19th January, 2020
Well, not a so-nice Caribbean today! After a bit of a buffeting ride south last night, from Tortola, we arrived off Basseterre at 0630. I arrived a little early to assess the weather because the Trade Winds had reached storm force 7 overnight. Basseterre, unlike so many of the Caribbean Islands, is not well sheltered form the Trades, or easterlies as they are sometime referred.
I was scheduled to berth on the western ‘finger’, using the upwind berth, making berthing a little easier in the prevailing conditions. Nonetheless, with 25 knots of wind at the berth, it was going to be an exercise in the margins. Having discussed the manoeuvre with the Pilot, he then exclaimed, having made my approach - no, no captain, you go to this berth, pointing to the eastern finger!
As regular Blog readers know, with the Saga Sapphire, a well-executed berthing starts with having the ship in the right place for the approach. Well, that wasn’t happening this morning! Fortunately the port had available a ‘stand-by’ tug, a 65 tonne bollard-pull vessel, a useful tool to have hanging around. I employed the tug and after about an hour of struggling, we managed to get the ship alongside against the wind.
Once all ‘tied-up’, I reassessed the situation and whilst in the margins, I felt it was ‘good-enough’ for our Tours to be released and for Guest to go ashore. Within the hour the wind gusts became the steady wind speed, with gusts now reaching 35 knots. I recalled the ‘tug’ and asked for her to push me alongside, and remain on-station pushing at full power, because the ship was stretching her moorings to the maximum desirable in the conditions.
My thinking was that I would need the tug for an hour or so because one of these large floating blocks of flats, aka ‘a cruise ship’, was due in at 11.00 and this would be a useful as it would be a natural wind break for the Saga Sapphire. Guess what, 11.00 came and went and no big wind-break arrived. Enquiring with the Port of the whereabouts of my ‘wind-break’ I was advised, “she has aborted the call, it’s too windy”. Wow, that’s not useful, I thought!
By 1230 the wind was up to 45 knots gusts and the tug, along with all our mooring lines were struggling to keep the ship alongside and so I put a stop to all ‘shore-leave’, no one else to proceed ashore!
Shortly after that I made plans for departure, I had 200 Guests and 25 crew ashore, most of the Guests being independent. It was windy and lashing with rain, I had to consider leaving them behind.
With the Agent looking to secure accommodation and transport for Guests and crew to out next port , Guadeloupe, my team had assessed that I could sail safely, short-handed with the current crew shore; I was even envisaging leaving the gangway behind!
Julian, HD, utilising a ‘golf-buggy’ went around town to rustle up independent Guests, Jane, Chief Purser, managed to raise all Shore Ex groups by phone and asked them to return as quickly as possible – most of the crew, because we have their phone contacts, were contacted and instructed to return. I made the deadline of 1430, sailing, all onboard or not, I had to go. My mooring ropes were on the limit and the tug was struggling.
As if by divine intervention at 1425 the last Guest stepped aboard. At 1430, the gangway was dragged inboard and we let go our moorings and rocketed out of St Kitts. Never I have I been so pleased to put to sea. Let’s go and find Guadeloupe; the weather was looking more favourable!
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.