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La Gomera

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

29th December, 2013

The intention had been to sail just before 6:00am and speed up to La Palma. I had awoken around 4:00am however, with the noise of the wind audible through the ventilation system. When I came to take the ship of the berth the stern lifted, but then settled back onto the jetty. There we stayed, effectively glued to the concrete by one of nature’s little quirks. The north east wind that should have assisted the ship to come off the berth was blowing down through the mountains and ‘attacking’ us from the north west. By 11:00am it was obvious we weren’t going to go anywhere in a hurry, so passengers were allowed ashore, but had to be back by 3:00pm as the harbour master wished me to ‘have another go’. In the end, it was obviously a non-starter so I let the harbour master know through the pilot that I would not be having ‘another go’ until the following morning when conditions were expected to moderate.

We did try just before the sun rose, but still the stern refused to lift. I waited for the wind to ease and/or veer. By 10:30am there looked to be glimmer of hope and at 11:00am, with the wind having veered just 20 degrees or so, all lines except the two forward springs were let go. The bow thruster, on full power towards the quay, gradually started to lift the stern, but not quite enough to get it into wind. By now the angle of the ship to the quay wall was around 30 degrees and the bulbous bow was just 2 meters from the concrete. The starboard engine was put ahead and when the propeller started to turn, I put the port engine astern to avoid the danger of breaking both forward rope springs and racing forward, whipping off the fenders and taking out the navigation light on the corner of the jetty. This manoeuvre is called ‘springing off’, but is normally carried out with far smaller vessels, not something close to 40,000 tonnes.

The RPM of the engines were adjusted carefully to assist lifting the stern that little extra into the eye of the wind, but not past it as that could have had a disastrous reverse effect to what I was trying to achieve. The springs were hastily retrieved and the bow thruster operated the other way to gradually lift the bow. As we made our offing the starboard engine revolutions were increased and we crept forward towards open water past the end of the pier, all be it at what may have appeared a rather ungainly angle. I had to keep the stern from dropping down onto the quayside, or falling through the wind the other way and thus pushing the bow onto the wall.

As we gained speed the water flow over the rudder, already set on hard to port, gradually started to take effect and I could stop the port engine. The bow cleared the pier and the manoeuvre continued as planned; the pilot, with some degree of visible relief on his face, offered his congratulations and made preparations for a speedy exit. A round of applause rippled from above as we rounded the end of the pier.

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.