- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

29 December 2008, Key West.

If this weather continues and the weather charts do not indicate the opposite, then this is going to be the best weather cruise of the whole season, thus far. We sailed from Tampa with almost wind still weather and while going south there was just a gentle breeze. The weather in Key West was as it was supposed to be, about 10 to 12 knots and from the North East with sunny skies. That brought out the locals in force, fishing or doing six pack navigation near the sea buoy. I had to zigzag all over the place to get to the pilot station. This is the high season for Key West and when we docked the town was packed with people. The presence of three cruise ships, Carnival Freedom us and the Carnival Fascination helped of course but the town was heaving also without the 9000 extra. We carefully docked at the Mallory pier, carefully as we did not want to crumble the small and old dock and then enjoyed a beautiful day.

Here we go with part two of the Q&A:
1. Does the crew prefer new ports, changing routes or the regular run? Unless officers have a special attachment to a port, such as living near by, they all prefer variation in ports and routes. A regular run is great to build up routine, so it is a boon for junior watch keepers but change is the spice of life and new ports are met with enthusiasm. I prefer a mix of both if I have a fairly new crew to work with. Then it is great to do the same run a number of times. Confidence grows; watch patterns are more easily recognized and after a while you can start to apply that routine to new challenges. Then the more variation, the better.
2. Is there is difference between running a small ship or a big ship? If it is a very big ship yes. The larger the ship, the more of a remote manager you have to become and the more you have to work from a distance. It gets harder and harder to inspect your ship completely on a regular basis, it gets harder and harder to know all your crew and you can just forget about trying to meet 2000+ guests. The managerial operation style becomes much less personal. “Managing by walking around” becomes difficult as there is too much walking to do……… so you have to approach the job in a different way. More of guiding the processes that take place and reviewing the way things run, than personally being involved with everything all the time. For ship sizes between 800 and 1200 guests, there is not that much of a difference as the lower number of guests and crew result in a more intimate atmosphere. The longer the cruise is, the better the chance also to meet the guests. For maneuvering the ship, it depends a bit on the gadgets that the ship has and its maneuvering characteristics. With a smaller ship come smaller ports and that results quite often in a bigger challenge as far as the parking of the ship, compared to the big ones.
3. What is the difference between Master and Captain? Both titles are sometimes used at the same time. A Captain is the Master of the vessel. With the word Master indicating the person with the ultimate control of the whole operation. It is a respectful name to cover the function. In the Dutch language there is the phrase Gezagvoerder. Which translates into: He who exercises command. The title Captain denotes the operational position that runs the show. It is a title from the old days, when the captain was the leader of a group of people who happened to run a ship. As far as I remember my history lessons correctly; in the 17th century they called it a skipper and with piracy abounding (what’s new) they put armed Marines on board with a Captain as a leader. That name later morphed into the one person in charge. It is reserved for those who hold or have held the command of a ship. It stays with you when you go to a shore side job or retire. Just having a deep sea master’s license does not entitle you to carry the title Captain, you have to have been in command, and in command of something half decent as well.
4. Will I continue blogging, while on the Prinsendam? Of course. I really enjoy doing this each day and I am looking forward to writing about Ports and Oceans that I do not revisit each week…………After a certain amount of time there is nothing left to write about Tampa and Key West, unless I start copying cruise brochures and travel flyers and for that Google is much better. Wait and see until we get to the Bosporus. Navigating there is a totally different challenge than doing the milk run between Key West and Belize.

The Key West people were treated to a spectacular sunset just before we sailed, with even a tiny little bit of the green flash on it. The Carnival Freedom and Fascination had sailed before 5 pm, and thus most of the town had an unhindered view of the sunset but Mallory square had the beautiful Veendam to look at and that is not bad either. The weather for tomorrow looks good with the regular trade winds blowing and sunny skies all around.


  1. Thanks again for the blog–it’s almost like being back on the ship. Re the green flash you saw at Key West: we were aboard 14-21 Dec, sat at table next to you at the first Mariners’ Luncheon (my wife did a North Atlantic crossing on HAL’s Seven Seas back in 1959–a very rough crossing in January!!). Back to the flash: saw a nice one, if brief, on our last night, 20 December. How common are they?

  2. HAPPY NEW YEAR, Captain
    I’m already looking forward to your posts from Prinsendam!

  3. Missed Career at Sea

    December 31, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Many thanks again, Master Captain [this is a case of sometimes]!Thank you for even a teaspoon of interesting Dutch history. I never liked my history lessons in school, but then it seldom dealt with what I was interested in . . . The word Gezagvoerder simply is not the same as Captain or Master in my thinking patterns. Appreciation for your dedication to your reading audience is noticable in the questions that keep rolling in, as they already feel the pinch of not ‘hearing’ from you for several months 🙂
    Up till today I am still scanning the sky at sunset to see anything of this green flash – I might instead see a glimpse of Flash Gordon?

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