- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 November 2010; North Atlantic Ocean.

At 7 am. I switched on my computer and all was revealed. In the late afternoon of the day before two bad weather systems, both generated near Cape Hatteras, had merged and its combined force was sustaining the swell running South East over the North Atlantic and in our direction. One system had been moving North West in the direction of the Hudson Bay; it had stalled and the next one travelling east caught up with it and they merged. As a result we travelled for a while through a much stronger and higher wave field than was indicated in the weather forecast. However during the night the ship settled into a more steady movement, a bit wobbly but very good for a North Atlantic crossing especially in November. Now I have to keep a close eye on the next “Cape Hatteras development” and to see if that will affect us as we sail further west. Most depressions generated there go straight across to Europe but the wave fields tend to spread out and also come south. If the storm is strong enough it might reach us and that will cause inconvenience and also affect the ships speed. At the moment the movement is such that I am nicely on schedule but the light pitching does take some of the speed away. That is the amount of speed that normally gives me some “plus” for the case of. I am now waiting for the Azores current to come through as that should give me .5 knots extra. Then later the ship should hopefully pick up the north boundary of the North Equatorial current that eventually becomes the Gulf Stream.

Bridge life on a crossing is one of settled routine. Apart from keeping a good look out all times, sailing on a straight line does not require that much effort. That gives the chance to have the juniors run some day watches while the senior officers are on the bridge, and while catching up with administration, they keep a close eye on them. With the Prinsendam running such port intensive cruises, time for catching up with the paper work is always a great challenge. Thus a 6 day crossing is a great time to sort that out. The amount of drills that can be done are limited due to the fact that we are sailing (it is hard to lower a lifeboat at full speed) and we try to minimize the impact of the safety activities on the guest experience as well.

Regular maintenance and safety checks continue of course and for that sea days are great. Work started is not interfered with by port drills or arrivals and departures. There are no inspections from the shore side or visits by service technicians and other people who need to be supported so they can do their work. Now we are a little self contained world that is not disturbed by the outside world at all. Except by the weather and by email of course…….

I have two things on my mind at the moment, the next cruise and the coming call at Fort Lauderdale. The next cruise is a standard one that we do each year, going up the Amazon and therefore we call pull up the scenario, e.g. a past cruise schedule, from the computer. Still it all has to be checked in the light of new regulations and requirements that might have been issued since last time. That is a real headache as everything keeps changing and various countries issue regulations independent of each other and they are not always in synch with each other. Especially health and environmental regulations can vary enormously from country to country.

Apart from that, there is the captains and officers involvement with the guests and last night we had the black and white officer’s ball, which is always a highlight of the cruise. I always enjoy it the best when I see that the ladies (having past experience with the balls) start chasing the junior officers who often try to hide near the Bar area. Even better is it when gentlemen muscle their way in and get the shop and spa ladies to dance. The whole happening started just after formal dinner at 22.15 and ended just before midnight with the show lounge packed to capacity.

Tomorrow should be another nice day with a moderate swell, just enough to remind us that we are sailing on the North Atlantic.


  1. Capt. Albert

    Having just done the cruise from Civitavechia to Ft Lauderdale on the Westerdam finishing Nov 12, It is fascinating to read a captain’s perspective on the ports and route that we did so recently. Will you be writing in your blog about the Sargasso Sea?
    We were also fortunate enough to see the “green flash” at sunset on the second day after Funchal. The crossing is a most relaxing experience.

  2. Long sea passages are what we used to look forward to back in the day. Twenty-eight days from Vung Tau to Balboa, often under gray skies, gave one the chance to forget what the land looked like. All that green grass and green trees in Panama always came as somewhat of a shock.

    If you had a chance to visit that South East Asia garden spot, that no longer exists under the name it did then, you may like to look at:


    Unofficial Web Site Of The 71st Transportation Battalion In Vietnam

    These are the US Army kids that used to unload then transport the goods we hauled to ‘Nam. They ran Newport and other ‘Nam ports and as such there are a LOT of ship pictures. I even found a picture of a ship I was on in Newport.

    There also are some more modern day pictures that returning Vets took. Newport is now New Port according to the picture of the sign at the port vehicle entry.

    One thing we did not see much of over there around the ports back in the day were trees, but now they abound all over the place, often nearly obscuring what is behind. Much of the infrastructure built by the US is still there and in use. New Port is now a container port.

    Greg Hayden

  3. Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve always been curious about something I see on a front window on the bridge. If you have a moment, (that is, if Thom Faulkner is not taking up all your spare time with dances and history lectures 😉 ), would you mind answering this question? What is that round ‘doughnut-like’ device that is on the front window? What is it for?
    I usually forget to ask during the Mariner champange party, or lose courage to ask.
    I hope you’ll have a chance to do the history lecture during this crossing 🙂

    • It is a rotating window. It is really a left over from the old days, when the bridge windows were small and window wipers not yet heard off. This window consist out of two parts. A inner fixed part where you stand behind and an outer, rotating, part. Based on a centrifugal effect the rotating screen catches the rain and/or sea water thrown against it and at once throws it off the screen due to this effect. It gives a clear screen at all times, from where the navigator can keep his safe look out without getting wet, or having to dive when water comes over. Nowadays, with the strong window wipers it is not a necissity anymore, but in some country’s it is still compulsory to have them. The Prinsendam still has two from the RVS days but we never use them.

      Capt. Albert

  4. Thank you!

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