Tropical Storm Norman did an un-expected thing during the night by bouncing off the Mexican mainland in the Sea of Cortez and crossing straight over to the West and going ashore on the East side of the California Peninsula. That had quite a bit of influence on our weather today. Instead of the rain clouds following Norman to the east and also coming over Puerto Vallarta, they now followed more to the West and that created a dry and sunny day in the town. For some who do not like too a high a temperatures it was a mixed blessing as the thermometer hit 34oC (93oF) in the afternoon. The moisture in the air made for very humid conditions and thus we had our first real tropical day of this cruise. As it is still the rainy season we will have a quite few more of these.
We arrived at the pilot station at 07.00 hrs only to find out that the pilot was not ready. Somewhere there had been a Mexican mix up and the pilot time and docking time had been switched. For Puerto Vallarta not an unusual occurrence. I do not need a pilot but it is compulsory to have one on board and thus I had to wait. Luckily the senior pilot who was officially off duty was in the neighborhood and saw us approaching. So he jumped on the pilot boat and our delay was minimal. It gave him a good cup of coffee to drink in the early morning, while I docked the ship opposite WallMart.
Today we had three ships in with us at 08.00. Star Princess at 10.00 at berth 1 and the Norwegian Jewel at 11.00 at berth 3. Each port has its own way of deciding which ship goes where, but for most ports the bottom line is that the ship with the largest number of guests will dock the closest to the shops. Hence the Star Princess on berth 1. Our dock is the smallest of the three berths in port and thus it made sense that we went there. It might have been a longer walk for the guests to get into town but it did make my crew happy, as the exit gate is right across from the supermarket. So all day long there was a steady stream of crew going to and from, stocking up on the necessary supplies. In Alaska Juneau is a good port for that, with Cosco, K Mart and Home depot, but the prices are higher there.
The Hotel Director and the Human Resources Manager went ashore to get dry eraser’s, fans and paint drip trays, which we still needed for our Corinto project while I was occupied with figuring a way out of the port on departure. The Statendam was the first to leave and it is routine that you swing around in the port and sail nose out. With two other ships in port the swinging circle would be a bit tight, so I opted to sail stern out. I had done that a few times last season to the utter amazement of the pilot and today it seemed to be the most perfect maneuver. As there is not that much space anyway it was of utmost importance that the officers forward, aft, and on the other bridge wing would know exactly , minute to minute, how I was going to move the ship through the port. Thus we did an extensive simulation on the bridge after coffee time.
By 16.50 I moved the ship off the dock and under great interest of the pilot we moved stern way through the harbor. He should not have been that amazed as this morning the Norwegian Jewel backed in to the berth. Going out of the port, the critical part comes the moment you go past berth 1 with the stern. The docked ship there, in this case the Star Princess, acts as a wind shield for the turning basin. That wind then suddenly catches the stern and you have to be ready to counteract it. Next point is when clearing the breakwater, now the current starts pushing, or pulling, depending on ebb or flood. The best way to avoid that is to keep the speed up. The faster you go, the less drift there is. Altogether that makes maneuvering with a ship great fun.
By 17.15 we were on our merry way to our next port of call Hualtalco de Santa Cruz. Tomorrow we will be at sea and eventually we will be overtaken by the Norwegian Jewel who will go in first, as she is the earlier leaving ship. In Puerto Chiapas it will be the other way around. We should have a windless day tomorrow or maybe a bit of wind from the stern and a lot of sunshine.