Sometimes I have the feeling that there is a sort of curtain between Alaska and Canada when it comes to the weather. Although I cannot really prove it as it can rain tremendously in Vancouver and Seattle as well. But yesterday was one of those days where it really looked like it. With every mile the ship sailed south the weather improved. From the remnants of Ketchikan misery in the morning, to a sunny afternoon in the Inside Passage. A very nice ending of the cruise for the guests as their whole voyage had not been that great weather wise.
Slack tide at Seymour Narrows this evening was is at 20.25 hrs. what we call an early tide. This implies that we have to be earlier than what our average schedule calls for and then sail with a very slow speed towards Vancouver. If we have a late tide than we sail slowly towards Seymour Narrows and then have to go full speed to Vancouver. A normal tide (anytime between 23.00 hrs. and 00.30 hrs.) means we can sail with the average cruise speed. Normally there is a window of about an hour on each side of the slack tide and this gives some leeway in setting the transit time so not all ships are there at the same time. Thus the captain had to bring the ship fairly early towards Seymour Narrows and thus we collected the pilot at Pine Island at 13.00 hrs. instead of around 3 or 4 pm. Pine Island is located at the North West side of Vancouver Island and we use that pilot station if we want to sail without Canadian Pilots for the first leg of the voyage. Something we have to do if we want to make the early tide. If we go all the way inside, which is preferable during inclement weather, then we board the B.C pilots at Triple Island. Located just outside Prince Rupert at the USA border. Coming from Ketchikan there is not much reason for contemplating to go inside when the weather is nice as it is all dark, so we cannot see the scenery and nobody is there to look at it as all the guests are in bed.
Arriving early afternoon at Pine Island is a good time as it gives all the guests ample time to be out and about, especially if the weather is nice. Plus nobody has to worry about packing as there is enough time for that as well later on. Thus we sailed through Blackney Passage for looking for Killer Whales, then through Race Passage looking for the racing current through there and finally transiting Seymour Narrows at slack tide. No line of Ocean Liners or cruise ships going through this time, we were nicely by ourselves and tomorrow we will be the only cruise ship at Canada Place as well. The season is ending and most cruise ships are already on their journey south back to the warm weather. The ms Volendam will be closing the season for us in Alaska as they will visit Alaska one more time while starting their crossing to the Far East. They are hoping for some nice weather as they have Dutch Harbor on their list and by October you really are in “bad weather alley” so you need a bit of luck.
So what do we do if we only have to make slow speed to Vancouver. There are various options and it varies from sailing on one propeller or one pod, to sailing minimum speed on two Azipods and with a minimum number of engines on line. Except for the Prinsendam, all our ships are now Diesel Electric and the speed made depends on the number of engines providing electricity. So we can sail with a speed which is too slow for a number of hours and then bring another engine on line to catch up again. In that way the engines on line are always ran on their optimum power which is the most fuel efficient. Squeezing an engine down to 70 or 65% of its normal output is not good for the engine and not very fuel efficient. Much better to have them at their regular capacity of 85% and then bring another engine on line also at its most fuel efficient setting and catch up again.
At sea we normally run with a minimum of two engines, so if one stops, we still have the other one and then when entering port a configuration of two or three engines is set depending on the power that is needed. Especially in windy weather when we might need all the horses we can get to push the ship alongside and much more than two engines are needed. And sometimes we have 4 out of 5 going to make it happen.
Tomorrow we are in Vancouver and we will be leaving the Alaska season behind. Although not completely as there is supposed to be chance of rain. I hope to get to my favorite 2nd hand bookshop on West Pender with a small hope that there is something which I still miss in my collection.