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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 November 2011; At Sea.

Until noon time it was completely wind still with just the occasional ripple. We call that in the nautical language “still of wind”, varying to “a light air”. Expressions dating from the days of sail that we still try to use, although it is slowly fading. Now with modern instruments we can measure wind forces of more than wind force 12, so a wind force 16 does exist in principle although it is not on the Beaufort Scale. Mr. Beaufort was from the sailing days so he could only go as far as he could observe changes with the naked eye. That meant for him it all stopped at wind force 12.  “Such winds that no canvas can withstand”. In other words; if it is all blowing to pieces then that is the worst wind you can have and he was of course completely right there.  Now with ships of steel, the chance of having things blown to pieces is much smaller. Now the danger comes more from the swell that comes along with the wind. That also means that we approach bad weather in a slightly different way.  Strong winds do not affect the ship very much as long as everything is properly secured and we keep everybody inside. Only with a moving ship there is the chance of accidents and if the ship starts taking over water, then there is the chance of damage and danger to the ship.

That is the philosophy behind my thinking as well, now we are approaching the Gulfo de Tehuantepec. The depression in the Gulf of Mexico is blowing itself out and that means that the winds are going to abate. However, it is not going fast enough to let me decide already in what way I am going to cross the Gulf.  I will make up my mind tomorrow afternoon when the latest weather forecast is in. One thing is for sure, it is going to be very windy, whatever I decide upon.

Today, there was hardly any wind at all. In the afternoon it breezed up to a wind force 3 and that was all the excitement we had. By the time we passed Acapulco it was wind still again.  The only thing that increased was the swell, the waves were getting higher, but with a very long period, so we did not feel them. The angle looks just good enough, so it will not bother us when we are docked in Huatalco tomorrow.

My official function yesterday was The Renewal of the Vows. It was the first one in two months. Sometimes I have 4 in a cruise, sometimes none. But today we had a Canadian couple who had signed up. Having being married for 30 years; they had a difficult year behind them, which brought them closer together and they wanted to re-affirm that by doing a Renewal of the Vows.  This is a ceremony that I find personally hard to understand; I gave my vow and thus I will never break it. So I have a hard time getting my mind around the fact why you would need to repeat that. But there are guests out there who want to and so we have the ceremony.  As it means a lot to them, I pull out all the stops of my theatrical talent to turn it into a moving occasion. The company gives guide lines about the setup of the ceremony and the official vows but there is room for a lot of interpretation of how to go about it.

When I was chief officer, I observed several captains in action and I learned some good things but also observed a few proceedings that made my toes cringe.  So I copied the best (With all my compliments to Captain Van Biljouw, long since retired) and avoid the rest (but no compliments to the other captains also longtime retired…) 

The ceremony comes with champagne, wedding cake, the classical string quartet, the party planner who acts as hostess and yours truly to officiate. Today I had also some Ladies from the Front Office present so they could observe the proceedings. That will make them better prepared when they have to answer queries at the Front Desk.  Sometimes one of the guests gets emotionally overcome by it all but this time it was one of the Front Office Ladies who started to sniff. Then I knew that I had struck the right chord again. The whole proceeding takes, at least the way I do it, about 45 minutes and that is time I gladly give as it really means a lot to those who renew their vows.

Tomorrow we will be in Huatalco de Santa Cruz with an official arrival time of 10 am. I will be at the pilot station at 08.45 and should be alongside at about 09.40 giving enough time for the ship to be cleared. We will be docking nose out which means backing into the bay. If there is swell running along the dock, then it is better that it hits the “pointy bit” than the “blunt bit”. 

I stand once again before you,

To renew our vows of marriage,

I promise to be strong in my love,

Gentle in my care,

And unwavering in my trust.

In the name of all  – 

that we have created together,

And all we are yet to become,

I offer you my hand,

As your partner, lifetime friend and companion.

With these words, I the Master of the ms Statendam wish you all the joy and peace which only true love can bring,

Be yours today and in all of life’s tomorrows. 


  1. I agree with you about the swell. The swell is especially a danger for sailingboats. Friends of us sailed around the world and were never afraid of a storm, but always for the wind silence. So many things on board broke down after a week of only swell, while in a storm seldom damage occurred.

  2. Dear Albert,

    I sent a message to the site for you earlier, as I thought it might be a direct link to you with it being on your blog page.

    Would you mind contacting me, possibly leaving a private e-mail address as I would like to talk to you about our company – Project Orient.

    I think you might be interested in what I have to say.

    We met briefly when an OLS group visited Prisendam last summer. I thought you would be on that ship for evermore!

    I am a fellow member of the OLS and ex British MN Officer.


    Larry Sylvestre (www.oceaneventsuk.com)

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