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1st November, 2013

Porto Praia


As we approached the pilot station, something in the port caught my eye. In the early morning sun, I could see the bright fluorescent colour of a life raft. As we approached further I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a local ferry aground, and partially submerged. With the raft still attached this looked a fairly new wreck. As I was to find out it had happened the night before when a local ferry collided with a tanker in the port, and it had sunk onto a sandbank. Thankfully there were no injuries but the ship looked quite a sorry state as did the tanker alongside. I could not believe how in clear visibility this could have happened.

When the pilot boarded the ship, we went through the normal handover, I told him the dimensions of the ship, draft, manoeuvring characteristics and he confirmed on the chart our berth. We started making our way in and something didn’t ring true then I realised this approach may be a little challenging as the pilot seemed very agitated. However always expecting this, and having all the information at hand, I proceeded in and said to the pilot, if you think I need some advice in the approach let me know. It was evident from the start, our navigation skills were somewhat different but we proceeded in. The wind was very fresh blowing onto the berth so I had ordered a tug and asked if it could be made fast to the stern to stop the ship being blown onto the berth uncontrollably. I was then told, “The tug crew don’t really like making fast ropes to ships!! “What’s the point of me paying for the tug then?” I asked. This was the start of things to come!!

I then said I would have to reconfigure my approach and go port side alongside if I were to berth the ship in these fresh winds without a tug which was agreed. As we approached, I could see that there was a large blue Maersk container ship on the berth as well and our space looked a little small. So I asked the pilot what is the length of our berth was? “200 metres” he said. Alarm bells are now ringing. “But pilot, as I told you when we boarded, this ship is 200 metres”. “Don’t worry captain there is plenty of room”. “Ok” I said “what is the exact distance we have to play with?” “Don’t know captain but there’s plenty”. I don’t do that sort of ambiguity when in command of a ship, so at this point I thought I’m going to have to take full charge here! I got the distance between the bollards so I was able to realise we could just squeeze in, but there was a barge at the end of the berth that needed to be moved so I held the ship off whilst this was done (It should have been done the previous day as the agent had our details but hey ho!). Once clear it was still going to be tight to I stationed the Safety Officer on the bow platform who was looking at our protruding bulbous bow, and giving me distances from the bulbous bow of the container ship. The 2nd Officer aft was letting me know how much distance to the concrete. I brought the bow close to the pier, put a rope ashore to arrest our forward motion so I only had to concentrate on the after end of the ship. Anyway, we were eventually alongside, and then another drama! The mooring men refused to take the rest of the mooring lines. After a lot of shouting from the pilot we were fast alongside.


As we peered over the bridge wing this morning we could see all the masses of coaches lined up in an orderly file which then quickly disappeared. The Rhythms of an African Island excursion was ever so popular today, meaning the tour excursion manager Andy Barr felt extra guides were needed for both morning and afternoon departures to give all those wishing to go on this tour an opportunity. I’ve heard fantastic praise about all of the guides today here in Porto Praia which is brilliant and will of course encourage us to use the same guides again should we come back to this port of call. Once again it was a late sail so everyone really had a great opportunity today to see all the highlights of this beautiful island. Today, Praia is the nation’s capital and is also home to half of the country’s population with about 250,000 inhabitants. The language spoken here is Portuguese and the currency used is Cape Verde Escudo but euro and dollars are of course widely used. Today most of the tours really discovered the diversity of this island were they discovered both the new and old capitals of the country. Having just been the rainy season it was ever so green and luscious outside. The islands of Cape Verde are still very untouched and not commercialised; hopefully with more liners heading out towards the islands it will bring much more trade for the locals with the tourists.

This evening at 6.15pm we welcomed onto the sapphire Jose Louis and his band, a popular local group who certainly serenaded the guests this evening. Very different as well from the other local acts we’ve had this cruise which is always refreshing. Admittedly it was a case of doing sign language with the gentleman in order to communicate however they certainly performed for us here on the sapphire.

The Departure, I had assumed would be a challenge and it was. I insisted the tug make fast as again the wind was blowing us onto the quay and was too much for our engines alone to lift off. So after a bit of messing around and shouting by the pilot on the radio the tug was made fast. As we started our manoeuvre, half way through the officer aft informed us that the tug decided to let the rope go without telling us and then sailed away. Despite repeated attempts by the pilot to bring them back, off they went. So I had to stop the engines in order to avoid the rope being tangled in the propellers. Once this was done I told the pilot that don’t bother with the tug, I had had enough of this carry on so managed to take the ship away myself. As the pilot was leaving he asked me for a Bottle of whiskey for his troubles but I gave him a flea in his ear instead!!

However these experiences, I’m used to and expect. Expect the unexpected in this job!

After sailing, guests dined within the fabulous restaurants we have here on board. This evening we’re spoilt for entertainment choices with a sapphire disco up in the drawing room with the cruise staff, a classical recital through in the Britannia lounge with the extremely talented Sydenham Quartet, or a sing song with our cocktail pianist Martin Orbidans. The attendance for the disco was far better this evening than the previous with everyone enjoying the tunes from the 70’s and 80’s. An hour forward the evening isn’t something we’re looking forward to but it does however mean we’re a little closer to the eclipse which not surprisingly is the topic of conversation around the ship.

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.