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3rd August, 2014


So just over three weeks after I returned to work we headed off again, out of Dover and on towards the Baltic. A timely journey with helpful tides meant we arrived at the Kiel Canal locks an hour earlier than before and, in the early evening sunshine, proceeded through into the fresh water of the canal. Our pilot for the first half of the eleven hour journey through these placid waters had worked for Saga some seven years before as a Staff Captain. I had heard of his name, but had never met him. There were a number of times when we had to stop in one of the ‘sidings’ to allow traffic heading the other way to pass, a period that meant pilot and Master had to work closely together on the bridge wing to ensure the ship did not come alongside the pilings. It was then, in the calm late evening air, that we chatted about a number of the colleagues we had known over the years, some still with us, and others who had moved on to pastures new.

He departed just after midnight and we had a ‘fresh’ pilot for the remainder of the transit, which passed without incident. Eventually, after the next set of locks had passed and the final pilot had departed, we could leave the operation entirely to the watchkeepers while sleep was recovered. The Baltic was busy, of course, and showers enveloped the ship in the early afternoon, clearing by evening. The following morning broke clear and sunny, the Swedish coast slowly growing to port. On the after deck a barbecue was being prepared at lunchtime as we approached the archipelago, and what a journey it was. Four hours of winding our way through the many islands, avoiding the many yachts’ folk who seemed quite determined to give the impression that they hadn’t seen us coming up from behind. With channels often only a hundred meters or so wide there was little room for us to manoeuvre, they knew that, and often left it until the last minute to put their helm down. Our pilot was entirely relaxed throughout, he knew as well as I that as these folk were probably sitting in their most prized and expensive possession, they weren’t likely to be instrumental in ‘scratching the paint’.

We berthed in the early evening on the 3rd, in time for the most adventurous of souls to venture ashore on the shuttle bus and catch Stockholm city life before darkness came. I, on the other hand, had dinner with Honor Blackman.

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.