- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

27 May 2012; Seward, Alaska.

Named after the man who bagged the biggest bargain in history, when he bought Alaska for the USA, the port is located at the end of Resurrection Bay. Our main attraction to go there is that it is nearer than sailing to Anchorage and it has the Railroad Connection. Some other company’s call at Whittier, which is more to the East but a port much more exposed to the weather. So we as captains are very happy with Seward as it surrounded on the East and West side by mountains and partly sheltered from the North. That only leaves it open to southerly winds blowing up the Bay but it is a whole lot better than being exposed from all sides. This morning it was perfect weather. No wind at all when we came close to the dock and I could do my drift in maneuver as I had hoped for. It is always nicer to handle the ship by using 500 hp. instead of needing the 12000 hp available. For me ship handling is the art of exercising the minimum, a gentle touch above brute force. Today was a golden opportunity to do that.


William Seward responsible for the “Alaska Purchase” which brought Alaska into American hands.

Seward is together with Vancouver one of these ports where the docking of the first 800 feet of ship is the easy part and then the two last inches the very hard part. That has to do with the luggage conveyor belt. After the Rotterdam (V) left the Seward service and the new ships came, they made a gap in the dock to accommodate a horizontal shoreside based conveyor belt. However it is a very rigid contraption that can only go up and down and forward into the ship. It cannot go sideways. When we dock, the security officer is standing in the open door of the ship and counts the ship down. The agent on the shore side is doing the same thing. Our Security Officer is from Canada, the agent from Alaska. There must be distinct a difference between Canadian feet and American feet, or shoe size, as we always have to jo-jo before the ship is finally in position. Once everything is completely lined up the Officer Of the Watch has to ensure that during the day the ship does not move. That is easier said than done, as the tide goes up between 6 and 10 feet and the mooring lines have to be tightened or slacked all day long. For that purpose we have a quartermaster on the forward and aft mooring deck at all times.

sewardluggage2The conveyor belt for the loading and unloading of all the lugage in Seward.

While the guests leave by Bus or Train, a whole fleet of little trucks appear that collect the luggage from the ship and drive it directly to the first hotel stop or to the airport. Most busses do a sightseeing route while having guests on board and by having the luggage transported separately, there is no delay in dispatching the buses and the luggage is already in the hotel room by the time the guests get there. Depending on their destination the first guests are leaving at 06.30 and the last around 1300 hrs. New guests are coming in between 11.30 and 19.00 hrs. It is a long and busy day for the ship but not as hectic as a regular changeover day, where everything happens in a much shorter time frame. It means that more crew can have a few hours off in port to go shopping and go for a bit of R & R.

Seward is well setup for that. The town runs a shuttle bus, one of those yellow school bus happenings and the local seaman’s mission has a small people carrier that comes around every 30 minutes as well. I also always give permission for the Leader of the Seaman’s Mission to come on board as I know that it is much appreciated by the crew. The dock is rather far out, a good 20 minute walk to where the town is just starting so transport is appreciated. Especially when in the afternoon the funnel wind picks up through Resurrection Bay and blows through the docks with wind speeds of up to 40 or 50 knots. It then abates by 1900 hrs. That makes a walk to town for us weaklings, used to the Mexican weather, a very cold affair.

We had all our guests on board by 1900 hrs. and thus we could do our Passenger Safety Briefing without delaying departure. By 8 pm that was all over and we were happily on the way to Glacier Bay. Tomorrow is a sea day and as the Gulf of Alaska is behaving itself is should be a pleasant ride. There is something nasty brewing more to the South East but we should be nicely tucked inside again by the time that starts blowing.


  1. Missed Career at Sea

    May 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Captain, if your Security Officer is from Canada and at least one Captain is from Canada, is HAL hiring Deck Officers now from other countries besides the Netherlands and England?
    I’m just curious if I can apply for deckhand …

  2. We would like to thank you for your response for dredging at Astoria.
    We have put our heads together and don’t know what “bahasa” is. Can you please explain to those of us who love your blogs.

    • missed career at sea, wanted to apply as a deckhand.

      Our deckhands/ sailors are from Indonesia so speaking the indonesian language —–bahasa Indonesia—– would be a necessity.

      I happen to know that the roots of “missed career at sea” are in former Indonesia, the Dutch East Indies.

      Hence the funny angle to it.

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      Capt. Albert

  3. Jeffrey Shivar

    June 5, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Captain Albert,

    I came across this blog while looking at some photos of the Veendam and the Space Shuttle. Remembering that you were the Master of the Statendam, I looked into this blog and realized that you had written about the Alaskan cruise from May 20th-28th. I found your entries to be fascinating, as I have only a passenger’s perspective of the cruise; so learning about some of the details that entail the sailing of the ship gives me a greater appreciation for what you and the crew accomplish. This was my wife’s and my 1st Alaskan cruise but our 4th HAL cruise. We greatly enjoy HAL and after hearing about some of the Mariners who have cruised on all 15 ships and have over 700 days, well, we have some goals ahead of us to attain.
    Thank you for the wonderful Alaskan cruise.

  4. I have just now stumbled onto your blog and am finding the details of my cruise ( May 20-27th Alaska on the Statendam ) very interesting !
    Thanks for taking the time to post your entries and fill us in on what it’s like to be “driving” the ship. Great to read….better late than never.

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