22nd January, 2020
Grenada, what a day!
The overnight passage of peace and tranquillity, in the now ‘normal’ tropical environment, took us west of the Windward Islands, firstly at the northern end, St Vincent, being the largest, then on down past Bequia,, we go there tomorrow, Mustique, a little further east, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Carriacou, all fabulously exotic destinations and then finally, at the southern end of the chain, Grenada, the second largest of the Grenadines. The Grenadines being associated with the Windward’s… very Caribbean!
Pilot time was scheduled for 0800 and berthing at 0900. Now then, ha, as we approached the outside berths we started to pick up electronic signatures of the ships in the port. If you look at the picture of Saga Sapphire in the port, you can see the two other cruise ship parked at the ‘outer’ berths, as I have referred. What you can’t see that ahead of the Saga Sapphire is a cargo ship. I would have to squeeze all of our 200 meter length onto a 120 meter slot. The cargo ship was not supposed to be there. I didn’t know she was there until we picked up her electronic signature.. hmm, interesting day to be had!
I embarked the pilot at 0815 and deliberated over whether if I could get in, or not. Or not meant cancelling the call. There was a tug available, but we had to contract their services directly,, the was no ‘middle’ man. Not only was the ‘berthing’ tight, what was tighter was the passage inward. Not enough room to swing a cat - this was to be the most challenging manoeuvre I had done with the Saga Sapphire.
It took me almost an hour to assess the limitations, criteria’s for error, confidence in position fixing and becoming familiar with the ‘visuals’ that I would use to get her in, before concluding that I would give it a shot. Of course once committed, there was no way out...
Anyway, long story short we parked, with about 4 meters clearance for the ship ahead, 15 meters of deep water astern and not a lot else. For a number of reasons, the decks were packed with spectators, and I received a rapturous round of applause once I was alongside - it was deathly quiet during the manoeuvre, phew, nice one Stuart, even though I say myself!
All that effort was worth it, we were parked right in town, uptown, downtown, whatever, you could reach out to the buildings from the ship….. the ships on the outer berths, ha, a long way from town! Those Guests should have chosen Saga because... “we get you there”.
Another boiling day, shade temperatures were in the 33‘s today, too hot for me I have to be honest. Great weather for long black uniform trousers!
The sound of steel-bands rang out around the port as the afternoon drew on. It was late nigh sailing tonight, we had a Trad Reggie Saco band on the back deck whilst the Guests dined under the stars. This band was sensational - and the Guests danced the night away. Even I had a dance, dragged up by Jo Bo... That is a rarity!
I was not there for long, I had to go and contemplate getting out of St Georges,, in the dark. The Pilot, three of them embarked just before 2200. One was the Pilot, the other two were onboard to see how the Captain would get Saga Sapphire out of this tiny little place, in the dark. Using the local self-contracted tug, I inched our way off the berth. Then once pointed clear of the cargo ship I crept out of St Georges with an average speed of 2.5 knots, that’s like half a walking pace.
Once clear of all the shallows, around 2330, we set course back north towards Port Elizabeth. By Jove, we are up and down these Caribbean Islands like a yoyo.
Night night, or morning morning - it’s already nearly 0100.
Captain Stuart Horne
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