- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 March 2012; Puerto Quetzal; Guatemala.

It was an early morning and it looked like it that we were the only ones awake in the port. As a matter of fact we probably were, as we could not get any answer out of Port Control. So we called, yelled and screamed for over an hour on the various VHF channels but deadly silence remained. The only thing that really helps then is to park the ship squarely in front of the entrance so that nobody can get in or out. That always makes a lot of people nervous and nine out of ten times it results in very quick action from the other side. And so it was this time; with the Statendams well lit “bulk of superstructure” suddenly looming over the breakwater, the VHF spluttered into life and port control had an AHA Erlebnis as the Germans say. A lot of incomprehensible Spanish spouted forth and the pilot boat came racing out of the port. By the time a highly flustered pilot had made it to the bridge, I was already on the way in. Still the whole affair cost me half an hour, so I was very happy with myself that I had set the arrival time a bit on the early side. We have to be docked in Puerto Quetzal by 05.50 to get the flight tours off at 06.00 hrs. We just managed that. The gangway was pushed ashore by 05.51 and at 0600 the tours were streaming off the ship. I was not a happy camper of course with this delay and let the whole wide world know about it. But Puerto Quetzal is a cargo port and they have a hard time understanding the clockwork operation of a cruise ship. And what Port Control does during the night is everybody’s guess. 

Still there are always positive things to enjoy and that was the end report of our ISM auditor. He left the ship today and was in a hurry to get home as for some reason he could not download his email on board and that meant that his world was slowly coming to a grinding halt. I was very pleased to see that his report reflected the hard work that my crew has put in to get the best result possible and also that it reflected the standard of operation we were having during the year. When an audit report is compiled, the auditor will write down his results. They come in two forms: Non Conformities (NC,s) when the ship does something wrong (e.g. not conforming to the rules) and as Observations (Obs) when the ship could improve on their procedures. NC’s you want to avoid at all times as they mean you are not doing your job as you should. Observations mean that there is either room for improvement or that the auditor advises that it would be better to adjust the way you are doing something. Our written procedures might say one thing, or not say anything at all and the auditor thinks that that should be different. An auditor always finds something, He HAS to find something otherwise he would be out of a job. Also with our procedures running into several thousands of pages there is always something to remark about. So I was delighted that he came up with only two very minor things. That is a very good result at anytime and I was very pleased with it. So was the auditor. I always tell my crew that they sail on the best ship in the fleet (no doubt the other captains do the same) but now the auditor said he was starting to believe that. Happy day for the Statendam.

On departure, I was not so happy, as Port Control had decided to move a ship in the harbor just when we were preparing to sail. As usual it took longer than they had planned for and thus I had to wait 25 minutes before we could pull out, but by 1600 hrs. we were outside and on the way to Panama. We will spend nearly two days at sea and then have an evening call at Fuerte Amador on the South East side of the Canal in front of Panama City. Tomorrow we will be passing the whole string of countries that make up Middle America. Then by tomorrow evening we will sail along the Costa Rican coast before we reach Panama. The weather should be good and with the changing wind we should start to see birds around the ship again.


  1. Dear Captain,
    I hope that by now you are back in your ” Happy Camper” mode, because we know that your ” NOT a Happy Camper mood” is misery all around . Wishing you a great Canal crossing. You might tell the folks who follow your blog that Panama Canal has great web cams, live at Miraflores and Gatun Locks. By the way: do the folks still come to wave when Prinsendam comes thru Kieler Kanal? Or did they do that just for you ? Did they ever identify themselves to your e-mail-address-on-the-bedsheet-flag?

  2. Congratulations Captain. I wouldn’t expect anything else from the auditors. Holland America runs excellent ships and you, in particular. seem to run a very tight ship.

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