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17th August, 2018


It was a fast run from Riga to Liepaja and I wanted to be prompt, inaugural call and all that exciting stuff. The pilotage is relatively long given the shallows lying off the western shores of Latvia. The sun was up shortly after 0600 in calm seas with a light breeze blowing in the from the south.

The Pilot was sighted 30 minutes too early; eager to get on board! Hailing the Pilot launch to return to shore he stopped and waited for us. Two tugs were compulsory given the ‘tight’ nature of the port. Through the breakwaters, stop as soon as the stern is in, swing the ship 270 degrees using the tugs, and then back up to the berth position, then swing again to get aligned with the berth before parking. It was a double ‘S’ manoeuvre.

As we approached the berth the local representation were out in force! TV crews, media, a local band - playing British tunes, it was a hive of activity. This is cargo port, not necessarily one of the prettiest, and we were the first cruise ship for 12 years. Pioneering Saga!

All moored safely by 0900, the ship was cleared shortly after. Nat, Explore Ashore Manager, had some interesting tours lined up and we had a regular shuttle bus service into town. At one point we had 85% percent of Guest ashore. Feedback varied from interesting to brilliant – this was more of a ‘Expedition’ experience.

The day, having been blessed with blue skies, drew to a close. All Guests back on board for 1800 it was time to sail. Becky, the young 2nd Officer, well, they are all ‘young’ to me - was driving out tonight. ‘Coaching’ is rewarding, but it does take of lot of discussion and conversation pre-manoeuvre to ensure that both its goes well but also that the officer under training gains the most form the experience. It was one of those manoeuvres that was more difficult than first meets the eye. The wind was still brisk from the south - which meant it would helpful in unberthing the ship but could make the swing out through the first set of breakwaters, tricky, in that we needed to swing the stern up into the wind, rather than allowing the bow to drop down; it is all about pivot points. To this end I order a tug to stand-by on the starboard quarter, ready to push-up if required. The manoeuvre completed, the tug not used, Becky handed the Conn to one of the two Pilots for the run out to the open waters. Nice job Becky.

Course was set down to Gdynia – a bee line. One of those rare passages where the navigational track is almost one course from port to port.

Captain Stuart Horne

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