- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

29 August 2013; Skagway, Alaska.

It is always an early arrival in Skagway but for once I did not mind as it was a glorious day. No sunrise to enjoy as that all happens behind the mountains but it just went from a very clear night via a beautiful dawn into a great day in the Lynn Canal. We had our regular line up of cruise ships and we slid into position as ship number three, going to the Broadway dock. It was a pity that it was so early in the morning, meaning that there was hardly anybody around, as it had an almost Christmas like atmosphere with the well-lit cruise ships against the backdrop of the majestic mountains and the lights of Skagway. Yes, the lights of Skagway. The season is ending and we are already starting to arrive in the dark and soon we will be leaving in the dark as well.

Today we had the rare phenomenon of having a wind still day in Skagway. They had a few more this year, which is even rarer, as in my 32 year career I have not seen more than 3 or 4 of those. As it always blows in Skagway in the afternoon, at least nearly always. The Lynn Canal acts as a funnel and even when you arrive in the morning with wind still weather; by 2 pm. the wind starts picking up and can easily reach 30 to 40 knots. That is normal so it is not considered bad weather. Then during the night it eases off again to wind still and then the next day it starts all over again. Regular routine, but it has delayed cruise ships from leaving on time, as the wind was sometimes too much for safely leaving the dock.

Nothing like it today. Sunny weather and no wind. Everybody as happy as can be. All the tours running and a glorious mountain vista’s for those walking around or taking the train up the mountain. Seldom was Skagway so inviting as today. And with a full house of about 8,000 cruise guests in port there were plenty of people to enjoy this. Even the Statendam crew had the advantage. We had planned a number of crew tours today (the trains normally add a wagon at the end for the crew) and they also benefitted from this day.

Not everybody though, as ships routine has to continue and thus we had the regular drills, but with no wind we could lower the lifeboats and exercise the crew. If there is wind I am always a little bit reluctant to lower the boats into the water as with only 6 crew in the boat, the boats float high upon the water and get easily blown all over the place. If there is 40 knots of wind blowing it goes very fast and then it is very difficult to get them back. Lifeboats are designed to be full of people. Read weight. Then they are low in the water and then they move the best. The propeller has the most grip on the water as it can dig in and the now heavy boat does not drift that much anymore. But crew has to be trained and we do it with the boat that they are assigned to, and then we have to take the wind factor into consideration to see if it is a good plan or not. Today it was perfect weather to do some maneuvering and thus we grabbed the chance with both hands.

So the boats were lowered and the boat commanders had the chance to play around near the ship; in between us and the Disney Wonder on the portside. That took up most of the late morning and then it was time for all the deck officers to go back to school class as we still have our trainer on board, as I blogged about yesterday. Thus again a fruitful and busy day.

We sailed nicely on time from Skagway as the Island Princess was gone earlier than expected. The arrival of the ships goes in sequence, and so goes the departure, as we cannot all swing in the bay at the same time. As the ships are leaving one by one, they use only one group of linesmen to cast the lines off. They move from ship to ship and they then to come us after the Island Princess. If that ship leaves earlier than scheduled, then we can leave on time as it takes the linesmen some time to drive around the port to get to our dock.
Tomorrow we are in Glacier Bay. The weather looks good. Maybe a shower in the lower bay but dry and overcast weather near the glaciers. The Rangers will come on board at 07.00 hrs. and then we will go up the bay with the first stop Marjorie Glacier.


  1. I understand that life boats designed to hold 150+ people will bobble like marshmallows with only 6 crew aboard. But here is my crazy thought, and therefore it will probably never happen.

    Why not design a “no-cost” tour for males and adventurous females on board to participate in the boat drill. Of course it will involve signing liability waivers etc. But I for one, as well as most of my cruising friends, would enjoy the experience, and it would add additional “realistic” training for the crew. Sounds good to me, so nah, it will never happen.

    Safe sailing Captain….Ruud

    • Good morning,

      I had that request before from some real boaters who also understood the challenges. One even wrote a request letter to our Head Office. I could read from the answering email that a few people on the other side were…………………

      At least it is something to dream about………..if I were in a real Holland America Lifeboat.

      Thank you for reading my blog.

      Capt. Albert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *