Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

As expected it was a beautiful day at sea while we sailed around the south side of Spain from Barcelona to Cadiz. This stretch of water is called the Alboran Sea after a small island that is located slap bang in the middle of it. As soon as we were out of Barcelona we “moved with the flow”; all the traffic going in the direction of Gibraltar is basically on the same track line and creates a sort of highway at sea. In the same way as you have a motorway on land, with the difference that there is no restriction in leaving, crossing or sitting still on a sea highway. Traffic going to the harbors in the Northern part of Spain, the Southern part of France and the Northern part of Italy are in the other lane a bit more to the south. On the radar you see 20 to 30 ships nicely separated by an invisible line going one way or the other.

As it was a sea day I had my regular functions, this time the “suite luncheon” a special lunch that we throw for those who occupy the most expensive cabins onboard. This is always a nice get together as it gives the suites the chance to meet their neighbors. Some meet while talking over the balcony but others never make contact. Most often this is caused by the dinner sittings. People who are on first sitting/first show are on a totally different cycle than people on second sitting/second show. Then there are those who prefer As-You-Wish- dining and they are on a different day pattern as well. I seldom see the people on the first sitting cycle, as their cocktail/dinner time already starts when I am still on the bridge for departure and thus parties are the only real opportunity to meet these guests.

Before I could tuck into lunch, we had some excitement on the bridge. We were called by two Spanish navy vessels, in very peculiar English, who wanted us to get out of the way, far out of the way. There were navy exercises going on with submarines and we were happily sailing right into it. This exercise area was indicated in the chart, but you only have to take note of it if an announcement has been made. Normally that is being done two or three days in advance and then you plan your courses around it. So we double checked all the NTM’s that we had received (Notice to Mariners) via the Nav. Tex (that is a sort telex machine that automatically spews nautical news.) But we had not received anything.

As the two navy ships were calling all the other ships as well we knew it was them not us. The issue at hand was that the Officer of the watch who called me to the bridge could not make head or tail out of the Spanish-English message. We were told that we had to sail for 10 miles and then change course to the east. Well if we get that order, we will do so but the question was, what did we have to do when we went East after 10 miles. The OOW could not make sense out of the answers, so time to delegate to the captain. Well each ship gave different variation of what to do. 10 miles fwd and then east, 190 miles fwd and change 90o, change course to the east and 10 miles fwd, change 90o and 10 miles, so we had some options.

Then suddenly out of nowhere another Spanish voice appeared which belonged to the Spanish warship 101 who did speak sufficient clear English to explain that the version we were looking for was changing course to the East (direction 090o) and to do this for 10 miles and then continue our voyage to where ever we were going. So we did. For the next half hour we enjoyed listening to them calling Russians (confused), Greeks (upset) and British (puzzled). We did not see any submarine so we will probably never find out what they were exactly doing in that area.

That extra deviation cost me quite a bit of time and so we passed Gibraltar after midnight instead of at 11 pm. Here we slowed down to 13 knots to comply with the whale speed restrictions that are in force from April until August. Not all ships were complying; there was a big container ship charging through with 25 knots but we were the good guys and complied as expected. We did not see any British Whales but when we came into the Mediterranean a month ago we did not see any Moroccan ones either. However wild life observes say that the whales are there and thus we reduce speed. The night was fine and clear so those who stayed up to see Gibraltar had a very clear view.

Tomorrow we in Cadiz and the weather looks very good again. Light winds and temperatures between 75 to 85 oF. with a cloudless sky.

To access Captain Albert’s historical writings on Holland America Line as well as photos and additional information about Prinsendam and his sailing schedule, click here.