- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

28 December 2008, Tampa.

Arrival Tampa was beautiful. The wind abated late yesterday afternoon and by the time we approached the pilot station, it was down to a gentle breeze, creating just enough flow over the water to keep the haze away. The Carnival Legend moved alongside in good time and thus I could park the Veendam without having to wait. In the end we were not as early as usual but certainly not too late. It remained a beautiful day with the sun shining; thus for the guests coming onboard a perfect day to start the new years cruise. I promised another Q&A a few days ago, so here we go.

How do we get the bow lines ashore?When the ship comes towards the dock, there are linesmen waiting to handle the ropes. As soon as the ship is close enough, one of the sailors throws a rope called a heaving line with a ball at the end. That ball is called a Monkey face. It is normally a small piece of lead rolled into cotton and then braided into a ball with intricate knots. The line “person” ashore, catches the Monkey face or picks it up from the dock and pulls the heaving line towards him/her. (Key West has female line-women, so I have to be politically correct) The other end of the heaving line is attached to the messenger which is a short but stronger rope meant for pulling the mooring line out of the water when it comes ashore. The ship will slowly pay out the mooring line, which on the ship is rolled up on a mooring drum, which is connected to a mooring winch. When the mooring rope, bow line or stern line, comes ashore the linesman will put the eye of the mooring rope over the bollard and the sailor on the ship will use the mooring winch to pull the mooring rope taut. We call that taking out “the slack”. On departure it goes the other way; the ship gives “slack” on the mooring rope, the linesman lifts the eye off the bollard and the mooring rope is pulled back onto the ship.

How do we stay in position in places such as Santorini where there is no anchorage? On the newer ships, such as the Vista class, we have the DP system or Dynamic Positioning. A little computer measures the required position of the ship with where it is located or is drifting to and then operates bow thrusters and Azipods to get the ship back to the required position. On the older ships there is a “gadget” called a captain who does it by looking out of the window, on the radar and then moves the controls manually.

Where can I buy the 1998 HAL book 125 years of Holland America Line? Best source is www.abebooks.com; there are at the moment about 6 or 7 for sale, varying in price from 35 to 60 dollar. With my signature they ask $ 125, — However I provide those for free if you happen to catch up with me.

Are there different levels in Captains? Yes there are. It goes by size of the vessel and or specialty. Highest is Captain Foreign Going Unlimited. This is what you need for ships over 6000 tons or so. There then are limited versions for the short trade, or coastal ships. Lowest one is for a 100 ton license. There are endorsements if you want to work on sailing ships and on (Gas) tankers. The Certificate of Competence (COC) is only valid for deep sea, for inland river work you need local certificates again.

More in the coming days.

We sailed on time from Tampa. A few guests could not make it on time due to flight delays and they will join tomorrow in Key West. I always try to wait but if it endangers the arrival time in Key West than I cannot disappoint the very large majority onboard by arriving late. Thus the good ship Veendam sailed on time with still beautiful weather through Tampa Bay towards Key West. It is supposed to be a glorious day again tomorrow.


  1. Missed Career at Sea

    December 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Many thanks, Captain. “Little things mean a lot” . . . I’ll just have to get up early for next year’s arrivals to see how the messenger is attached to the steel wire line [as on your picture]. It’s really appreciated how you still find time to even take care of your readers. Your speed on the job should earn you the nickname of “Flash Gordon” [oops, that tells on my age] ! Enjoy your last week on the Veendam; 2008 has been a year full of happenings indeed, locally as well as globally. By the way, the dark days before Christmas turned out to be ‘white nights’ in a different way for over 1/2 a month.

  2. Capt. Greg Morrison

    January 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Monkey’s face??? We have always called them Monkey’s Fists!

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