- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Staff & Crew (page 1 of 5)

26 July 2019: Ketchikan, Alaska.

Today we visited the Ketchikan I recognize; living to its title, the rainy capital of the world. Still it was not that bad, the 50%+ amount of rain came down in drizzle and light rain and not in downpours. Plus there was hardly any wind and that kept the temperature reasonable. And thus most of our guests marched happily off the gangway to sample the delights of Ketchikan and beyond. (Not that far beyond as the roads do stop at a certain moment) Luckily for watching wildlife you do not have to have dry weather as the wildlife is there regardless of the weather. All the berths were full today at least until 13.00 hrs. when the Oosterdam left; followed by the Norwegian Bliss but she was replaced by the Celebrity Eclipse. Continue reading

24 July 2019: Haines, Alaska.

We had a 50% chance of rain and we got it. 50% wet in the morning and 50% dry in the afternoon. Haines remained overcast all day and the weather stuck to the 50%. Our scheduled neighbors did not show up but we had an ex Holland America Line ship with us in the Marina. So not a big ship but a former tour boat from Westours from the 1980’s.  A nice little boat from the days that our operations were still small and a 1000 guests a day in port (One ship the ss Rotterdam V) was a big day for the shopkeepers and the tours. The Glacier Queen I soon became too small and was then replaced with the Glacier Queen II.  Later on all the tour boats were sold and we are now just hiring for the season. I believe the current tour boats in the Lynn Canal are owned by the local tribe who basically runs the same tours as we used to do in the 70’s and 80’s. Especially in the days that Holland America did not call at Skagway but used a Tour boat, the Fairweather, to transport guests from Auke Bay near Juneau through beautiful Lynn Canal up to Skagway. Those guests did three days on the ship and then went inland. A similar number came the other way and then sailed the other 3 days on board. (For that we did not count arrival Vancouver as a separate day). So the good old Glacier Queen is still there and it looks that she is under re-construction as since last week her aft super structure has changed.

The ms Glacier Queen (I) in service on the Lynn Canal and related in the late seventies and early eighties.

We were having a drill day in Haines and that consisted of an Emergency Response drill (Gathering of the initial response teams) and a General Emergency Alarm (= everybody assembling at the lifeboat and life raft stations). Most of the time the First Response Teams are called to deal with a Fire emergency, but that is not always the case. The First Alarm is there to gather as quickly as many skilled crew as possible to offer a quick response to an escalating situation. Today that was an unconscious crewmember in a ships tank. Crewmembers dying in ships tanks is one of the major death causes in the Merchant Marine. There are about 62000 ships out there that go deep sea and it is estimated that approx. 500 crew die every year from entering a tank and then succumbing from fumes and/or lack of oxygen. All caused by not following (or not having or not knowing) the required protocols.

Mr. Dummy has been winched out of the deep tank by means of a tripod and is about to be handed over to Medical. The plastic bag over his head is an Emergency Breathing Device which is connected to the orange pouch in which there is a small air bottle.

If this happens then you have to get the person out again, hopefully quick enough so that he/she is still alive. For that we have a plethora of equipment on board. When asked by the Engine Room staff I try to set something up in the Bo ‘sun store. That is much bigger than a tank, but it has a small hatch to the deck below and then everybody can gather around and get an idea of what it is.  So we dropped Mr. Dummy in the tank, sent a rescue squad down with Emergency air bottles, put Mr. Dummy in a special medical harness (Neil Robertson stretcher) and winched Mr. Dummy out of the tank again. We do have all that equipment on board.

The General Emergency Alarm stage consisted of Life raft training and for that we do inflate a life raft. A training life raft that we ourselves can repack. (We cheat a bit as we do not have to keep the normally required inventory of food and water inside). The real life rafts stay in their canisters and are landed ashore once every two years and are then opened, inspected and repacked. That is work for specialists and we would need a lot of training to do this ourselves. So we don’t and we can’t as the rafts needs to be re-certified for the next two years by an authorized surveyor.  

The life rafts would normally be inflated during an emergency so the occupants can step inside on the embarkation deck. If the ship would sink so fast that there was no time for this, then the life rafts would float free from their cradles once 2 meters under water. (Each life raft has a Hydrostatic Release which under water pressure clicks open and releases the securing straps)

Loading a life raft. The Raft Commander and Assistant Commander sit astride in the opening and pull in the crew as quickly as possible and divide them evenly in the liferaft do it does not tilt to one side.

The life rafts are prepared by a launch team which is made up of Cooks from the Kitchen. We have four launch cranes with each six rafts. The legal requirement is for everybody to be off the ship in 30 minutes after the Abandon Ship Alarm has sounded, so the Cooks have to inflate, make ready for embarkation and then lower away into the water 6 rafts in 30 minutes. That is 5 minutes per raft, including 35 crew hopping in. We manage this but it needs a lot of training to reach that level of proficiency. Hence the reason that we have weekly drills.

Tomorrow we are in Juneau. And then we will not be alone as the Celebrity Eclipse, The Norwegian Jewel and the Carnival Legend will keep us company and the shopkeepers happy. Weather:  Overcast with a 60% of showers and 16oC /61oF but not much wind so it will not be chilly.

