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Visby

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

10th August, 2018

As we left the Kiel behind yesterday we made good speed towards Gotland, navigating through the Fermer Belt, then off the German north shore before shaping up for the Swedish south coast. Passing NW of Bornholm at 1800, we were now truly in the Baltic. Navigating off the south eastern shore of Oland overnight, a long narrow island some 50 miles long and lying very close to the Swedish shoreline, we adjust more easterly to approach Gotland.

Overnight we had some thundery storms and angry looking clouds form. I have attached a picture that depicts the ‘mood’. I had arranged a call at 0400 as I had suspicions that the weather would deteriorate overnight and that I may need to reassess Visby. The wind was blowing good 30 knots from the SSW. Theoretically with the berth lying in the lee of the island mass, there would be more shelter, besides, the local forecast was for 10 knots. It was still a green light for Visby.

We embarked the Pilot at 0930. Earlier, the OOW (Officer of the Watch) had contact the port who confirmed a more southerly breeze of 10 knots. So whilst blowing a bit of a hooley out at sea, it appeared, reportedly, to be calm close-in on the Islands shore. Franko was due to manoeuvre this morning, but as we approached I became uncomfortable with the sustained winds, and ‘beam-on’, which did not ease as reported by the authorities.

Swinging the ship 0.5 miles off the pier, the ship drifted sideways at 2 knots and the wind drove the ship toward the pier-end. One of the photographs shows Franko & I discussing when to ‘abort’ this particular manoeuvre. Coming head on both engines I took the ship back to sea and to try another attempt. Moving back off shore I updated my Guests many of whom were on deck to watch the spectacle.

Steaming south and then turning to a northerly heading, the objective being to balance the ship on the wind, to assess how controllable the stern would be before dropping the stern into the berth. During this period the weather had deteriorated and we had increased wind-gusts of 40 to 45knots. Asking the pilot the weather for our stay, he replied, ‘I think worse than this’. So, now my attention turned to departure. If I managed to get the ship alongside alongside, would we be able to set sail? Would we be able to get the ship off the berth, especially as there are no Tugs in Visby? This would put at risk the next port, Helsinki and that would not be good news.

Manoeuvring close off the pier, it was clear that I would not be able to safely berth. So, full ahead on both engines, a last point abort action. The other photograph is the point at which I aborted and starting discussions on “what next”!

I updated my Guests as we made our way to Helsinki, it was the only ‘passage plan’ I had in my armoury of approved passages of any sensible direction. After a number of hours of discussion with my team, it appeared we could make Tallinn, a great stop, and keeps our Helsinki call intact. The team swung into action and arrangements confirmed.

At 1200, noon, I updated my Guests with our plans, which, on the face of it seemed to be well received. We’ll see how the day unfolds… Whilst breezy, the wind was right astern and so created fabulous calm sunny conditions on the open decks so there were some positives!

Tallinn here we come - third time lucky?!

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.

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