Indeed nobody was shooting at us while we sailed under the Catalina islands, through the navy exercise area, towards the pilot station of San Diego. We saw some navy activity but they were all sailing around in circles. The navy calls that exercises, we of the merchant navy always think something else………But they stayed out of our way and by 05.00 we happily approached the pilot station. Normally it is very quiet there but today it was pure mayhem. I counted at least 8 sailing boats, a deep drafted fisherman (that means he kept sailing in the mid channel steamer track, probably afraid of running aground) a survey vessel floating around south of the pilot station and also in the way) and then there was a tug and tow shortening its tow line. This tug and tow was going to follow us in so at least we knew what he was doing. On the way out was a car carrier destined for Hawaii, but with that ship we could communicate and thus knew that he was going to stay out of our way. Enough to keep us happy and occupied in the early morning.
With keeping a sharp lookout and moving in with reduced speed we sailed through all the traffic until we were lined up for the fairway and the leading lights. The pilot boarded on time and we entered the port. We had to dock today at the Broadway Pier North, where they have a 2nd cruise terminal. It is a nice terminal but it is too small for us. The ship sticks out with 30 feet and the seating area cannot handle all the guests if there is a delay in boarding. There are a lot of obstructions on the edge of the pier and that makes it difficult to park the ship in such a way that all our shell doors are un-obstructed. However we had to go there, as our beloved North Pier was under repair. But the agent promised next time we will be back to where we want to be.
We arrived with full flood and that also makes it more difficult to get into the Broadway Pier North side as the current runs on a 90o angle in front of the piers; and whilst you are slowing down, you have to aim between the two piers and avoid being set onto the knuckle/corner of the dock. The only way to avoid that challenge is to arrive at slack tide but airplane schedules do not take that into consideration. So I have to be on time, and that means getting my drift angle right. The pilot brings the ship in the vicinity of the pier but hands over the conn as soon as when we go from navigating the ship to maneuvering the ship.
We were nicely on time, but then it took 10 minutes to get the ship in the correct position on the inch, to get all the shell doors clear of obstructions. To arrange that, ship and shore side have spotters on location and then the fun starts. Both sides never agree on the number of feet or meters and while one spotter wants the ship to go forward, the other wants it to go astern. Much to the frustration of us on the bridge who are expected to park an 800 feet long ship on a 1.5 inch tolerance. We always do, but it all takes time away from our port time.
As we were coming from a foreign port, Victoria, and it is a change over port, CBP has to see everybody on board and will not clear the ship until we have a –zero- count. That means that all guests, including transit guests have to go off the ship and stay off the ship, until ships security advises that their security system gives zero. In the mean time all crew that joined the Statendam since 10 September (including myself, who joined on the 16th.) have to see CBP to get our shore pass. Then the leaving crew goes through the same process. Hand in your I 95 shore pass, get an I 94 paper so you can leave the country. When all of that is done the in transit guests can return to the ship if they wish to do so, and the leaving crew can collect their luggage and board the Bus to the airport. In the mean time heavy loading, bunkering and a 1000 other jobs go on at the same time.
We had our scare with loading today, as the truck with the toilet paper did not show up. Panic all around and a frantic Hotel Director (we have a new function title) phoning and emailing all over the place. I was already preparing myself for an announcement that we were going to delay sailing, as otherwise nobody would be able to go to the loo once we passed Acapulco, but the truck pulled up 30 minutes before sailing time. …Disaster averted at the last moment.
The ship sailed on time and for the coming two days we are at sea. Hurricane Miriam is falling apart to the West of Cabo San Lucas, so we should only have to content ourselves with a bit of swell and overcast weather.