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Zeebrugge

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

10th November, 2018

Having sailed promptly on time from Southampton yesterday afternoon and made a high-speed pilotage out to the Nab, the Pilot was off the ship shortly after 1800. That’s fast!

The weather forecast was for 30knots to 35knots winds, a force 7ish. The good thing about the English Channel with SE’ly winds is that there is little fetch; not a lot of opportunity for the seas to grow and swells to be generated. However, as we ventured SE’ly towards the east bound traffic lanes, the wind increased and increased until we were having gusts of 65knots. Hmm, not quite as forecasted! The swell was short and therefore it felt rougher than it actually was and the howling winds just added to the apparent immensity of the wind.

At 0100 this morning, passing through the Dover Straits the wind was still howling away at 55knots and my thoughts turned to aborting the port. Once in you are in Zeebrugge, you are in. It does not help when sunrise is so late and you are assessing the situation in the dark, but hey-ho, I elected to press on and embark the pilot well to the ‘west’ so we had more time to discuss the weather and what other options might look like; another berth for instance; or even delay berthing for a few hours.

The Pilot embarked at 0615 this morning, super chap. In this short period, the winds had dropped to 35 knots - that’s far more manageable! I felt it wise to secure the services of two tugs, I had to swing in the port and back down in to a narrow-approach berth. The wind ease further to 25 knots by the time I was swinging; someone is looking after me!

Berthed by 0800, I was well ahead of schedule, who would have thought after last night. Chatting to my guests going ashore on tour, seemingly, and understandably, some did not get a lot of sleep.

The day soon drew to and end and we were making ready for departure. I had ‘Welcome’ cocktails this evening, yep first night - the challenge of a short cruise; so we needed to be off in a rather slick manner. The Tours were back timely, very helpful and we on our way.

Inside the port, the weather had eased to a mere 15knots, but given the ‘box’ I was parked in, I required a tug to help lift out the stern; where were those high ‘off-berth’ winds of this morning, that would have been helpful for departure?!

Clear of the breakwaters by 1730, I handed the ‘Conn and Charge’ of the vessel to Denis, my Staff Captain, so I could go down and make myself look fabulous for the Welcome Cocktail party. Not sure what I was going to say about the weather - the North sea winds were still in the 45knot bracket, the swell will no doubt be in evidence and Ijmuiden locks are exposed completely to the winds. Is that important? Well yes, if the winds are too high I cannot get into the locks at Ijmuiden and Amsterdam would be curtailed!

Let’s see how the Cocktail party goes…

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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