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11th December, 2018


After Palermo, we were due to sail into La Goulettte on the Sunday. After a bumpy night at sea, arriving off the narrow port entrance at La Goulette, the wind was gusting 25knots, occasionally 30knots. One of the navigation challenges with La Goulette is the navigable water channel, some 4 miles long, coupled with the requirement to swing in a basin just 40 meters longer than the ship, and then the need to go astern, for a mile in a very narrow port channel, to the berth; it’s not fun in unfavourable conditions! In addition to that, once you make an entrance to the channel, 4 miles out, you are committed, there is no turning back if the weather worsens. After discussing with my team and the port authorities, I had to make the unpopular decision to abort La Goulette.

Next - find a port to go to! My first action was to make passage rapidly west along the north shore of Tunisia and Algeria - why? Because a significant storm was brewing and was travelling down the west coast of Sardinia – and due to hit Tunisian shore that morning. I had enough of storms this cruise and didn’t want to get stuck in another one. But what a good decision to abort La Goulette, we would have been stuck there for at least two days!

So where to go, I could head toward Melilla, a Spanish exclave or Almeria in Spain. The decision was all around in which port could we provide the best experience. One of the challenges of Melilla was the requirement to ship everything over from mainland Spain, in terms of material for Shore Excursions - Melilla itself does not have that infrastructure. On the other hand, Almeria is a lovely port and can provide a lot of services at short notice. The other consideration was the weather, and ultimately, that was the deciding factor yesterday. Having both ports broadly in the mind-set to take us, the forecast for northern Morocco today was torrential rain.

You can imagine traipsing around souks in stair rods of winter rain, versus a forecasted sunny day in southern Spain. So, with set-up and delivery challenges, berth security, guest security a potential question, limited ‘to-dos’ and the rain, I opted for Almeria.

So here we are and what a lovely spot! We embarked the Pilot as the sun rose at 0800 and were berthed at 0900. A little later than planned, but that was down to ‘ferry’ traffic taking priority. Tricky little manoeuvre, we had to swing ‘outside’ before backing down to the berth, and there was no room to play with. As the day draws to a close, the feedback from the Guests was that the tour was really very good, wine & Tapas and local dance show.

Now then, where’s my Tug? I need a tug to get out of this little slot… and Gibraltar tomorrow.

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.