- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

28 December 2010; Bridgetown, Barbados.

Arriving bright and early in a port has the advantage that there aren’t any yachts milling around……….and getting in the way……….. and the fishermen are just gearing up to go out and are not in the way either. Therefore the sea was empty of all traffic except for the larger commercial vessels and of those we know what they are doing. Most of them were cruise ships and they were converging on the pilot station of Bridgetown. Looking at the Radar and the AIS display of each ship we could see that everybody was adhering to the schedule laid out by the Harbourmaster. Thus no traffic jam at the pilot station but nice arrivals in sequence and evenly spaced out. The one thing about approaching the port is that the entry course is perpendicular on the port itself. That gives a nice sheltered port but it means that when approaching you have the current full on the beam and you are either being set to the North or to the South. What way you are being set, you will only find out when you make the approach.

I sailed with a captain in the past who had a whole theory about when the current was going one way or the other way and he was always wrong. It has to do with a combination of the tides, the prevailing winds, the ocean currents and the last major change in the weather. What ever factor, the one that has the strongest influence will create the predominant current of the day. Today the current was setting to the South and quite strongly as well. Because of this situation I like to line up into the leading lights quite early as that gives me time to see where I am setting to. When coming closer to the pilot station the ships speed gets less and less and thus you are set more and more. Pilot boarding speed is about 5 knots and then having 1 knot set to the south is quite a bit. Thus the wise thing to do is to arrive high, e.g. north of the leading lights and try to arrange it in such a way that by the time the pilot steps onboard you are just drifting into the line.

After that it is quite easy as the current diminishes very quickly when nearing the break water. With only the small Silver Cloud tucked away in the corner of the port I had all the room in the world to sail in and dock alongside the Sugar Berth, just opposite the cruise terminal. The sugar berth has this name as there are three large sugar elevators on the dock side for loading sugar in bulk. They are still in use about twice a year when a sugar ship comes in for the harvest, but they were constructed a long time ago when Barbados exported about 60.000 tons a year. Now it is about 6000 tons. (Figures supplied by the pilot and not verified for accuracy) The only challenge with this berth is that I have to ensure that I park the ship in such a way that the bridge wing is behind the 2nd chute and the 3rd one ahead of the lifeboats as both are overhanging.

There was still some swell running into the port courtesy of the bad weather from a few days ago and so the ship made the occasional surge up and down. That is a bit shocking to see with these Sugar Elevators opposite as it looks like as if they are moving instead of the ship. For the rest we had the regular Barbados day, sunny with the occasional shower. If not on the ship, then nearby.

Departure was a different ball game, as the Queen Mary 2, and the Celebrity Millennium were taking up part of the port and were leaving later. That made the basin about 75 meters smaller. I wanted to swing off the berth as that makes sailing out of port easier and that reduced the room to play considerably. Still more then enough room left but it does not look that way.

With that towering black hulled canoe behind us and a white apartment building in front of us, it looks as if there is no room at all. The black hull part of the Queen Mary rises to deck 12 of the Prinsendam and the white hull and super structure of the Celebrity Millennium does not help either with putting things in perspective. So under great interest from the guests onboard we came of the dock and swung around. We have a dead angle in front of the bow of nearly 40 meters. When you look from the ship forward you think that the bow is touching the other ship as you cannot see water anymore but then you still have 140 feet clearance.

By 17.30 we were outside again and on our way to our next port of call Port of Spain in Trinidad. This is one of those ports where always something happens, whatever that might be. So I am wondering what it will be this time. We are the only ship in tomorrow and I will be approaching at sunrise as it is a long ride in through a narrow channel.

1 Comment

  1. marcie and john shore

    December 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    so enjoyed the amazon explorer 2010….also am fascinated by your blogs as you navigate the caribbean….happy new year to you and lesley..hope to meet again one day..sincerly, marcie and john

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