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18th July, 2016


For the first time this cruise I had to stand on the bridge wing and get wet when docking the ship in Bergen. Fortunately I had plenty of time to dry out and by the time I (alone) departed for the afternoon tour, the skies were a little clearer.

I joined a group heading off for a trip on the Vossebanen, a heritage steam railway that has brought back to life a 12 mile section of the Bergen to Oslo line that went out of service in the 60’s when a new tunnel under the mountains was completed. Normally the line only operates during the summer months on a Sunday, but Saga had chartered the train for a leisurely journey from Midttun to Garnes. Here, with wonderful views across the Sor Fjord, volunteers of the Norwegian Railway Association have their base in the old station. They only have one steam engine, dating back to 1913, and a number of teak carriages, but some other interesting rolling stock stands waiting to be lovingly restored. The chatty enthusiastic guard told me the driver was training another chap, which is why some of the braking was not quite as smooth as it could be. Seemed fine to me considering the combined age of the footplate crew certainly exceeded the age of the engine. Our passengers really enjoyed the experience and one lady, yes, a lady, told me it was the best tour she’d been on the whole voyage. Considering all the amazing scenery we have shown them in the past two weeks I did wonder if I had heard her correctly.

The departure was somewhat different from our arrival, mainly because the weather was far more clement and the pilot was a lady. In the many years of sailing into Norwegian waters I told her it was the first time I had met a lady Norwegian pilot, she smiled of course and we chatted amiably while the Staff Captain made the manoeuvre off the berth. A little later, when I came back onto the bridge in my dress uniform to say cheerio prior to going down to the Farewell Cocktail party, she remarked that I looked very handsome (she was not wearing her glasses). It was my turn to smile as I mentioned that it was the first time in 26 years as a Master that a pilot had ever said that to me (thankfully), but as she was a lady I was happy to receive the compliment.

Captain Philip Rentell

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