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25th September, 2019

Le Verdon

Ah, a sea day tomorrow, good news! I arrived on the bridge at 0730 this morning, having left the bridge at 0400 after departure from Bordeaux, which was a little ways back upstream. Denis had the ‘Charge’ for the Pilotage for Bordeaux to Le Verdon - so the first order of the day, why we were late?

There had been quite a lot of traffic movements up and down the river which required ‘slower’ speeds, the flood flow was much stronger than the ‘pilots’ had allowed for and so the schedule as a little awry. Original plan was for 0630 alongside, this was amended to 0800, due to our deeper draft and that impact on Bordeaux, so were due to be ‘all-fast’ by 0800.

I took the Conn from the Pilot and the Charge from Denis as I panned for a ‘hot’ arrival. The berth at Le Verdon is a container terminal and hence, large and open. This afforded me lots of opportunity to abort on a fast run-in. Approaching the berth I used Saga Sapphire’s large rudder a s a brake, going from hard-to port to hard-to-starboard, a commonly used trick of a wry seafarer.

Coming alongside, with the use of a tug, I asked the Pilot why there was only two men ashore to handle the ships 14 mooring lines, 7 each end, “I am sorry Captain, one team had a car crash coming to work this morning, so we do slowly!” You’re telling me slowly! It was fortunate that I had ordered a tug, so using the tug aft pushing onto the quay and the Bow-thruster up front, we were pinned on the quay whilst we got all of our moorings out. That took an hour.

Then it was the ‘gangway’ challenge, similar to Bordeaux, only the quay here was 0.5 mete lower, creating a steeper gangway at high water. Deck 5 was the option and to use deck 5, of which was just below the quay, we needed a starboard list, to lift the port side of the ship higher. This was a solution, but it was about 10.30 by the time we got the tours away. Along night, day, night, day, or was it night, it was light so it must have been day time!

The weather was drizzling in the morning, I know, I was quayside Guest ‘director’ directing around the ‘puddles’, until we got the first tours away. There is not a lot at Le Verdon, so the shuttle busses were operating to Soulac, a seaside resort on the other side, Biscay side, of the peninsular, just ten minutes away. Reportedly very attractive.

As the afternoon drew on, the forecasted worsening conditions materialised. I had asked the Pilot if the tug could remain at Le Verdon during our stay, because I had an eye on the weather, storm force 7 blowing the ship off the quay would need tug assistance. By 1500 is was horizontal rain at 45knots. I put the tug on alert.

Planned departure was at 1600, and I could not be late as I needed high tide for sailing from Le Verdon and I needed to be on-time for Dover as arrival Dover was close to the tide-window close time. If I was thirty to 4 5minutes minutes late into Dover, I would be restricted from entering until the tide window opened four hours later. In addition, I was sailing into a Gale Force 8, in the Biscay, oh joy!!

With the ship battened–down, using the tug and bow thruster to keep the ship alongside as we let go our moorings, we blew off the berth and made our way out of the estuary. After some prolonged negotiation, I dropped the Pilot just off Le Verdon sur-Mer. He wanted to go out to the BXA buoy and be lifted by helicopter. I was having none of that, in these conditions! So he had a choice, get off at Le Verdon sur-Mer or come to Dover with me. He got the picture!

Ok then, we are out in the Biscay and I need to get down to my Farewell Cocktail party,, one thing after another. I am not sure we will make Dover on time, its rough out here and I am not making the speed. Hey ho, tomorrow as sea to see if there is a solution.

Captain Stuart Horne

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

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