I sometimes felt that the discrimination was the other way. The Lady Officers got the nice jobs and the boys had to do the dirty work. This was mainly caused by the Captain and the Staff Captain who treated them more as daughters than as regular officers and were very concerned about their fingernails.  Those days are luckily gone and we are now really in the situation of “an officer = is a officer and will perform as an officer and is then respected as a officer”.

The ss Atlantic Crown. A Ro-Ro container ship. Cars, trucks (and even elephants) came on board via the big ramp in the stern. She was a steamship in order to maintain a high service speed and she averaged around 25 knots. So in a watch she covered over a 100 sea miles. Those were the days when fuel oil went for less then 10 cents the gallon.

From those years none of the Ladies stayed at sea. It took the next wave from the 1990’s to see the real career woman arising for whom babies where not the focal point but sailing was. And hence we now have female captains out there. In 2010 or 2011 Royal Caribbean had a cruise ship in Alaska, (Brilliance of the Seas) that had a complete female deck dept. on board. Whether that was by coincidence or design I do not know. But it was interesting to listen to all the VHF conversations when watch after watch, hour after hour, only produced a female voice in the air. I am all for it as a good mix of Ladies and Gents and different nationalities can really improve the standards on board; provided they all have a similar school background.  I think at the moment we have two ladies in the fleet who might stay until command but I will be retired before that will happen. Still I will raise my glass of beer on them if and when it happens.

Golfo de Tehuantepec with the Isthmus in the Sierra Madre.

Tonight we will be sailing through the Golfo de Tehuantepec which can be a very windy area. Weather fronts in the South West Gulf of Mexico can push wind ashore which is then funneled through a narrow gap in the Sierra Madre and then comes out in the Pacific. This gives a very strong wind of up to 50 or 55 knots and that is not nice for a cruise ship as it will be pushed over. You can ballast against it by pumping water over but for that you have to be prepared. So the funny thing is here: for predicting the local Pacific weather you have to look at the local Gulf of Mexico weather.  The Gulf of Mexico is quiet at the moment and so will the Golfo de Tehuantepeccer be.

Weather for Puerto Chiapas tomorrow: Very warm and sunny. 93 oF / 34 oC, no wind, and a “minus 10%” chance of rain. There was no wind at sea for the last 24 hrs. and thus Chiapas will be blistering.  I won’t be going ashore anyway as I am going to cause mayhem again with one of my fire drill specials.


  1. Robina Herrington

    March 10, 2019 at 4:27 am

    Very interesting to hear about the Ladies on board now! Well done those girls Who want to do it, also in my opinions can’t have every thing in life so
    women must rule out a family ( in my opinion) it is a huge responsibility being in charge of a Ship, I just cannot imagine it and take off my hat to them, ( and to you Gentlemen)
    Best wishes as always Robina

  2. I am of a different opinion on this matter of gender. My thoughts are, whomever the most qualified is gets the job!!! If that is a woman then so be it. Having babies should not be a hindrance in anyone’s career, after all, men have children all the time, and that doesn’t seem to stop them from their careers!!! Once again, the most qualified person should be the one to get the job, or the promotion!!!

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