- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

27 July 2019: British Colombia Inside Passage.

The weather remarkably improved once we crossed the border near Triple Island Light house, where we also embarked our Canadian Pilots. They will come on duty around 13.00 hrs. when we enter the Inside Passage. As explained before our schedule is dictated by the slack water time at Seymour Narrows as we have to get through otherwise we would not make Vancouver timely. We might have some guests on board who could not care less as they will continue travelling with us but the large majority has to get home as real life is beckoning again. We do not have to be there exactly at the moment that the Ebb is turning to flood but we have to make the tidal window. Tonight it starts at 21.10 hrs. and then goes via the slack tide moment of 21.09 hrs. to 21.30 when the current rises above 3 knots again. The good thing is we can be a little bit later than 21.09 hrs. as once the tide has changed it is flooding and then we have the current with us and the right of way against any opposing traffic; the bad thing is that to get there we are bucking the ebbing tide all the way so the ship has to make more speed just to compensate for this push against us.

Thus all the way from Ketchikan it was peddle to the metal to make sure that we will make this tide but also to gain some plus speed in case we have to slow down for opposing traffic or traffic that happens to be in our way. Because Seymour Narrows is not the only hurdle on the way, although it is the biggest one, the one which dictates our schedule.

Blackney Passage. The arrow shows the direction of part of the current. The rest goes direct west. But once in  the passage that current first pushes you towards Hanson Island, then straight up and then to the other side.  If we have a very late tide, then we can sail past Alert Bay but that costs about 45 minutes of extra sailing time as it is a longer route and we have to slow down for a “no wake” area.

There is Blackney Passage which has the challenge of a 90o turn when coming through and the chance that the current catches you sideways and setting you towards the rocks. Next is Race Passage which is where Johnstone Strait (which is where we will sail the main part of our late afternoon and evening) splits up and curves around Helmcken Island. If there is no traffic then most ships take the south passage both ways as it is the most direct one. But if there is traffic then the island acts as a traffic divider and westbound traffic has to go north and southbound traffic has to south. We are southbound this time, so it is all in our favor if it was not for Race Rocks. This is a rocky outcrop or reef at the south east end of Helmcken Island. So you cannot sail in the middle but have to favor the south shore (and quite close) to stay clear before you can go back to the middle of Johnstone Strait.

Helmcken Island where traffic might have to split up. At the right side of the island is the reef which ships have to hug the south shore when going East and and East shore when going North around the island.

Both Blackney and Race Passage we can do at any tide as it never goes higher than 4 knots and apart from the rocks there are no challenges in large course changes. But you might have to slow down if there is traffic in the way. Plus at Blackney there is a fair chance of seeing Orca’s especially now the season is progressing. That means staying clear of them and also from the sightseeing boats buzzing around them. Although buzzing is the wrong word as they should stay at a respectful distance. That often means slowing down and on a tight schedule that is a challenge.

Hence the reason to keep up the speed during last night and this morning while being in the open waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. Most captains keep that speed up until they can “drop an engine” e.g. we have enough time in the plus that we can make it with an engine less. If the current proved to be stronger than suspected or more traffic in the way than expected, then we can always engage that engine again and work up a bit more plus.

And figuring that one out kept the navigators busy all day. Not being too early as that means floating for the last miles and burning unnecessary fuel and not being too late as then we will be late in Vancouver. And that is something that we cannot do as the Westerdam has to make sure that I am on time in Vancouver. This is the end of my period on board the ms Westerdam and after three ships, ZADM, PRDM and WEDM I am scheduled for a vacation. If all goes well, I will be back around October 5 with the blog and if the schedule does not change then our Flagship will be the first on the list.

I would like to thank all my readers for their interest and patience to keep up with my daily dose of information, reflections, musings, rumblings and tit bits that hopefully have been of interest and I hope you log in again nearer to date.  From ships focus my attention now has to go to home focus as I have to catch up with outstanding items on the –honey do – list. The ceiling in the 2nd bathroom is a year past target time for painting, so it cannot wait much longer. Plus the roof of our apartment building needs attention as well. And hopefully I can work a bit more on the history side of the blog, as there is a log of material waiting in the pipe line for uploading. I do not expect that I will be bored. And yes there also two cruises in the planning with the competition. Being Captain on the bridge is great fun, being captain in the bar is not that bad either so there goes the focus this time.   My car has been arranged for 09.30 in the morning and I should be home by  1500 hrs. local British time on the 28th.

This is what I need to see. Tomorrow a sunny day in Vancouver (as forecast) and with the ms Westerdam happily and timely alongside.  (Thank you to a unknown German on the internet who posted this)



  1. Graham Spearman

    July 28, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Captain Albert, thank you so much for the effort you put into your blog. It is always both interesting and entertaining. It helps keep the memories of our cruises alive.
    Safe journey home to the UK. You have missed the heatwave which, with your domestic tasks to be carried out may be a good thing!

  2. Do I read the Rotterdam in Amsterdam on 5 Oct ? If so, great because we will be on to Civi 19 Oct . It has been too long since we sailed with you so this would be an added treat !

