By 23:00 we entered the Windward Passage and from there sailed into the Caribbean Sea. Losing our lee from Haiti by 06:00 in the morning we got 35 knots full on the port beam. The good thing is that in this area the wind is always blowing from the East and the Trade wind and the swell that it generates is as a result full on the beam. With our stabilizers in operation it means that the ship is very steady as it can compensate for the roll that might be caused by this swell. The bad thing is that 35 knots is a lot of wind. A wind like this, that has been sustaining the swell for a few days is also enhancing the current and that is not good. As a result we suffered for most of the day a current of more than 2 knots against us and over a 24 hour period that is 48 miles which we have to make up by sailing faster. Not good for the fuel consumption and it means also more wind on deck. Therefore again I kept the doors to the bow closed; but after Aruba and until Cabo San Lucas they should be open all the time during the day. They are being kept closed nowadays during the night to avoid guests falling over the threshold and to avoid the navigators getting blinded by somebody using a camera with flashlight. Taking pictures of the moon is a very popular pastime on the bow but when the moon is above the bridge then the navigators get the full flash and that does not help with their night vision. We will be aiming for 07:00 pilot tomorrow morning.
Oranjestad docks. Dock A is inside, B on the front, C behind, then D and F going in the slip and G at the container teriminal. To the far left, the reefs. Photo courtesy: Aruba Ports.
The schedule calls for us to go in first as we will also leave first. As all ships dock in a row in Oranjestad, port control tries to ensure that the first ship leaving does not have to sail past the ship in front. It can be done and it is not unsafe but when you sail out of this port, you try to find a balance on wind and speed. You try to steer a steady drift course as the strong trade wind is pushing you directly from the dock onto the reefs at the other side. If you then sail by a ship still docked, that ship acts as a wind breaker and you lose that wind push on the port beam. Then you have to find a new balance and when your ship clears you have to re-find your old balance again. That is not easy as the ship only emerges foot by foot from behind the other ship that acts as this wind buffer. So you have to make constant adjustments in a very short time period as the sail out of the harbor is only about one mile at the maximum. The Island Princess is scheduled to arrive at 10 am and is to leave at 8 pm. And then at noon time a celebrity vessel is expected and that is to sail at 11 pm. It works fine for the sequence and that means we will be docking at cruise terminal B, the IP at C, and the last one will go F berth. Which is in the slip. If the wind keeps blowing as it is doing today (35 knots in open waters) then we will have at least 20 knots when sailing into and out of port and then being “up the front” makes me very happy. Life is already difficult enough as it is.
Thus I hope that this is going to work out as the IP is 25 miles ahead of us and not coming closer at the moment. If she is aiming for 09:00 pilot, 10 am docking then she should be coming closer as we are running exactly on time for the pilot station. All will be revealed tomorrow. In the meantime we had a lot of ships to look at as this South Easterly course is cutting right through the tracks of the ships to and from the Gulf of Mexico and Venezuela. Thus we see mainly tankers coming by on the regular “oil barrel run”. The amazing thing is that they are all in different sizes. When you cross the regular container routes, most container ships are of a similar size as that dictates the service that they are giving. A supplier likes it when he/she knows that all its containers will go on board. With tankers it seems to be a different matter altogether. So we see all sorts of sizes showing up on the AIS on the radar screen. Maybe because most tankers operate on charters and in the spot market and there is therefore less regularity.
Thus we will be in Oranjestad Aruba tomorrow. Most appropriate as it is the Queen’s birthday, so where better to be than in Orange City, part of the kingdom of the Netherlands. My bo’sun has been instructed to “dress overall” for the occasion and the Hotel manager is buying Oranjebitter.