- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

25 November 2011; San Diego, California.

Nicely on schedule we were heading for the pilot station for 0500, only to come across a very eager pilot and thus we had the pilot on board at 04.50   Not something I will complain about, it all helps with docking on time. I could understand why the pilot was early; it was just a magical morning for being in the bay. A bit on the crispy side, but wind still, cloudless, and the San Diego sky line as clearly defined as a high resolution post card. Just magnificent. There were two aircraft carriers in port, the 76 and the 70, which I think are the Nimitz and the Kennedy and as they looked completely stripped, not only of aircraft, they must be in the overhaul cycle. In contrast the museum aircraft carrier USS Midway CV 41 was lit up as a Christmas tree with every bell and whistle you can think of being on display.  I am always amazed that a city, county or region is able to maintain such an expensive exhibit, even if draws large crowds, I doubt if it can finance itself. So there must be a great supporting group out there, looking after the old lady.

At 05.55 we had the gangway out and the Custom and Border Protection Officers came on board to start the clearance and more importantly process all 587 crew on board for the 90 day cycle. That is from all sides a highly organized event, with 5 officers sitting at separate tables and the staff of the Purser ensuring that each officer has a steady line of crew in front so he/she does not have to wait. Part of the procedure is to ask a few random questions as via the Border Protection angle to the job. Today we had several officers who spoke, Spanish, tagalong (philipino) and Bahasa and that made our task and theirs even easier.  Question one is always:  What do you do on the ship? All the crew around is always taking a deep breath when I approach the table and that question comes. The CBP officer is normally not aware as I just come through the line with the rest of the crew.  This time my answer to his first question: “I am the captain” resulted in his response: “So then you must be quite important”…. My answer back: “depends where I am”……… That gave way to a friendly banter during which we came to the conclusion that we were both very important…until we came home……. In mean time, passport, visa and entry stamp are checked and the I 95 shore pass revalidated.

With good organization we managed to get all crew done in just over an hour, so by 0700 the crew could start their regular turn over day as they do every home port. That was an extra challenge today as we had a crew change of over 15%. Which means the 50+ crew leaving are not doing work anymore and the new crew joining, cannot work as they first have to go through safety training. That means that the work that is normally done by those crewmembers has to be taken up as an extra burden by those staying on. That makes a turnover day always very hectic and stressful. As explained in one of my previous blogs, this is a good reason for me to stay away from anything and everybody. My presence would only cause things to slow down and we want to sail on time as well.

That we managed. The last guests came on board by 16.25 and after the Boat drill we started up the engines and pulled away from the dock.  San Diego has one of the simplest docks to depart from or arrive at, it is straight in and straight out. The only thing to watch out for is the current which can set you towards or away from the dock. Today we had the flood going, so the chief officer whose turn it was to play with the ship, brought the ship a bit further away from the dock side, so that when we were going astern, we could drift but still clear the knuckle at the end of the dock.

By 6 pm. We were outside and on our way to Puerto Vallarta. The swell from last night was still there but now it was a following swell and so no pitching. Still the ship moved occasionally when this swell caught the ship under the square stern and it caused a corkscrew motion to occur. Keeping the speed up, e.g. surfing away from it, will keep the inconvenience to a minimum but there might have been a few guests who decided to go to bed early.  It is an hour forward as well, so after a hectic day of travelling it might not be such a bad idea anyway.


  1. Good day, Captain

    I just started reading this blog, and you have given me quite a bit of usefull insight into the life of an officer on board a cruise ship. I have a question for you about turn over day? I know that the hotel staff is busy cleaning and making up all the rooms and public areas, but what do the navigational officers normally do on these days between arrival and departure?

    Deck Cadet 3/c, New York Maritime College

    • Good morning,

      the deck officers are mostly busy with looking after repairmen and lloyds inspections while in the turn over port. This time we had the yearly inspection of our black box, GMDSS station and a service engineer for the smoke detectors arrived. That means that 3 officers are already busy with that. Two officers went home on vacation and 1 experienced officer came back with two new 4th. officers. As they have to go through the handover process and the safety indoctrination they will not be able to work until about 3 pm. One officer missed his flight (cancelled) and will now join at the next port. So other officers have to fill the gap. For the rest the harbour watches continue as normal, and “as the bridge knows everything” the telephone never stops ringing. We are always glad when turn over port is behind us again.

      thank you for reading my blog.

      Capt. Albert

  2. Dear Captain Albert…..

    Yes, the decks were empty. The Carl Vinson, 70, had her decks cleared for a historic basketball game on the 10th. Even the President of the US showed up for that. On November 30th, she headed out on a scheduled WESTPAC.

    The Midway is one of our pride and joys. She run privately, and a great number of former crew now work as docents.

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