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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

29 July 2016; At Sea.

Today we have a day at sea, to get to Iceland and doing so we cross two time zones. So last night we went an hour forward and tonight we will do it again. No doubt the Beverage Manager is not a happy camper as hours forward are not good for the Bar Revenue. (And we get two more between Iceland and Aalesund Norway) This area benefits from the confusion of what it is exactly to be called. The area along the East coast of Greenland is called the Irminger Sea and the area closer to Iceland is called the Denmark Strait. And then the whole larger area is called the North Atlantic Ocean.

The weather has also changed and today it was a dull day with the wind and swell increasing in the afternoon. Whatever the weather here is, it is different to the west side of Greenland. This is mainly caused by the Gulfstream. Although the Gulf Stream predominantly flows at lower latitude across to Europe, and then goes under England along the coast of the lowlands; a smaller branch turns northwards and brings warmer water to the area we are now sailing in. For the time of year this means normally less fog as wind and water do not vary much in temperature. It would need a very cold northerly wind to accomplish something.

A minor branch of the Gulf Stream doubles back to under Iceland.

A minor branch of the Gulf Stream doubles back to under Iceland.

In the winter time the Gulf Stream does have a negative result, and it does that in conjunction with the Jet stream. The Gulf Stream generates about every three days a new storm off Cape Hatteras. It comes up right under the coast there from Florida and then goes across. While the Jet Stream propels these depressions across, their force is being nurtured by the warmth of the Gulf Stream.  Now whether Europe gets a storm or not, depends on where the Gulf Stream is going. If there is a High Pressure ridge over the Azores, the Jetstream tends to bend to the North towards Iceland and then they get the storm.  If this is not the case, then the storm goes straight across and makes a landfall either at Ireland or at the south west area of England.

Most winter storms go the Iceland way. Maybe another reason they do not have much in the ways of trees there. During the winter it blows here quite often (about every three days). If a storm makes it to densely populated Europe then there are fun and games. Especially if the storm arrives in combination with a Spring Tide. Then the water is already high to start with and then an extra push by a strong storm: and along the coastlines of England, Scotland and the Netherlands the alarm bells go off.  In Holland we had a very bad one in 1953 when the (weak) dykes broke through. As a result the Dutch really went to war and now the enormous Dykes and Water Barriers protect the areas where there are no dunes. A lot of tourists now come to see what has been done there and the “Delta Werken” are a standard part of a tourist tour through Holland.

But even in my little English Home town, tucked away in the east corner of England, we had fun and games fairly recently . In 2013 there was a spring tide, the wind was at the right (or wrong angle) and the sea barriers and Beach huts took a severe battering.  And that was away from the full force of this Spring Tide storm. I cannot post any photos of  this as otherwise I run into copyright issues with the English newspapers.

We did not have any bad weather today and the excitement on the bridge was limited to a ship we passed at 10 am. on our portside and which we could not identify. All ships over 300 tons are required to have an AIS on and then it takes one click on the Radar and we know who it is. They did not, naughty boys, and thus the guessing started. First idea was a fish processing plant as the ship was white and sitting just outside the 200 mile zone off the Greenland Coast and thus local fishing rules would not apply. We did not see a net but there was something hanging from the stern. The funnel colors were, yellow, blue grey and those colors I have seen on both USA and Russian companies. So we thought maybe it was a scientific vessel.

The Zeus cable layer for the US navy. I wonder if the US Navy is branaching oout in the TeleCom business.

The Zeus cable layer for the US navy. I wonder if the US Navy is branching out in the TeleCom business.

My guess was the US Sealift Command as that would explain the no AIS signal as military vessels are not required to use an AIS. So I turned to my friend Google and he knew the answer. It was the USNS Zeus (T-ARC-7) a cable laying vessel of the US navy.  As you can see never a dull moment at sea.

Tomorrow morning we should be at the pilot station at 07.00 hrs. and docked about an hour later. We are staying two days as there is too much to see and enjoy in Iceland to cover in one day.

Weather for tomorrow, Sunny with temperatures of 67oF/ 17oC and a bit of a breezy day. For Sunday rain is expected so hopefully nobody will leave it to the 2nd day to go ashore.


  1. Dear Capt. Albert:
    You are the best person I know to answer a question that came to me last night when I couldn’t sleep.
    We will be on the first sailing of The Konigsdam that goes to Half Moon Cay (November 9th sailing). Will this be the first time that the Captain of the Konigsdam anchors at Half Moon Cay?
    You have written about some of the potential difficulties anchoring there – deep water on one side – shallower water on the other.
    I was just wondering that as it is the first time the ship will be there how does the Captain know how the ship will handle.
    I have absolute faith in all Holland America Captains – but you know how it is – at night when you can’t sleep and your mind wanders.
    Looking forward to cruising with you again someday,
    Susan Arnold Gottlieb

    • Thank you for reading my blog.

      No reason to worry about anchoring. Unless it is an extremely nice day, the ship will most likely not anchor at all but stay on the engines.
      The Koningsdam has a very advanced positioning system and with the push of one button, the computer keeps the ship within three feet until the winds goes over 30 knots or so (and then the island is not much fun anyway). Using the Azipods and bow thrusters to keep the ship within the parameters set by the Captain. Boring for the captain and the navigators as their task is now limited to observing the GPS and computer do the work.

      I hope you will have a great cruise.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. Looks like Zeus is heading back home (Norfolk, VA) from England

    • Well maybe they have finished fishing then, as they had a cable down at the stern. Or they are going home laying a cable and then it will take a while before they are home. (Christmas ??)

      thank you for letting me know, I did not know there was a website where you could find this stuff.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. I am so enjoying traveling along the Voyage of the Vikings with you. My husband and I have taken that trip (return from Boston) 3 times. The ship at that time was the Maasdam and the captain was James Russel-Dunford. He obviously loved the Voyage of the Vikings as his enthusiasm for it came through his announcements every day. Thank you for giving us a new perspective of this fascinating voyage.

  4. Missed Career at Sea

    August 5, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you for mentioning the Delta Werken, Captain. My late father has had a part in designing the magnificent dykes when he had to start all over again in his late 50’s after leaving his islands for the Netherlands. I also remember the photos published in 2013 of the battering of your home coastline. Still taking my hat off for the Navigators in general facing all the different circumstances at sea and making it through alive!

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