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3rd September, 2017


After a relaxed day at sea yesterday, actually for the senior team it was a day of ‘meetings, rounds and inspections’, we shaped up for the Stockholm Archipelago Pilot who embarked at 0500. Due to darkness rules [size of ship] we had to delay an hour, sunrise beginning at 0549. I had previously agreed a ‘deal’ with the Staff Captain, one of us has to be on the bridge for Pilotages, so he did this morning's pilotage ‘in’ and I have just done the Pilotage 'out'.  I think I got the short straw…

It was a fresh breeze, 25 kts, but somewhat masked by the islands in the Archipelago. I was up on the bridge for 0700 to let the Staff get some admin done… Another lovely dawn to the day, my favourite time.

I had ordered a tug as I was required to berth port-side too, stern in and the wind blowing off the berth. I had planned to swing close off the knuckle of the berth, allowing the ship to set down on the wind and the tug to push-up the stern onto the berth. We were to be perched on the end of the berth. Got the picture?

Anyway after perfect positioning to swing in, stern first - once off the knuckle, we started to set up, rather than set down on the wind. This time a counter current created by the high winds the previous night - of which the pilot advised there was none but to be fair meteorological events have an unpredictable effect on tidal streams – required an adjustment of plan which saw me driving the ship astern towards the southern berth, before calling-in the tug to push up. Worked a dream.

The irony was that halfway through this tricky change of plan, the Authorities called the Pilot and advised the ship not to berth due to an administration ‘irregularity’ … well you can imagine my response to that, 'no way José'. So I took the consequences of berthing without Customs clearance rather than try to abort a manoeuvre at such a tricky point!

All done, gangway landed - we then waited our fate from Customs. Seemingly an error elsewhere, other than the ship’s due process. I could live with that. Another 30 minutes and the issue was resolved and we got on with our day in Stockholm…

The Excursions in Stockholm were superb, as well as it being a great city to do ‘your own thing’ in. Seemingly our guests had a great visit.

Departure was yet another debate with the Pilots. Our scheduled departure was at 1700, all onboard at 1630. However, the ‘darkness’ rules . . . . If we sailed at 1645 [all mooring ropes ‘let-go’] we required one pilot and one particular route out. If after 1645, we required two pilots and to go another route. It was all about that one second, who’s watch are we watching!

I invited Igor, the Chief Officer, to undertake the departure manoeuvre. It was an interesting one for him. The wind had shifted to the east and was gusting 30 knots, so it was a case of letting Saga Sapphire come off about one meter then coax her ahead on the ‘outboard’ [Starboard] engine. We could not give her a turn of power as we had to swing the stern into the wind to get into the main fairway without running out of water on the other side of the channel. A good job Igor.

Ahead lay a five hour pilotage then out into some fierce easterly winds. I had advised the Guests that our ‘open’ decks would be closed as we were expecting winds up to 45 kts. Dropping the Pilot at just after 2200, I remained on the bridge to assist the 2nd Officer of the Watch [OOW] as we negotiated the ‘traffic schemes’ between the Swedish and Finnish territorial waters, the traffic and the weather - it was howling.

Shortly before midnight we were set for Helsinki, but I had my doubts. Time for bed . . . good night readers.

Captain Stuart Horne

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.