- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

25 May 2008, Sitka.

After a quiet night we approached Sitka in the early morning. It was still a bit hazy but we could see it directly; this is going to be a fabulous day. Mount Edgecumbe was visible from bottom to top and that almost by itself guarantees great weather. By the time we had dropped the hook, the sun was out and the scenery was breath taking.

We were in today with the Celebrity Infinity and as they came in later, but wanted to go to the inner anchorage, I had to keep the stern thruster going so that the ship could pass by our bow to the anchorage. When you are on the 7 fathom bank and the tide goes out the ship ends up blocking the complete approach to Sitka and no large ship can get by anymore. So we thrustered the ship away from the approach path of the Infinity until she was past and then let the ship settle on wind (hardly) and tide (a lot)

Our tenders went to the same dock as last week. This time the shopkeepers lost out from the local Salmon Derby that was going on. Crescent harbor was packed with all sorts of fishing craft and was full of eager people trying to compete for the top prize. Luckily most of them did not leave the harbor until we well at truly at anchor as it is always disconcerting to sail into port. You never know what they will do when they see a big ship and sometimes we think that most of them do not even know what they should do.

It was an un-eventful day but in the course of the afternoon we saw low white clouds gathering around the base of Mount Edgecumbe and that normally spells the arrival of this white stuff called Reduced Visibility. It is the captain bane in Alaska. You want sunshine for the guests but you know you have to pay for it with long hours during the night. Normally only wind can prevent the fog from forming but there was not much wind predicted in the weather forecast.

We sailed on time and when we made the turn into Sitka sound there was indeed a high white wall on the horizon near Cape Edgecumbe. However when we were barely 10 miles out of the port, it started to blow and the Veendam started to move on the swell that was rolling in. Not forecasted, not expected, but there it was. Later on in the evening I could reconstruct from the updated weather forecasts that a low pressure system in the North Pacific had intensified and moved closer too the shore than expected. By the time we had rounded Cape Edgecumbe we were rocking against waves of 10 to 12 feet and facing wind of up to 40 knots on occasion. Amazing; going from wind still weather to 40 knots in under an hour. It was not a great storm but still a good gale and the quick build up of the swell made it look quite bad.

In the course of the evening I slowed the ship down a bit and that helped the ships movement. By 11 pm. we were back inside at Cape Spencer which gave the guests a quiet night and the ship could make good speed again for a timely arrival in Skagway. I am slowly starting to get fed up with these un-expected weather changes. You can not pre announce it to the guests, as you do not know it is coming and it can really spoil the evening for a lot of people.

Tomorrow should make up for it though. It promises to be a sunny day with no wind in the morning but a strong breeze in the afternoon. Temperatures in the sun of up to 70oF.

1 Comment

  1. Capt. Schoonderbeek; when in Alaska at this time of year and going into a bay like the one at Hubbard Glacier, how do you know if the ice flow isn’t too thick to allow access to Veendam? Experience? Do you rely on the Park Rangers for that? Ed and Ted? 😉
    Ever thought of writing a book of your 29 years at sea a la your colleague Hans Mateboer?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *