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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

26th February, 2019

An early rise for the Captain as we entered the river basin, creatively named the Gambia River, at approx. 05:30 on Tuesday morning. A rolling swell followed us in as the depth shallowed off significantly, from thousands of feet deep to just 4.5ft under the ship’s bottom in the centre of the river basin. We slowed our speed accordingly, so as to prevent from encountering a phenomena called ‘ship’s squat,’ where the ship sits lower in the water as the water pressure reduces underneath the keel as it rushes past.

The sun rose at 07:24, and our local pilot boarded just a mile or so from our pier after all the hard navigational work had been done! There was a strong ebbing current of around 2kts running, with a fresh offshore breeze of around 25kts, and with it came half of the Sahara’s dust, making it one of the Bosun’s favourite ports… He and his team are responsible for keeping the exterior of the ship nice and clean!

We came alongside our cargo pier, tucked behind and opposite two cargo ships, just after 08:00. Local bands, dancers and entertainers lined the dusty quayside to provide displays which were all trying to rival the other. The noise was quite something. In between their haphazard quayside competing, tour buses and game drive vehicles were all trying to make their way through to the ship’s side for our organised tour departures as well as market stalls being set up by local vendors wanting to flog their wares as soon as passengers were down the gangway. Chaos was the only word to describe it all.

There were an abundance of local tours on offer today, ranging from luxury beach trips, to river cruises, 4WD forest adventures, city tours and even African local shows. Something for everyone. Banjul itself is a small city of some 40,000 inhabitants set on an island called St Mary’s upon which we dock, therefore it’s perfectly possible for passengers not wishing to embark on an organised tour to wander into town and admire the markets or even try the street food for those who thought their stomachs hardy enough. There are also a number of pleasant beaches nearby for those who wished to soak up the tropical sun.

Come the end of the day it was time to clamber back aboard to sail back down the river again and across the shallow basin into the gently rolling Atlantic Ocean. A sharp turn to the left (or to port, as we nautical folk tend to prefer) left us on a south-easterly heading skirting the west African countries of Guinea-Bissau & Guinea overnight, dodging a few primitive, unlit wooden fishing boats who dared to venture more than a few miles from the coast.

2,500 miles (and a lot of on-board fun planned) lay between us and our next destination of Angola…

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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