Well, my worst fears came true. During the night it blew up to 50 knots in North Humberland strait. That is the stretch of water between Prince Edward Island and the north side of Nova Scotia. Although less so in the morning, it was still very windy and choppy when we arrived at the pilot station of Sydney at 6 am.
However as the pilot had observed only six knots of wind in the port when he came out, I had not much choice other than to sail in and have a look for myself. Luckily at the end of the fjord that leads to Sydney dock, there is ample room to swing around if the wind would be too much. While sailing in, the wind started to breeze up again and was blowing a good 20 knots by the time we came to the channel that leads towards the dock. This channel is the problem with the port of Sydney. It is very small and the prevailing winds are mostly on the beam.
Here the regular maneuver is to swing the ship around and back her up through this small channel towards the dock. The ships are always docking there nose out, in case of sudden winds and other natural mayhem develops suddenly. Then the ship only has to let go the lines, give full ahead and get away from the dock into the deeper and wider part of the fjord. So I swung the ship around and lined her up for the channel. Ready to go astern. At this moment the wind really picked up and although I had all the ships power in the direction against the wind, the Veendam started to drift towards the shallows. This was definitely not going to work. This was the abort point, as explained yesterday. So I gave full ahead and sailed away from danger.
By 08.00 we were outside again, where the wind had picked up to 35 knots. We disembarked the pilot and set sail for Halifax where we are tomorrow. In the course of the afternoon, when we had just passed Cape Breton, the winds picked up to 50 knots again, now full on the beam. This created quite a list and the engineers had to react quickly with transferring more ballast to the high side and so bringing the ship horizontal again. Although it is not dangerous, it can be disconcerting for the guests, so I normally make an announcement to explain what is going on. I think that this time I blasted through the movie, the explorations lecture, the friends of Bill W and trivia pursuit. The Cruise director must really love me.
As the weather here in the North East is so un-predictable, the Cruise Director has an alternative plan ready for each day, in case I have to cancel a port call. Thus when I made my official announcement at 08.25 in the morning, she was on the tannoy 5 minutes later, regaling her audience with a full day program to keep everybody occupied. Most of the guests, who saw the white caps and felt the ships movement, understood the reason for cancelling. One lady was disappointed. She had hoped to combine her cruise with visiting her fatherâ€™s grave in Sydney.
Tomorrow we are in Halifax and the weather forecast looks great.