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5th May, 2019

St Petersburg

Riga, seems such a long time ago. The day at sea on Friday had us navigating eastbound and entering the Gulf of Finland around 1500 that afternoon. The overnight passage drew us further into the far reaches of the Baltic. At 0430 yesterday morning we embarked the Pilot. It’s a narrow navigation channel running up to St Petersburg with multiple ‘disciplines’ required, of which only a Russian Pilot can execute. My Russian is poor!

It’s a challenging passage inward in windy conditions. Having corrected the Pilot several times, the Saga Sapphire is not your average ‘highly’ manoeuvrable old girl, before approaching the ‘basin’, I took over ‘conn’ from the pilot. Understanding the ships characteristics was a higher priority than allowing the Russian Pilot navigate the channel’s. We made our approach to the large purpose built cruise basin where any number of Cruise vessels can park, its packed in the summer.

The wind had freshened all morning and now it was 40knots plus. As I approached the basin the Pilot advised that I only had the option of one tug and so, this was going to be an ‘on the edge of your seat’ manoeuvre. To boot, it was Icey, head-freezing cold type of cold. Really uncomfy. Out on the bridge wing, having manage to swing the ship through the wind, the Saga Sapphire set astern on the wind at over 2knots. It does not sound a lot, but I had one engine turning ahead!

The long-story short we managed to park safe and sound, but, by-Jove, how cold it was; it felt like minus 10!

Fortunately, when I awoke and came on the Bridge this morning, hey presto, the sun was shining and the wind gone. St Pete’s is such a great port of call, so much to do and see - it’s almost exhausting to be relaxing on holiday!

The day drew to a close and the feedback was quite outstanding. Another successful Port of Call. I delayed departure because Kayleigh, our marvellous Cruise Director, who had arranged for a local folkloric trop to come onboard and perform in the Britannia Lounge, just before sailing. ‘Run of the mill’ I thought, but how wrong I was. What a fantastic show, really quite outstanding.

So, with the show ‘troop’ ashore at 1845, it was time to head back west and out of Russian waters. Manoeuvring out of a tight slot between the floating blocks of flats [aka large cruise vessels] John, the 4th Officer, positioned the ship in the channel before giving the ‘conn’ to the pilot.

Once well on our well, I gave the ’charge’ to Simon, my Staff Captain, so that could ‘clear’ my desk and have an early night.

We are on our way to Kotka.

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.