  3. Safe Journey Home, Sir! BTW, it’s “tidbit”! 😉

  4. Carolynn Lydick

    July 28, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    Thank you so much, Captain Albert, for all of the insights that you share with us. So very interesting.
    When I did the Voyage of theVikings sailing on the Rotterdam, I stayed onboard in one port and they did a big life raft safety drill. I asked if I could watch and the officer in charge got a big grin and said okay. I just had to stay out of the way. And that is one more reason why I feel safe sailing with Holland America Line.
    Enjoy your vacation.

  5. Thanks for your informative blog. I quite enjoy following your travels. Enjoy your vacation at home.

  6. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed your incredibly informative blogs! It’s very interesting to hear about the behind the scenes in the running of HAL. I do have to address something from back when you were in Europe; grocery stores. Yes, I admit we love going into grocery stores around the world. So interesting to see what is stocked and at times we’ve found tasty goodies that we look forward to picking up again on our next trip through.

    Speaking of Europe; I was very happy that you were on the P’Dam for her last cruise. Was wonderful to have a behind the scenes view of that and it sounds like your talks went over very well!

    I’m hoping that you will cycle through the Amsterdam somewhere along the line. My husband and I will be on her for an extended period of time this/next year. I’d love to meet the “man behind the history”!

    Enjoy your time off, in between taking care of your honey-do list. Will be looking forward to new posts come October!

    Linda R.

  7. Have a well deserved vacation, and thanks for your very interesting blog. Looking forward to reading it again in October.

  8. Thank you for your wonderful education regarding cruising and everything that goes into it, specifically safety issues. Your insight is valuable and enjoyable.

  9. Michael Caldwell

    July 29, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Just had to do this. Could not resist. The expression is “tid bit”. However, “tit bit” has something going for it.

    • Maggie Morris

      July 29, 2019 at 6:12 am

      I’m in the UK and I’ve always said tit bit. Maybe its the difference between our common language.!

  10. Cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoy and look forward to your daily blog. You are so informative and you make. What could possibly be dry material, so interesting and sometimes with a tad of good humor.

    Enjoy your holidays. Although you will be doing a different kind of work, I know with your great outlook it won’t be so much of a chore.

    Will be anxiously awaiting your return in October.

  11. Thank you so much for takings us along. I have been on many of the voyages you have mentioned and yet reading your blogs brings a whole new perspective. Thank you !

  12. Your wonderful information makes cruising so much more special as we learn new things every day in your blog. I miss my morning “fix” of cruising news but you deserve a wonderful “ holiday “. Look forward to October And new blogs.
    Cheers Barnie

  13. Beste Albert, een zeer groot dank je wel voor de interessante blog. Geniet van je vakantie en hoop op een nieuwe blog in oktober.

  14. Anneke van Dort

    July 29, 2019 at 5:48 am

    Captain Albert, thank you so much for your blog: taking us ‘behind the scenes’ is very interesting.
    Looking forward reading your blog again in October.
    Enjoy your holiday at home!

  15. Maggie Morris

    July 29, 2019 at 6:18 am

    Thank you for your blog, I guess you are now home here in the UK.
    I’ve seen the expression ‘tid bit’ a few times on American sites and wondered if I’d been using the term ‘tit bit’ wrongly all my life, thankfully I haven’t. It’s funny how our language is the same, but soooo different.

  16. Captain Albert,
    I wish you a nice “time off” at home and I look forward to continued reading of your very interesting and entertaining blogs when you are back with us in October. I’ll be in the Koningdam 31Aug and look forward to another HAL cruise.

  17. colleen davis

    July 29, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I am always a little bit sad when you go on a much deserved vacation!! Selfish, I know, but always so happy when you come back and I see your email in my inbox!! Have a great and glorious vacation, and I will look forward to reading you when you come back!!!

  18. Your package has arrived in Seattle.
    It was my pleasure to send it.
    Have a wonderful holiday.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful blog with us. It is so interesting to learn about the behind the scenes operation of our favorite HAL ships. I have gained so much appreciation for all the work and skill that goes into making our cruises. I looked forward to reading it every day. You have a well deserved vacation and we will miss you and very much look forward to your return. Please don’t forget us. 🌈🌺

  20. Roger Tollerud

    August 2, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Captain A
    We were on the Legend and in Juneau with you last week. Would have been fun to meet you and shake your hand. So close yet so far!
    Thanks for many great stories and enjoy your break at home.
    Roger T

  21. Hi Captain Albert, and as usual I wish you a happy “vacation” but as I have always said, your vacation is entirely too long !! (as seen by your readers). But if you must, enjoy your time off.
    As I have now been on 38 cruises, the term “pedal to the metal” appears to be over-used by all Captains, no matter what cruise line they work for. Anyway, enjoy your time at home……Ruud

    • Captain Albert

      August 6, 2019 at 8:04 am

      Thank you for your continued support.

      If all captains are on the “pedal to metal” bit then I assume that we all have the same challenges in our work. Too tight sailing schedules that do not give sufficient leeway when mother nature does not follow the cruise brochure.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

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