With a heavy heart I arrived at 04.30 at the pilot station west of the Confederation Bridge. Wind around us was gusting up to 30 knots from the WNW and things did not look good. The pilot came on board and also he admitted that it would be a very breezy day for being at anchor, especially with the current running out of the river down to the anchorage location. He commended me on cancelling the previous call (see 15 September blog) as things had indeed turned very nasty after the ship left.
So with anchoring not being an option, the question was is there a plan B. Well the dock is supposedly 5 days from completion so maybe that was an option. If a dock is five days from being ready, then, there can not be much left un-finished. The pilot confirmed that all the bollards were in place but that the dock surface was not ready yet for people to walk on. But if I could dock alongside with the ship and then run a tender service into the town, then at least it meant I would not have to cancel. So as soon as we passed the Bridge, we called the agent out of bed and put the proposal to her. Either she got me permission to dock the ship or otherwise I would cancel with the town losing a major amount of revenue. Well our agent has guts and she was not to be denied. Shelley, if you ever read this, thank you very much. She did convince the port authority and we got permission. It would however take an hour or so as now the dock needed a full security sweep and the boys had to be called out of bed first.
The pilot in the mean time took care of the linesmen, who had to come out of bed as well, to handle the ropes. But the linesmen are his daughter, his son and some other near family so that was easily arranged. (Also, the man who runs the pilot boat is family, it is his brotherâ€¦â€¦..) As it was very early Sunday morning, I assume that they were not too happy with the ideas of this Captain of the Veendam but they all showed up in time. Cruise ships are indeed a major source of income for the town and every dollar helps to get the kids through college.
After hovering for an hour near the sea buoy, we got the security clearance and sailed into the harbor. When we came closer and closer, the wind suddenly picked up to 40 knots on the beam and I thought this is not going to work; I better look for an abort point. The best abort point (= last chance to decide not to make the final maneuver) was close to the dock, so we might as well go there, swing the ship around and then review the situation. By the time I had swung the ship around there was 20 to 25 knots blowing but it was full on the bow and it did not make the ship drift. Slowly but steadily we worked the ship astern and sideways to the dock. The pilot on the phone all the time explaining to his family what the plan was, as nobody had ever thought about the combination of running a tender service and docking at the same time. We were docked with the first guests going ashore about 45 minutes late but at least we did not have to cancel. It turned out that the dock was indeed not finished yet. Bollards are in place, the concrete shell is there but it still has to be filled up and resurfaced, before people can safely walk on it.
Tendering went well and although the wind remained, the sun came out and everybody had a great day. Except one elderly lady. She broke her hip that day by tripping over her shoe laces in the cabin. She was disembarked just before departure. Thus the Veendam had the distinction of not only being the first cruise ship to dock at the new pier but also having the first medivac on the pier. Tomorrow we are in Sydney and the weather forecast calls for lots of wind during the night and morningâ€¦â€¦.Will see, what that brings.