- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

28 September 2007, New London

……………..And then on departure from Boston the fog descended. Pea –soup fog with less then 100 feet visibility. And that meant no Pinnacle dinner for my wife and I on my birthday. By 8 pm. I was in bed awaiting that dreaded phone call near mid night from the chief officer, advising that it was still a small world as we call it. And yes he called, as it was still very dense. When there is restricted visibility (that means you can not see further away then three miles, because of fog, rain or sand storms) the Captain has to be on the bridge as a back-up for the navigators. If there is continuous fog and or interspersed with daily arrivals and departures, then the sailing hours are spit up between the Captain and the Second in command. Thus the chief does the 6 -12 and 18 – 24 hrs and the captain the 0-6 and 12 -18 hours. The latter are the most un-civilized ones but then as a captain I can sleep when I want, while the chief has a department to run.

So I had the privilege of observing Nantucket on the radar, first from the North, then from the East and then from the South, as we had to sail around it on our way to our next port of call New London. By 01.30 the wind picked up and the fog lifted. That gave me another good 4 hours sleep before we had the next standby, approaching Block Island Sound from the East via the pilot station at Judith Rock. There is a more convenient pilot station further west but the pilots found it too choppy there.

Newport is a fairly new destination on the HAL schedule and we call there occasionally on the New England cruises. The town is working very hard to get more cruise ships in and is giving excellent service to the ships and the guests. Due to our schedule and the location of New London all the way in the corner of Block Island Sound our arrival time was planned for 11.00. With these calls I always try to be a little bit earlier, to give the guests more time but as we had to go to the alternative pilot station and the fact that I could not add those extra 30 minutes to the voyage by leaving Boston timely, meant that I was looking at a normal docking time.

This was the first call for the Veendam and also for me, so sailing in around 10 am. during day light was not that bad at all. At least I could see where I was going in3 D instead of seeing it on the flat screen radar. Sailing into New London, is quite scenic. There are very picturesque lighthouses which look like Victorian Mansions, there is the Viagra factory on the starboard side and there is down town on the portside. Also there is the dockyard of the Electric boat company that builds the submarines. The dock is a former cargo dock that has been refurbished and the town now tries to get funding to put a cruise terminal on top of it. The local tugboat came out with the local TV station on board and there was a small drum band on the dock. There were shuttle buses for the guests and for the crew and even little gators to ferry the wheel chair bound from the gangway to the shuttle buses. All very nicely set up. Even the linesmen did their job without complaining and that is usual.

As it was our first call for the Veendam, the big shots were coming out for a welcome party and ceremony on board. We had the Lt. Governor with wife, a national congressman, the mayor, the chairman of the local business community, tourism board and a whole host of other dignitaries. This all being coordinated by the Cruise Ship Task Force who is the driving force behind getting New London on the cruise calendar.

I did not make it ashore. As soon as the Lt. governor and party had departed the ship, I went to bed as there could be fog again during the night and approach to New York started at 04.30 ……….and sailing into New York is a form of controlled mayhem.


  1. Captain, you indicate that you can sleep when you want but the chief officer “has a department to run”. Could you elaborate on what responsibilities each of the officers reporting to you have as their daily routine? Details of how a ship is managed may well be interesting for your readers.

    Many thanks,

  2. A Belated Happy Birthday Capt. Albert!
    I hope you were able to celebrate it in the Pinnacle, albeit belatedly.

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