The rising of the sun was eagerly awaited by us on the bridge so that we could see the breakwaters and how the swell was affecting them. Sunrise was at 06.50 but we do not need the sunlight to have a good look. For the sailor sunrise exists in three stages. First there is Nautical Twilight; the moment that you can still see the stars but also the horizon, so you can take star observations for your position fix. Then there is civil twilight; the moment that the stars are too vague to still use the sextant on them and that period lasts until the sun comes above the horizon. Each period lasts about 20 minutes. Thus by 06.30 when civil twilight started we could already see enough of the breakwaters to get a good estimate of how the swell was running. Was it going inside the breakwaters or staying out? To my relief it looked well. Although some heavy rollers were hitting the breakwater on the East side, it all hit on the outer side of the breakwater. The breakwater was doing its job. It was –breaking the water—. Thus we let the pilot hop on board and I proceeded cautiously towards the entrance. Carefully watching if the ship was not starting to pitch. We were going in at low tide and that meant that would have no more than 12 feet under the keel. For quiet seas not a problem but with a swell letting the ship pitch, that 12 feet could easily be reduced to 5 and that is too close for comfort. But the ship only lightly rolled and with both stabilizers out it was not very much. Although stabilizers need speed to fully function, just by having them out they do have a dampening effect and that was very handy today.
Without any issues we sailed into port and were nicely docked on arrival time. Also here we saw the change of the season coming, the wind, although not much, came from all the directions at the same time and kept doing so all morning. Only after lunch it finally got set in its normal patterns, a land wind from the North East. In the meantime our relentless preparation for Alaska goes on. One of the items that we prepare for and refresh is anti-whale-collision measures. Whales are getting more and more abundant each year in Alaska, which I think is a sign that the conservation measures are really starting to bear fruit. However it makes our lives more difficult. They tend to get in the way more and more frequently. Or I should really phrase this correctly; we are getting more and more in their way. It is their habitat that we are travelling through, it not ours to claim. So we have to ensure that we are avoiding them. As we cannot communicate with the whales, nor fully predict their behavior, we try to plan avoidance measures as best as we can. Measures based on the best scientific evidence that we have.
All watch keepers and the Quartermasters go through a training course which makes them familiar with how to recognize the sort of whale (mainly by flipper and exhaust plume) and then take into consideration in what sort of way the recognized species could behave. If we know which way the whale is travelling then the solution is simple, go the other way. When we cannot determine exactly which way a whale is travelling or if there is a large group, the solution is to stop and drift. For that the officers have to be primed as cruise ships run on time and normally we can solve a “collision issue” by changing course, or slowing down. Not drifting, until the frolicking mammal decides to move away.
We have this company developed course now for a few years and for some of us it is a refresher but for quite a few it is something completely new. Hence that I place great focus on it.
Sailing out of Puerto Chiapas was a careful affair as well as we had to make a lee for getting the pilot off. That meant slowing down and bringing the ship nearly sideways on the waves. We pitched a bit instead but by that time we were in deeper water already and there was no danger of touching ground. When the pilot was happily away with his boat, we set course for Huatulco de Santa Cruz. We are lucky again, as the Tehantepecer wind will start blowing tomorrow morning after 07.00, just after we have entered the sheltered bay of the resort.