After leaving Dover, on the July 27, where we had once again choreographed a full loading of the ship with stores and disembarked and embarked all our passengers, we were heading off on our Baltic cruise. These are very popular cruises and we had a full ship of guests.
We arrived at the Kiel Canal the next day, and transited through the night, finally disembarking our pilot at Kiel at 03.15am the following morning. We then set course for the Great Belt Seaway and were approaching the pilot station at Korsor midday, on July 29. This was going to be a very unusual approach, one that took me by surprise as the events unfolded....
The wind had reached gale force conditions as we approached, under the shadow of the spectacular Korsor Bridge. Korsor was the port where all the ferries ran back and forth before the bridge was built. I remember sailing past here in 1989, when I was a young 3rd officer on a bulk carrier and they were still building the bridge. I remember vividly the massive towers under construction.
We had called the pilot station an hour before to tell them of our impending arrival, and when we reached the pilot station , as normal we reported in. However to my surprise, the pilot station told me the pilot was on his way out to us, but had fallen seriously ill, and had to go back ashore and be taken to hospital! This has never happened before. No pilot was available for another two hours so I was asked if I wanted to bring the ship in myself. I was happy to do this but needed some more information about the approaches, as we had never been here before.
So, we asked various questions about depths etc, in order that we could make a safe approach. All the while, I was trying to hold position in the high winds. Anyway we agreed to proceed so I called the pilot station to confirm this, they then said a pilot would be with us in 10 minutes. How extraordinary, and it wasn’t the two hours they had initially told me.
We boarded the pilot and off we set. As we sailed in, I was asking the pilot what happened to the other pilot and it turns out he was in fact the original pilot, who suddenly made a remarkable recovery. He had kidney stones, and I am sure you all know how painful they could be. I asked if he wanted my doctor on standby on the Bridge, but he declined.
The berth has the old railway station building situated on it, where the ferries would land their passengers to the train. These days are long gone but the station is a listed building and has been restored. An enthusiastic welcome was given to the ship from the people of the town – even the local school came out to cheer us on! Looking at these young children cheering and waving the flags, pulled on my heartstrings and I was soon thinking about my new son. Our Staff Captain’s wife, Kelly is also expecting a baby soon, and we both felt homesick at that point. Can you believe it, two burly seafarers, reduced to these emotions by the children!
Korsor is a pleasant old maritime provincial town attractively situated on the Great Belt Coast. With the coaches ready we were able to commence our initial tours of the cruise.
The excursion programme today offered a couple of interesting tours, the most popular being ‘Korsor town and around the cove’. A three-hour tour, this entailed seeing the local sites, including a visit to the old fortress of Korsor, originally built as a castle but since transformed into a naval battery to protect the all – important waterway into the cove. The main highlight of this tour was a stop at Halskov Odde , the peninsula where the Great Belt Bridge from 1998 makes landfall. There was also a chance to visit the Ice Boat Museum displaying the historic iceboats used to cross the Great Belt during severe ice winters.
Another tour on offer today was entitled ‘In the footsteps of Hans Christian Anderson’, and this tour allowed our passengers to get an insight of the private life that Hans Christian Anderson led until his dying day. Both excursions today were enjoyed by all.
Sailing out was a little more eventful. With thunderstorms in the air, we had to carry out many tricks to get the ship away from this confined port. As the wind was pinning us onto the quay, we could not get off the berth so in the end, had to run a stern line across the harbour to haul the ship away. It was classic seamanship and as the wind was so strong, I couldn’t turn the ship in the harbour so drove the ship out the harbour astern!
A great start to this busy voyage. Our Welcome Cocktail Party was held before dinner and then we were treated to a lively and entertaining performance by ‘The man with the golden banjo’ Steve Galler.