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25th March, 2019


It was pleasant sea passage north from the Canaries, seas were moderate and we had good sunny intervals. The Orca team, whom have been onboard throughout, found the day to be ideal for ‘spotting’. They have had a successful cruise!

The speed ‘up-hill’ was a at maximum load for the engines and closing onto the Portuguese coast early this morning the strong ebb tide played its hand and slowed us down by 3 knots. We were just about on time for the Pilot.

Entering the ‘bar’; the outer most part of the river Tagus delta at 10.00, the conditions were ideal for a spectacular passage up the river and into the heart of Lisbon. Before turning east, following the axis of the river, the waterway looks to be wide and open; but lurking beneath are the ‘ever’ changing sand banks that severely restrict clear navigable water. At 1035 we turned east for the passage to our berth.

It a 10 nautical mile run along the river before we embark the Pilot off Belem Tower - fighting the ebb tide we were a tad late on embarking the Pilot, just after 1100. On the navigation bridge after discussing the manoeuvre during what we call the ‘MPX’ , Master Pilot Exchange, the Pilot was surprised I was attempting to berth ‘starboard’ side alongside in such strong ebb conditions. Unfortunately, I had operational reasons to be starboard side alongside and I was going to have to make it work one way or the other. It was a fabulous run up the river and the usual spectacle of navigating under the Bridge, that connects the city of Lisbon to the north and Almada to the south, stood up to expectation.

In summary, it took me an hour to manoeuvre alongside using the tidal flow, at 2 knots, and the opposing wind to execute a controlled drift. I remarked to the Guests watching the manoeuvre “have you ever watched paint dry”! All told, I was 45 minutes late alongside and being cognisant of the ‘tight’ tour scheduled planned for Lisbon, and in agreement with Leo, Shore ex manager, we extended the stay from 1800 to 1900; having calculated a marginal impact on the passage speed from Lisbon to Southampton, 0.2 of a knot.

What a day, hot or what! 27 degrees in the shade at 1400 in the afternoon. True, a bit of a breeze prevailed, but I think that was quite welcome by most.

A pleasant day rapidly drew to a close on our visit to this fantastic port of Lisbon. The ship preparing for a 1900 departure, we still had three tour coaches outstanding. Rush hour I thought. That didn’t form part of my strategic thinking when agreeing to extend our stay. True enough, Leo reported in declaring the coaches were in the mix of heavy Monday evening traffic. It was 1950 by the time the last of our Guest walked up the gangway making our delay to schedule two hours.

With the Pilot onboard, James, my 2nd Officer, took the ship off the berth and ‘conned’ the ship down to the Belem Pilot station, nice job James. Clear of the No2 buoy, the outer most marker of the Tagus delta, we turned NNW and made passage for Southampton. The delay had caused the required speed to move from 15.2 knots to 15.5 knots, all well within the Saga Sapphires ‘speed’ armoury.Better sign off now, lots to do, it’s time to prepare for my handover to Captain Burgess, I have been here two weeks, one can’t work too hard!

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.