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14th August, 2018

St Petersburg

After what seemed to be a ‘short’ night we positioned ourselves to embark the Russian Pilot at the inner station, some 28 miles from out berth. its along and slow ‘run-in’. After my 0400 call, we embarked the pilot at 0500 yesterday morning. It was an interesting morning; the sun was up 0508 but you could feel that “storminess” in the air as the photograph shows.

I had ordered a tug and anticipated a fresh to strong breeze from the NW, although not forecasted by our service providers. The transit was quiet as we made our way through the very narrow channel, mostly of no more than 150 meters wide, and with depths of less than 5 meters either side. Add to this the reported unexploded ordinance lying around, it was good to ensure we navigated with caution! We passed through the military base and the ’gates’ at just before 0600. These sea-gates close off St Petersburg to the outside world, should the need arise.

I had ordered a Tug as a precaution on the assessment we would be assigned to a corner of the cruise basin and having to slot behind a floating tower block; it had always been the case and the envisaged situation materialised an hour before arrival.

The weather was starting to freshen and I was not ‘that’ happy when we had to slow down for a ‘slower’ small cruise vessel ahead… indeed we were looking to be a half hour late. Richard, my Chief Officer, berthed the ship. This was a good learning manoeuvre for Richard - there was nothing fast about this - slow and precise was the order of the day. Creeping into our tight slot, Richard did a great job parking having swung the ship, bow south, and stern swinging just 75 meters of the ‘block of flats’ astern. We berthed just in the nick of time with the wind gusting up to 35 knots.

I had the very good fortune to get off the ship last night, an organised tour to the Hermitage, opened especially for Saga Guests. What a treat. Such a huge place you could spend years, literally years, visiting the place to get to see everything; alas we had but a few hours. The tour concluded with a fabulous presentation of the State Symphony Orchestra, in the Skylight Italian Hall. The acoustics were fantastic as we listened to 8 pieces for the best part of an hour; then it was back to the ship - a truly great experience.

It has been a reasonably pleasant day here, our second day in St Petersburg. The wind, at last, eased off to leave partly cloudy skies with high cloud moving reasonably fast against the St Petersburg landscape. My young 4th Officer, Chris drove off the berth this evening - with tug assistance and oversight; he made a good manoeuvre. Leaving the cruise ship terminal basin astern, eleven ships in today, well, it is high season, we retraced our steps through the narrow navigable channels back towards the Gulf of Finland.

Passing through the sea-gates, photos attached, at 20.10 we disembarked the pilot at 2115 and set course towards the west and onto Riga. Day at sea tomorrow, chance to catch up with those pesky emails.

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.