Continue reading

23 July 2019; Glacier Bay, Alaska.

With overcast skies, but dry weather, we sailed into Glacier Bay. The lack of glare from the sun gave excellent visibility and the Rangers were able to point out all sorts of wild life that otherwise might have been hard to see. Mountain Goats (conveniently grouping in clusters) were clearly visible against the grey stone of the mountains and whales were frolicking in the middle of the middle bay while we were sailing up towards the Glacier. On the way up we look for mountain goats by sailing along a steep cliff side and on the way down we sail past a small island which normally is inhabited by sea lions. Often Stellar Sea Lions which are quite rare. With our ships we normally only see them when sailing past Cape Spencer (so this morning) and when we are going to Valdez. So the rangers are quite excited to point them out to everybody on board. Continue reading

22 July 2019: Gulf of Alaska.

The forecast lived up to the weather or vice versa and we are having a very quiet day in the Gulf. Last night the bridge team paid the price for that sunny Seward day and had to find its way through dense fog for a while. But weather systems are local and now we are back in the system that dominated the weather we had before coming to Seward. Overcast with rain in the distance. Also for the coming days showers have been predicted but with percentages under 50% and that is enough to make us happy.  50% and over means it will rain but not all the time, 50% and under means it might rain but not necessarily. All reasons to be positive while we are heading back towards Vancouver. Continue reading

18 July 2019; Skagway, Alaska.

Skagway lies at the end of the Lynn Canal which is a long and narrow fjord that pierces deeply into the mountain ranges on the border of USA and Canada. As a matter of fact it is only a short drive from the port up the road to get to that border. I did that once, a number of years ago, with a friendly Alaskan pilot who had a car there and who wanted to show me a regular border crossing and not the big work that I was used to when coming into the USA or Canada to join the ships. As everybody knows everybody here the CPB officer was more than willing to have a chat as business was slow. All he processed thus far in the morning, was one RV, two cars and a Moose. The appearance of the moose was a fairly regular occurrence but most of the time the animal avoided the road and crossed the border through the greenery, today it had attempted to do so by road and that had caused some divertissement when it came to the barrier. But the CPB Officer was getting ready for the arrival of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry that arrives around 13.00 hrs. in the summer and sends ashore a whole convoy of RV’s and trucks that come up from the lower states and then go on into the interior.  Those going north are not a problem for the Americans, they let the Canadians deal with them; those coming south and are not a problem for the Canadians, they let the Americans deal with them. And by ignoring the Moose the whole world was perfectly in balance. Continue reading

14 July 2019; Vancouver, Canada.

It is my personal opinion that for a compact large city, Vancouver is one of the nicest ports to sail into, together with Venice and maybe Naples. With compact I mean, you enter and there is constantly something to see. New York is also impressive with the Verrazano Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan but it is all far apart.  Same for San Francisco, again an impressive bridge, followed by Alcatraz but is takes place over a considerable distance. Vancouver only takes 30 minutes from 1 mile before the Lions Gate Bridge to the dock and in those 30 minutes there is a constant impact on the senses. I have never heard anybody complaining on the bridge about sailing into Vancouver while normally, a long sail in gives rise to grumbles among the navigators; and they are very good in grumbling. (Not to say moaning). Continue reading

10 July 2019: Haines, Alaska.

Haines is always an early morning arrival as the first tour, with the tour boat, from Haines leaves at 06.00 hrs. That is a very beautiful scenic cruise up the Lynn Canal to Skagway and by that time it is full day light so nobody has to miss anything from the scenery. Today it was day light with a golden glow. It was wind still all day and thus the smoke/soot of the forest fires hung still between the mountains on either side of the fjord. Beautiful to see but it should not be there of course. The people inland are praying for rain so the fires will be extinguished and then we will only have the golden glow again, at the time it supposed to be here, during the Indian summer in autumn. But it made for wonderful views today. Continue reading

30 June 2019; At Sea, Final Prinsendam Cruise day.

Today we are sailing in the North Sea and are on our way home to Amsterdam. This is our final port of destination and the end of the final cruise of the ms Prinsendam. Voyage 307 will come to an end and with it 17 years of cruising under the Holland America Line banner.  All guests and 270+ of the crew will disembark but a small skeleton crew will sail her to Hamburg. There she will be handed over in Dry dock after the new owner has checked if all the propellers are still there. The last of the crew will then leave on the 7th. of July.  The ship will receive an extensive refit and come back into service in August. Not too much will change. The Casino will go out and be replaced by 10 new Guest Cabins and the Explorers Lounge will receive a new bar area. Continue reading

29 June 2019: Bergen, Norway.

Today we are in Bergen after having sailed the Inside Passage between Flam and Bergen with very sunny weather.  Although we had a bit of mixed weather this cruise, the sun has been coming out at the right moments with the extra bonus of having sunshine in Honnigsvag.  So a very good last cruise for our elegant explorer. While I am writing today’s blog, the weather in Bergen is following the weather forecast. It was sunny in the morning, overcast in the afternoon and it looks like rain in the evening. Weather forecasting for Bergen is not always easy as the port is surrounded on three sides by mountains so only when the weather comes in straight from the west, you can be spot on; with weather from other directions it can be a bit hit and miss as the (rain) clouds can bounce of the mountains bringing more and or stop the rain from coming over. But today it sort of worked out in accordance with the forecast plan. Continue reading

28 June 2019: Flam, Norway.

Yesterday we sailed from Geiranger around 16.00 hrs. and made a 360o swing stop at the Seven Sisters waterfall on the way out. As part of the goodbye celebrations for the ship, the company had arranged for a deck party with complimentary drinks. So the deck area around the Lido Pool was packed with guests enjoying snacks such as Dutch Bitterballen and Indonesian Sate and free drinks.

Party on deck with all the flags out, drinks, bitterballen and above it all the Seven Sisters Waterfall

With the ships officers and (guest) entertainers circulating among the guests a good time was had by all while watching the impressive scenery. It was a bit strange for me as I was always on the bridge when we were here but now being a guest entertainer for this cruise, my place was in the bar. I did not need much time to adapt myself fully to the new circumstances…………………. Continue reading

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