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8th March, 2014

Alesund, Norway

After leaving Narvik, as expected, we were experiencing very strong winds, 75 knots to be exact from the SW so I slowed the ship to a comfortable speed. This is what you do in adverse weather to ensure you keep the ships movement as comfortable as possible and also enough to keep steerage. My days in the North Sea on Supply boats was very useful experience to me. I was in command of ships half the size of Saga Sapphire in worse weather but it was all about how you manage the ship and respecting mother nature. So sadly our schedule started to slip but again that sort of issue is not important to me. The safety of the Ship and its compliment comes first and always will. So we carefully made our way South along the coast . I could see the weather was not going to abate so I had already pre-arranged pilots to take us through the fjords so I made a phone call, put plan B into action, and sailed the ship south and then into the fjords, where we arrived about 10:00pm that evening. So we were able to have a comfortable run inside the fjords. The wind however was still very strong so kicked up a rough sea of wind waves rather than swell so didn’t really effect the ship but did effect the pilot boat who was trying to get alongside us to change pilots at 3:30am in the morning. Being in Norway there are so many nooks and crannies around so we slipped into this fjord in order to swap pilots but unfortunately the wind whipped around the headland into the fjord, so I just went outside again, and started on a reciprocal course of our original to give the pilots shelter to board. This all went well and we turned 180 degrees and were back on our way to Alesund. This operation took us 45 minutes so with the weather and this delay, sadly our arrival in Alesund was affected. But I am pretty sure all the passengers understood as I try and explain about the weather. It’s nobody’s fault, at these latitudes and this time of year you can get these winds but also get the beautiful weather we had in Alta so it’s the luck of the draw, but very handy having all these fjords nearby.

Chris, from Shore Excursions did a great job reorganising when we arrived at 11:00am that morning. Many passengers were still able to go on their chosen tours after some fantastic re scheduling from the Shorex department. All seemed rather impressed with the delightful port of call. Alesund is in fact the commercial capital of the More and Romsdal district and has a distinctive and unique character. Quite different from other Norwegian towns as the city is crammed with art nouveau architecture opposed to the very traditional wooden clapboard buildings normally found around the harbour.

Today there was no shuttle bus due to the close proximity to the town centre, and even in the fresh breeze, many weren’t afraid to venture off into town, which saw many touristy shops especially down the Lovenvoldgata and Apotekergata.

Most went on tour today, which really enabled them to see the most of this beautiful town. Driving through the art nouveau quarter to see the architecture, which replaced the more traditional Norwegian buildings that were lost to the devastating fire of 1904, was the highlight for many today. With such colourful facades and decorations there were many fantastic photo opportunities for those keen photographers. Whichever tour the guests went on today, everyone was able to learn about the city’s buildings and fascinating history. Interestingly Alesund was described as ‘Little London’ because of all the illegal resistance activity in the town and because so many managed to escape to England from here. The most popular excursion was the Islands of Giske and Godoy, leaving the city of Alesund and travelling through some of the world’s largest subsea tunnels which connect the islands of Giske and Godoy to the mainland. This tour was mainly by coach, which suited most as the temperature was still rather nippy outside.

Sailing was challenging as the wind was blowing up to about 35 knots onto the berth so we employed the use of a tug to help haul the stern of the ship, but with the wind, the tug was just not powerful enough. So again resorted to Plan B, whereby I rested the stern of the ship on the rubber fenders on the quayside, used the Bowthruster to move the bow off the quay, then put the two engines ahead with some power, and we picked up speed and cleared the berth and on our way. Having looked at the forecast, sadly this Low pressure was still affected in the Norwegian Coats so I order two pilots to take us through the shelter of the fjords to Stavanger and clear of the worst of the weather. However the first 35 miles of the route had to be outside along the coast while we sailed to the entrance. Well unfortunately the weather forecast was not particularly accurate initially so when we headed down the coast for 35 miles to get into the fjord, we experienced 80 knot winds so progress was a bit slower than expected but at about 2:30am in the morning we were back inside the comfort of the fjords. It took me back to my North sea days but I have to say Saga Sapphire once again handled well and I am impressed with her sea keeping qualities. I have to say I always feel as though I am cheating on the memory of the Saga Rose and Saga Ruby as they were great sea ships but this one is getting a very good reputation. As a Master you obviously don’t want to write about high winds but in these latitudes and time of year, it is expected and shows all readers that we get very good and adverse weather, that’s just the nature of the Cruise world. But it’s also nice to know the ship shrugs off this weather and keeps passengers comfortable which I believe people feel, and I as the Master endorse.


School Kids in Alta
I also thought I would include a picture taken with the School Kids in Alta. They remember me when I brought the Saga Pearl ll up here in 2010, and my son had just been born. And they all remembered.

So that made me feel special…

For those who enjoy some frivolous fun, horse racing was upstairs this evening with the cruise team. Dimitris Dekavallas an award winning guitarist entertained us once again through in the Britannia lounge, which then led into a Girl’s Night In cabaret with the wonderful female vocalists from the Explosive Productions Cast, being Hannah Kennedy and Emma Swallow. An evening full to the brim with great entertainment, so another successful day here on-board Saga Sapphire.

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.