- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Technical (page 2 of 10)

29 Feb. 2020; At Sea, Approaching the Panama Canal.

The swell is not as bad as I am normally used to over here. It seems that in the last few days the strength and the angle of the wind has been slightly different than what is normal here, and as a result the swell is lower than normal and thus the ship is not rolling as much as it can do here. That different weather can happen here if there is a cold front going over Florida which did occur on February 27. Then if the tail comes low enough, the prevailing winds change and that results in less swell or a swell from another direction. It does not always happen as it depends on how the tail of such a cold front is moving over Mexico and how far south it extends. This cold front was not very nice for Florida but it works out in our favor here in the South West Caribbean as we do not have a wobbly ship.

Continue reading

28 Feb. 2020; Oranjestad, Aruba.

Aruba is a place which make captains always think about it for a second time. And that is due to the wind. The Trade Winds which blow over the whole of the Caribbean gather more and more momentum while getting further to the west and if they are already strong to start with, they are blowing a gale by the time they reach the Dutch A, B, C islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). The problem with Aruba is, that it is flat, really flat, although it has one mountain called the Hooiberg (Hay stack) but that one is too far away from the port to provide any shelter from the wind. In Willemstad, Curacao, it is not so big a problem as the docks are more in line with the Trade Winds, so the wind does not make the ship drift or (for the docks inside the port) there is some shelter from the surrounding land. Continue reading

21 Feb. 2020 Cockburn Town, Grand Turk Island.

There is a difference between the way we as sailors see the weather and the way the guests see it. For the latter, it is nice, or it rains, or it is cold or a combination of the various options. For a sailor, especially a ship handler, it is not important if it is cold or sunny or gloomy; it is all about the elements that have a direct influence on the ships behavior.  Wind, Swell and Current. 14 days ago the guests had a great day at Grand Turk, although we had to share it with a mega liner from Carnival. Today we had an even better day as we were by ourselves.  But for the captain last cruise was a very bad day as docking was on the edge of what was possible with the Veendam. Strong winds from the wrong side so when docking we had to push full power against the wind to get alongside. The current made it even worse and the help that the Carnival ship could have rendered by acting as a wind breaker, did not happen as she only arrived 2 hours later. Then today things were much better. First of all we docked at the other side of the dock, so instead of pushing against the wind, we could break the momentum that the wind was giving the ship, which is much easier; and there was a lot less wind, swell and current, so everything was well within the parameters of feasibility.  On top of that as a bonus for the guests, we were the only ship in port today. So all reserved solely for the 1200 guests we had on board. Continue reading

15 Feb. 2020; Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

By 0700 hours we arrived at the anchorage of Georgetown Grand Cayman with good weather and what would turn out to be a glorious day. The two other cruise ships were arriving at the same time each going to their designated anchorage. Sort of, as the Aida Diva decided to stay on the engines. We got somehow the impression that the captain there was on his first visit to Grand Cayman and had never experienced anchoring on the ledge and then letting the wind keep you off the island. So they hovered close by. No problem for us, as long as each ship stays at their own anchorage area as it is all quite tight here. My old school buddy from 1976-1981 thinks that I am / we are completely nuts to do this sort of things as, according to him, nobody in his right mind would rely on the wind not to run aground. I think from my side that he is completely nuts by sailing on a container ship with only 20000 boxes to talk to, but sailing box-boats is also a special skill, so each to its own. Continue reading

12 Feb. 2020: Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Today it was a Holland America day here with only us and the Koningsdam in port. She docked at Pier 26 which is the Holland America Terminal and which is considerably larger then terminal 19 or 20. It would even be a tight fit for the Koningsdam to be alongside pier 19. But the handy size of the Veendam fits nearly everywhere and thus we went back to terminal 19 where we were last cruise as well. Easy for the guests who only sailed with us for one week, as most of them had parked in the garage just across the road. So none of the confusion we sometimes have when due to the planning of the harbormaster and the congestion of the port a ship ends up at a completely differrent place. That does not happen that often on 7 day cruises, but it does happen on 9, 10, 11 and 12 day cruises were every so often you hit the weekend cycle of the other ships and they then go to their regular berth. I have had it in the past that one week, we were  at berth 19 and 11 days later we were at berth 4, which is at the other side of the Harbor basin. A logistical headache for the shore team was the result. Of course it always works out, but if one can avoid it……………… Continue reading

11 Feb. 2020: At Sea, Day 2.

We lost our cork screw motion during the night, courtesy of the swell changing to a direction a bit more onto the beam and thus the stabilizers could do their job. To the relief of some of our guests, but the swimmers did enjoy the slow rolling of the pool when swimming. When the pool water gets too wild we close the pools but when it is only a gentle roll it is quite pleasant to be lifted up by the water and to be lowered again. Not for nothing are wave pools ashore very popular, there they have to be constructed with complicated equipment, here on the ships we get them free of charge whenever Mother Nature feels like it. Continue reading

10 Feb. 2020 at Sea Day 1:

We have two sea days to get back to Fort Lauderdale and today is the first one. We are sailing with the wind and the sea and thus it is perfect weather on deck. Although one guest was complaining that it was now too warm because the breeze was gone. I tried to explain the concept of following wind but that was too nautical a topic to really understand. So I tried to explain it by using a cabriolet car as an example because then you have the same effect on land. But the comment was “Don’t like open top cars”. So I did not get very far. But most guests enjoyed the fact that they were not blown all over the place, when stepping out of the shelter of the superstructure, as happens when going the other way. Continue reading

8 Feb. 2020, San Juan Puerto Rico

With all engines fired up we raced for San Juan pilot station, put him on board, made a sharp turn to starboard and sailed into the port.  San Juan is one of those ports that are interesting to sail into, as the old town is right on top of the harbor entrance and then the ship curves around that area as the cruise piers are right behind it. That then gives the advantage that one can walk straight off the ship into the old town and do so just by crossing the street.  We were on pier 3 today which is about as close as a cruise passenger can get. There is also a pier 1 that is sometimes used for cruise ships (on a busy) day but that pier was today occupied by a private yacht The Eclipse (and if I have my records correct, that yacht is owned by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame and is arguably the biggest yacht in the world) Opposite was the USCG cutter Bear which is too large to dock at the USCG station at the corner of the port.  Then came pier 3, with the Sirena of Oceana Cruises on the West side, us on the East side, and at pier 4 west we had the Star Breeze from Windstar Cruises. This ship used to be one of the smaller Seabourn ships and was sold off to Windstar when Seabourn started a new build program. The funny thing is, that Windstar was once a subsidiary of Holland America and Seabourn still is. So it remains a sort of in the family happening with the way the tonnage is moved around. At a new terminal to the East were the Vision of the Seas and the Celebrity Summit. Those docks are far, far away from downtown and are normally used for change over days. Continue reading

7 Feb. 2020; Grand Turk Island.

If there is a sustained wind, then eventually the waves will pick up, and during the night we felt the occasional bump in the road. But as the Captain had kept up the speed during the day when the seas were still smooth, by the time the “potholes” in the sea started to arrive, the Veendam had slowed enough to still provide a gentle ride. Although the weather forecast had promised a windy day, it was a lot windier than forecast. The sort of winds that gives captains grey hair, or as in my case, make them go bald. Continue reading

07 December 2019; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

The weather forecast that promised us nice weather yesterday, is what we got today, and thus it was a good day. We were the only ship in and thus it was an even better day. There was just a gentle breeze blowing as we are sandwiched again in between various weather systems laying off the East and West Caribbean systems that will not bother us but helped with keeping the Trade Winds down to something very nice and gentle. Continue reading

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