- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

27 August 2009, Cobh, Ireland.

It was amazing; after stormy weather all day yesterday, the wind died down completely in the early morning. Not a ripple on the waves. Thus we arrived with wind still weather at the pilot station. A bit strange for this to happen, such a change; but I was not going to complain. It meant that I could dock without tugboats and keep everything under my own control. There was still a high swell running along the Irish coast but the ship could easily provide shelter, a good lee, for the pilot boat. With the pilot onboard we sailed into Cobh with really beautiful weather. No wind and when the sun rose above the land it caught the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove) in golden sun light. Cobh has one cruise terminal and it is a bit of a peculiar one. As the water along the old dock is shallow they use two big steel pontoons to moor the ship against. The ships gangway is landed onto that pontoon and then a very long and big gangway leads from the pontoon onto the dock. A setup that you seldom see but it works very well.

As it was wind still, I grabbed the chance to swing around on arrival and dock portside alongside with the nose to open sea. Whatever the weather was going to be tonight, it would be easier to get out of the port. The cruise terminal is more or less located where in the beginning of the last century the emigrants left Ireland from. The town was then called Queenstown (it was renamed when Ireland became independent from England) and the large ocean liners would anchor just outside the bay to receive the emigrants. This was the last port of the Titanic before she started her ill fated voyage towards the ice berg and towards immortality. Also Holland America Line ships called here on a regular basis. The Rotterdam V had Cobh on the schedule for most voyages in the early 1960’s. To commemorate all this, Cobh has a heritage centre right opposite the pier; wedged in between the cruise pier and the train station for Cork. It is a very nice museum, very well done and it shows Irish emigration from the days of the square riggers until the very end of the Ocean Liner service and the tentative steps of the old Trans Atlantic ships into cruising. As a passenger ship historian, I am always very critical of exhibitions relating to my favorite topic but I found this one done very well. A nice balance between keeping it entertaining and understandable for the casual visitor and offering enough for the expert to also really enjoy it. If you ever call with a cruise ship at Cobh, go and have a look. You get discount on the price as well when you are a cruise passenger.

I did not have time today to enjoy ocean liner history. I was deeply worried about the weather for the coming night and tomorrow. If I read the weather charts right, I was going to sail full speed into an awful gale with very high waves. To make sure that my interpretation was correct I went for a visit to the local harbour masters office where they had a real time weather computer that also could make simulations for each area that you want to sail through based on the last received data. The outcome was not pleasant. From the moment I would be leaving Cobh, I would be bucking, at full speed, 30 to 40 knots of wind and waves between 15 and 20 feet. Foynes is located on the Westside of Ireland and from Cobh I had to sail first South West, then West straight into the Atlantic and then Northwest and North towards the estuary of the river Shannon. The result would be that the Prinsendam would be acting as a roller coaster. Same for the approaches to the river Shannon, The estuary is wide open and the simulation did not give much hope there either.

A captain’s job is first and foremost all about the safety of his ship and the people on board. Under no circumstance was I going to expose anybody onboard and the ship itself to these weather conditions. Thus The Prinsendam was not going to Foynes but staying on the sheltered side, the East side of Ireland.

It was a pity was that the only ports that I could have gone to as an alternative were already on our schedule. East Dunmore and Dublin. So no other options. Hence the only decision that I could make was: we are staying in Cobh overnight and tomorrow. Cobh will be our shelter from the elements. Those elements showed up quite quickly anyway. By 11 am, the rain was lashing down accompanied by strong winds. In Alaska they call it horizontal rain. In the evening the rain abated but the wind stayed, so at least now you could walk ashore and stay dry.

So tomorrow more Cobh………….


  1. Bill & Mary Ann Barry

    August 29, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Greetings Captain Albert,

    We just wanted to take a moment to thank you for such a brilliant job of explaining the “behind the scenes” of what happens on the navigation deck. We are longtime cruisers, mainly with Holland America, and could never get such inside information from bridge visits about the captain and his crew’s massive job.

    And with that thought, we have a question for you. We will be sailing on the Prinsendam’s Grand South America’s cruise in January 2010. In your opinion, will the ship’s handling be quite different with the addition of the weight of the new cabins in the aft?

    We will also be heading up the Cruise Critic meet and greet group while onboard. Hope to have the pleasure of your company at one or more of the meetings, if time allows.

    Wishing you many calm sailing days until then!

    • It should be even better. The stern will sink in a little bit more and thus the stern thruster and the rudders will get even more flow. Sent me an invite for your meetings and I will try to attend. Looking forward to meet you.


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