When you do the same run every week or every 14 days, the whole sequence turns into a sort of fixed script, where only the weather and the fishing boats are the variables. For the rest you can almost predict from minute to minute what will happen, what we have to do and what will happen if we don’t. The arrival at the Ketchikan pilot station is one such an event. The pilot boarding area for the approach to Ketchikan is located some 20 miles to the South East of the town. Why exactly there is anybody’s guess, it could have been 25 miles or 30 miles as well, or 15 for that matter as it is well inside Alaskan waters anyway.
Still that is the location and that is where the pilot boat is waiting. We aim for 05.00 hrs. and that is 30 minutes after the Golden Princess. She is going first as she is going to dock nbr 3, while we are at dock nbr 2. This means that she does not have to pass us while approaching the dock, which would have been the case if we were first.
The sequence is then as follows; 04.15 captain gets called; after a fight with the shower he arrives on the bridge at 04.30. Cup of green tea delivered by the quartermaster at 04.32. The pilot boat is already on station. 04.40 we start slowing down and the assistant of the watch (3rd officer) goes to the B deck pilot break to supervise the transfer of the pilot. The Captain takes up position on the portside bridge wing and takes care of the communication. The 2nd officer/navigator keeps navigating. The cadet keeps entering all that happens into the electronic logbook. 04.45 The Boatmen open the B deck break door and rig the pilot ladder. 04.50 The 3rd officer tests if the pilot ladder is safely rigged and reports accordingly. 04.55 The pilot boat makes it approach. 04.59 The pilot climbs up the ladder. 05.02 His luggage is on board, we close the door and we speed up.
Now check the log book from last cruise and we find that the boat was alongside at 04.53, the pilot on board at 04.56 and the door closed at 04.59. The cruise before that it was 05.01 and no doubt if we would go further back in the past, the times would all be similar. We on board think that this is completely normal. But I have a school buddy who is captain on the container ships of Maersk and he finds it fascinating. He told me long time ago, that they would sit on the bridge and listen to the VHF, for our singling up procedure and if we would leave at 17.00 hrs. they would check their watches to see their watch would show 17.00 hrs. —and thus show the correct time—- as they knew that the last rope of a Hal ship would exactly be cast off at 17.00 hrs. We do not even think about it but for the cargo trade it must seem quaint that we run so exactly on the minute.
We even docked on the minute this time. We had all lines fast and engines stopped at 07.00 exactly, which was an improvement from last cruise by 2 minutes. Nothing we can do about those 2 minutes as it all depends on how fast the linesmen are moving the ropes along the dock. (Normally not very fast) Still it is all planned to do it that way as we have to be docked by 07.00 hrs. in order to get the Shore excursion business started on time. First tours normally leave around 08.00 hrs. but the Shorex ladies need a little bit of time to check with their colleagues shore side if all is in order and to decide the location and line up of the busses.
We did not have a great day for the weather. As the wind had fallen away earlier yesterday, the rain was still lingering over Ketchikan and only close to departure did the sunshine break through. From then on we had a glorious sail away and voyage through Snow Passage. It made for a nice temperature outside and that caused me to go to bed early as the normal result (as if scheduled that way) we should get very low hanging clouds around 01.00 tomorrow morning, once we are going up into Stephens Passage.