- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

29 September 2007, New York.

I do not know what it is with New York but it is always something. The city is noisy and busy and so is the approach to the pilot station. Lot’s of noise on the VHF and lot’s of ships in and around the Ambrose light and the pilot cutter. There is always something going on that upsets the normal routine. Of course the cruise ships arrived at the same time and that did not help either. We had the Carnival Victory, the Norwegian Spirit, the Crown Princess and us, all at the pilot station between 04.20 and 04.30 in the morning. We picked up the pilot one by one and then lined up for sailing into the channel. As it was very windy we all had to maneuver to make a good lee for the pilot boat and so we saw ship after ship making an S- turn through the wind, some to the North and some to the South and then swing back to course.

The forecast had called for wind and there was going to be a lot of current running along the dock. Also the Norwegian Spirit would be docking ahead of me. They raced up the river, passing the Crown Princess halfway, to get into the dock before me. So I got two tugboats as a fail safe. When lining up into the slip, I knew we would come very close to the stern of the spirit and then it is a nice feeling to have a tugboat in between with some extra horsepower up your sleeve. In the end we swung around the stern at a distance of about 50 feet and then there is not much room for error.

There are two pilots involved in the operation. First is the Sandy Hook pilot who brings the ship from Ambrose to about 1 mile from the dock and then the docking pilot comes on board with the ordered tugboat and brings the ship into the slip. As soon as the ship is lined
up into the dock, the captain takes over and finishes the docking.

Just when passing the Statue of Liberty, the sun came out, and bathed all of New Jersey in a reddish gold color, making it a spectacular arrival. I had announced the approximate time of passing yesterday, so hopefully some guests were awake, as this was New York at it’s best. Just past pier 40, the old Holland America docking pier, the harbor pilot came on board for the final approach.

Great was my surprise this time, that with the docking pilot somebody else came on board. A real blast from the past. Capt. Grover Sanschagrin had come along for the ride. He had been a New York pilot for over 50 years, conned over 40.000 ships and was for years Holland America’s preferred docking pilot. Not that he did not do the other passenger ships but if the Statendam and Rotterdam would arrive in New York, he would be the preferred choice. Thus I remembered him well from the days when I came with the old Rotterdam to New York in the 1990’s. And as I was already quite bald in those days, he remembered me as well. So it was great to see him again, still as agile as ever and not aged a day.

So we docked nicely on time and the hotel department geared up for change over day. Approx. 200 pallets of supplies, luggage off, luggage on, guests off and on, and a myriad of other things going on. This time we did not have such a big crew change as the last time, so the day could progress more orderly. Also as we had had immigration in Bar Harbor, the ship was quickly cleared on arrival, giving most crew the chance to go ashore for a little while. Most of them came back laden with shopping, all to be packed up and to be taken home at the end of their contract.

An expensive item was loading 1000 tons of fuel. with a day price of $380 a ton, it was almost as if we were pumping gold on board.

We sailed on time and this is the last call for the Veendam to New York for the near future. Thus it might be a while before I will see the Big Apple again.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for writing your weblog. This “behind the scenes” information is wonderful and much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

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