- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

26 November 2007, At Sea.

Well our progress was not as good as I had hoped for. Although we are doing already better then last cruise, we could not get the speed up to a full output on both propellers. That meant that I would never be able to reach San Juan at a decent time. As San Juan is an evening call, the arrival time would have been so deep in the night that making the call did not make sense anymore.

Thus I had to cancel and reschedule for St Thomas. With the average speed to maintain for Charlotte Amalie I was confident that we are going to make that call on time. I made my announcement, the guests received their compensation letter from Head Office and we continued on our way. We had a lot of head wind during the day but on the aft decks it was very pleasant and most guests were out in the sun.

With the 14 day cruise, we have lot of familiar faces on board again and this cruise it seems that we are more of a floating country club that a regular cruise ship. Everybody seems to know somebody and has time to revisit old friends and that is what makes a cruise even more enjoyable. With so many “old timers” on board, cancelling a call such as San Juan does not have much impact on the cruise. I hate doing it but I do not feel so badly if I know that most guests just raise their shoulders and carry on. They have been there before, bought the T-shirt and quite a few were not even planning to go ashore at all. I can think about worse ports to cancel.

By early evening we came close to the coast of Cuba and with it into the shelter of the land, thus the wind let off a little bit. Normally we see a lot of cruise ships here but as those also leave on a Saturday or Sunday from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, they were all a day ahead of us. This evening it was particularly quiet as there was not even a cargo ship insight. Later on we came across one and that was a most bizarre occurrence. Every sailor is used to see once in a while a cargo ship floating in the ocean. That is most of the time because they are waiting for orders or waiting to enter a port without an anchorage. They put on two red lights, called the Not Under Command lights or N.U.C lights and expect all ships to stay clear of them. Using N.U.C lights for this purpose is totally against the rules. You are only allowed to use those lights if your engine does not work and you can not maneuver at all. If you are just floating, you have to keep your engine(s) ready for use at all times. But using NUC’s is so much easier as it puts the burden of avoiding a collision on the other party. So it happens a lot.

The bizarre part of this was that this ship was floating close to the Cuban Coast and in the middle of the shipping lane. In comparison; it would be about the same if you would stop your car in the middle of the road on Times Square and then proceed to change a tire. You are inviting a collision and for this ship there was also the danger of drifting into Cuban territorial waters. You are not supposed to drift into anybody’s territorial waters if you are not calling at that country but drawing the attention towards you from the Cuban Coastguard is never a good idea.

So we made a wide turn around that ship. If you can not understand the logic of why somebody does something then you better stay away from him. The weather for tomorrow looks good and I am quite happy, as I can hold the schedule for St Thomas.


  1. Dude,
    On the message boards they are calling her the Veendoom.

    Make the suits in Seattle bring her in for a fix. You have too good of a ship to do anything less.

    My family (Wife, daughter and myself) were on the 11/18 sailing. Sure there were problems, but the ship is a beauty. We have sailed on A’Dam, O’Dam and now V’Dam and of the three, the Veendam has the most class. Please try and guard that and buck up to the “Home Office”.

    Now for some questions:

    1) Had the immigration guys in Guat let you leave when the mechanics showed up, would we have been able to stop in Cozumel? I was on the port side of the ship and watched the whole thing. We joked that maybe the taxi rejected your Amex card…

    2) What is the diameter of the propeller shaft? Many folks don’t realize just how big a job it will be to change a shaft bearing.

    3) Message boards have been talking about the sewage smells for months. What’s really going on? We were in a suite on the Navigation deck and were unable to sit on our balcony a couple of different afternoons due to the odorosity (pretty cool word, huh).

    4) What are under the tarps on the bow deck?

  2. In relation to the rogue cargo ship, do you think ships’ captains should have a requirement to report such flagrant breaches of the ‘rules of the road’ to some central marine agency whenever the ship can be identified? Whilst none of us likes to ‘be a snitch’, tell tales etc, on this occasion it did not result in any incident but in the future, who knows?

    Similarly, I noticed, captain, that you mentioned that you do not drink while on board ship and I wondered if that is a self-denying ordinance or due to company policy? I can well understand the rationale. A ship’s captain never knows when he might have to cope with some unforseen serious emergency. A number of investigations of marine disasters have indicated that alcohol played a part in errors of judgement made by ship’s crew.

    It sounds as though Balt Rafales is working overtime to justify his H0A Leadership award as the prop shaft problem contines to impact on destinations! Although the guests are compensated, I guess that the greatest adverse financial consequences will be experienced by the personnel of tour operators, restaurants & other tourist businesses in any port missed out of a cruise ship’s itinerary? Which leads me to another thought!

    Presumably, decisions about cruise itineraries made by cruise lines must include thinking such as: if considering a new venue, ‘Has this port a sufficient tourist infrastructure to provide all our guests with a good range of options of enjoyable experience, as well as docking facilities for the ship?’ or, in the case of increasingly popular ports, ‘Are there now so may ships turning up on a daily basis that the experience of this port/island is now being destroyed and our guests would only have the experience of encountering long lines of other cruisers……..so we may need to consider the need to go elsewhere?’

    Happy cruising …. may the prop shaft behave itself and not run too hot!

  3. Please let us know if the ship will require drydocking to get this shaft/propeller problem fixed.

    Thanks,once again, for your posts. I find I am learning a great deal
    about rules of the road and ships operations.

    Best of luck until you get the speed problem fixed.


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