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24th April, 2019


It was a pleasant clockwise passage around the top of Ireland, then crossing into Northern Ireland waters at around 0100 this morning,, yes, I was in bed at the time - it was going to be an early start. Someone was looking after us, as we came inside the sheltered waters off the east coast, the swell was building up near Killybegs, seemingly, we moved-on just in time.

Whilst all was going swimmingly-well today, I had a weather eye on the storm marching across the Atlantic towards southern Ireland, it looked a bit of a monster and I would need to consider my option before sailing from Belfast. More of that later!

The Pilot embarked at 0500, requiring me to be called at 0345, ouch, so early, but I was already planning my morning siesta! It was a trip down memory lane, it must have been, let’s see, yes, 19 years ago when I was working this route as a Pilot and Senior Master on the Stena Line ferries. A tough route to work, Stranraer to Belfast, always stormy! Simon, Staffy, drove in this morning. An ebb tide and slight offshore breeze, another good learning opportunity for Simon. Parked early, 0630 - I had a couple of hours to clear some paperwork before my ‘Bing-bong’ welcome to Belfast broadcast. My eyes were heavy and I was pleased to get into bed at 0830 - just a couple of hours or three!

Walking the decks in the afternoon I was really pleased to hear all the positive comments about the Explore Ashore events of the day. “Best ever Tour Guide”, “Fantastic Tour”, “Marvellous experience”, were just a few of the comments made to me.

The day generally had been cloudy, but dry until we had a light ‘departure shower’. With all back onboard for 1830, the pilot embarked and we considered the departure manoeuvre. Three options and it was a case of having Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. We started with Plan A but then morphed into Plan C. Chris, the 3rd Officer was driving out and, I venture to say it was his biggest learning experience to date. Good job Chris!

As we headed back along Belfast Lough, I reflected on my early years here. Hard years, but what a way to learn your trade of ‘driving’ ships.

Disembarking the Pilot at just before 2100, we set course to pass west of the Isle of Man an don into the Irish Sea aiming for our Dublin Pilot at 0600. That’s a 0445 call I the morning… a lie in! I’m off to my sheets with thoughts of the Atlantic storm closing in on South West Ireland. Key decisions to be made tomorrow.

Captain Stuart Horne

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

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.