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2nd December, 2018


After sailing late from Southampton, due to the high winds, we finally dropped the Southampton Pilot on the Wednesday at 0200 in the morning. I was aware of the storms coming in across the Atlantic and had set up a passage plan that would, so far as possible, keep the ship movement down to the minimum on the crossing of the Biscay.

However, it was clear by the late evening hours of that Wednesday that conditions were far worse than forecasted. I was up on the bridge most of the night as we adjusted speeds and courses to keep the ship as comfortable as possible. At one point on the Thursday, still only in the northern part of the Biscay, I was down to 5knots, a term called ‘hove-too’ or ‘minimum for steerage’. The attached photograph depicts the conditions. On the morning of the 30th, the Friday, conditions were improving, and I was steaming almost westward along the northern coast of Spain, I had come all the way down the Biscay, well east of the intended track. In the afternoon, it was a different day, full speed south off the coast of Portugal, a few fully clouds and blue skies!

The first port had been planned to be Almeria, but I was over a day late, having lost so much time in the Biscay. Whilst a Mystery cruise, there were certain dates and ports of call I needed to protect, firstly because we had arranged some marquee events and secondly we were due to have Her Royal Highness, Princess Michael of Kent, on-board.

On the 1st December we had a ‘plan’ and the first port was to be Cartagena on the following day. You can imagine the effort required to arrange a port of call for a Sunday, on the Saturday. Shore excursions, coaches, port authorities et al.

For a bit of fun, that evening, passing through the Gibraltar Straits, I crossed the traffic lanes and entered the Bay at sunset giving the illusion of berthing at Gibraltar, lovely jubbly, that teased so many! A dusk-time spectacle as we sailed around Europa point and had close in views of the ‘Rock’.

So here we are, Cartagena; embarking the Pilot at 0930 this morning , with the sun-up, what a glorious day. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, but I do believe my seasoned-sea-leg guests were glad to step ashore after a long wobbly sea-passage. We were berthed at 1030 and the excursion was off after lunch. One excursion for all the Guests is quite a logistical challenge, over 500 guests at venue and ‘500’ can’t fit down the gangway at once!

It was late night sailing and we had a sumptuous feast “ Alfresco under the Stars” on the veranda deck aft with local entertainment. That was well received, but the tour, some ‘improvement’ observations shall we say, were received - mind you, with so many roads closed in town for a local event, was a little beyond my control.

Leaving the berth at 2200, the pilot was off by 2245 and we set course for, who knows where!

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.