19th September, 2019
Well, that is not a good start to the cruise. I was just explaining to the Guest what a fabulous cruise we had ahead of us, six ports and four sea days, just about the perfect balance, when, in came the weather forecast. Guernsey, that of St. Peter-Port, is an exposed port and is an ‘anchorage’ port for the Saga Sapphire. Keeping an eye on the forecast, it looked to be ok, indeed, three days out I thought we were in for a fantastic day.
However, at departure the latest forecast in, from our providers, showing a NE’ly force 7 for the afternoon off Guernsey. NE’ly force 7 and choppy seas is just not ‘safe’ to operate; it’s a difficult act to get our Guests down the deck 5 accommodation ladder, onto the floating platform and then helped into the non-synchronous moving Tender. No fun at all
In quick, but considered, discussion with my Head-Office, we agreed the safest route was to abort the call. What a message I had to give just as we were sailing! So yesterday became a day-at-sea. Because of the balance of the itinerary, ships speeds and port-spread, it just was not possible to ‘slip-in’ a replacement port. So, it was direct to Lorient.
The day at sea was quite fantastic. Even though a NE’ly force 7 gale was blowing, it was ‘going’ with the ship and so the open deck conditions were super - the outside BBQ lunch buffet went down a treat. Clearly, some Guests were disappointed to miss Guernsey, as would I, but safety first.
Last night we left the English Channel and crossed into the Biscay at around 2200 as we passed the NW corner of France at Ushant. That infamous stretch of water, hm, looked rather tame as we head southwards.
Lorient was an inaugural call for the Saga Sapphire and indeed for many staff and Guests, we were lucky to find it… only joking!!
The Pilot was embarked at 0730 as we headed upstream, Not a long Pilotage but a rather narrow waterway, particularly at Port Louis. The wind was gusting 20 knots, making it an interesting navigational challenge, I cautiously approached the berth, yes, I am driving again. I know, I know, what’s all this ‘working’ for a living Captain Horne! Berthed in ample time, the Guest proceeded ashore, well, trickled off, at 0900, it was still breakfast time.
It was a fine, if not a brisk day. On the Pilotage in, the area looked quite beautiful, I could not say the same for the berth area, rather industrial. That said, cruise ships are a ‘new’ thing for the Port of Lorient. So development for the port, I think, is inevitable.
Because it was an inaugural, we had the requisite ‘Plaque’ presentation and I have to say, the Lorient representatives, port and commercial were really pleased to see us. Kirsty, the Social Hostess gave them the rounds of the ship whilst I dashed up to the ‘singles-mingle’.
A fine day and it soon drew to a close. With all Guests onboard by 1730, we landed the gangway and made preparations for departure. Staffy Denis was on the sticks tonight and what a challenge he had. The wind had slowly increased and was gusting 30-35knots, the limit for Saga Sapphire, even with two tugs. Lifting off the berth at 1800, Denis manoeuvred parallel off the berth, it was like watching paint dry. With the Tugs at full power we inched, literally inched, ourselves off the quay face.
Once far enough off, repositioning the tugs, Denis swung the bow to port and we retraced our arrival passage out-bound. Dropping the Pilot at 1930, we set course South-westerly across the Bay of Biscay towards Vigo. Vigo, one of my ‘passed-years’ favourite ports of call.
Welcome Cocktail party tonight, busy busy…
Captain Stuart Horne
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