It was a beautiful day, it was a gorgeous day. I hope that the guests onboard realized how privileged they were with the weather today. Arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon has the advantage that the sun is always in the back and thus lighting up the landscape for the best viewing. Today everything that the Stockholm inside passage needed came together. Wind the day before, so the skies were clear and crisp. No wind today, so it was great on deck. No clouds, so the sun shone over the islands that make up the inside passage and a temperature that was not too warm to mar the day ashore. It was picture perfect.
But it was an early day for me, a very early day. I am normally on the bridge an hour before the pilot arrives as then the approach and its preparations start. So by 3am. I was having my cup of tea and as it was dawn already it just felt like 7 am in the morning. For the Stockholm inside passage there are two pilots coming onboard. This is a requirement for any ship longer than 145 meters. Both do half the trip in conning the vessel and while one is having the conn, the 2nd pilot is closely watching the other as there are some locations were one mistake will result in a direct grounding. The two most difficult ones are both near the town of Sandhamn, where the passage starts. Here the ship has to make a 90o turn and shortly after it sails through a gap that is about 400 feet wide and it is all done with about 10 to 12 knots speed to ensure good steering. It looks a bit if you are entering a parking garage at 50 miles an hour and then having to make the turn up the ramp to the next level with two pillars at the end of the ramp. It is all possible but it is tight. Larger ships have to go through the North entrance/exit as it is felt that they cannot make that turn but it adds several hours to the journey, if your next port of call is to the South of Stockholm. So south is preferable if possible.
The whole inside passage is run on a maximum of 12 knots with frequent slowdowns to 8 knots to avoid wake damage to the numerous boats moored along jetties. All the islands along the passage are dotted with summer houses large and small. Some of palatial size, some not bigger than the beach huts that I described yesterday. It is the dream of nearly every Stockholm inhabitant to have a little place like this on one of the islands. As a result these properties are expensive. If they have water front access, then they are very expensive. They also are seldom on the market as they are mostly sold or inherited within the family. There was not much action among houses and docks in the early morning but by the time we came back, it being Saturday night, it was busy everywhere. Due to the slow speed it takes nearly 4 hours to get to the dock. Normally you can be docked in 3 hours and 40 minutes but this time the pilots were worrying about the Aida Luna. As she was longer than us, she had to take the North entrance and had to arrive ahead of us as she was sharing the same pier but deeper inside. So we had to hold off a little bit which resulted in having the gangway out at 08.15 instead of at the latest of 07.45 for a 08.00 arrival.
We docked at Frihamnen which is the cargo and ferry dock area in Stockholm and apart from the Aida Luna there was also the Azamara Journey. The Emerald Princess had been given the dock near down town, which in a way made sense as it deposited the largest number of guests ashore from all the cruise ships. Stockholm is a very highly organized port so everything runs like clock work. It is also an expensive port with the shuttle costing 16 euro return to get you to town. They do throw in a city tour while getting you there but the buses do not have Air conditioning, something our American guests were not all used to.
I spent my day in meetings as we had the Designated Person (DP) onboard today. I will explain tomorrow what that is. In between I could catch a quick nap, before it was time again to deal with the four hours outward bound scenic cruising again. Pilots were off by 10 pm. and we were on our way to our next port of call Visby. It was a long day but with this sort of scenery, the long hours did not feel that long. The weather for Visby promises to be as good as today and that means that it will be a great day to visit this little pearl of a town on the island of Gotland.