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27th November, 2018


Dear Blog followers, this is your MIA Captain; otherwise known as Captain Bing-bong. It has been a rather busy time on-board, weather considerations and an incredibly busy period preparing for the Mystery Cruise… So in a paragraph I am going to take you around the Canary Islands, a whistle stop tour whilst I am in Southampton.

After leaving Funchal at 1300 on a bright Sunday afternoon, we set out course toward Tenerife, in, subliminally calm water… until later. What was all the fuss about! We had a dance show that night, so I set full speed to give myself enough time and ‘distance in hand’ to adjust course for a more comfortable evening.

It was nice to get into the lee of the east coast of Tenerife, berthing in a docking shower, but a warm shower I may say, by 0800. The day turned out to be just lovely with passing clouds drifting off the mountain peaks north of the port. A late sailing tonight with a local show on-board, always goes down well.

Debarking the Pilot swiftly, we were on our way to the island of El Hierro. Approaching the island from the East, it was a pleasant Tuesday morning with daylight emerging astern of the ship and illuminating the east facing escarpments of the island. Saga Sapphire is by far, the a largest ship to berth in the Port; Puerto de la Estaca.

Parking stern-in, it’s like tying the ship up to a matchstick. Still all good stuff. The great thing about this call, it’s all a bit ad hoc and exploratory in nature. The shuttle buses could only arrive once the local ‘school’ run had been completed, but wow, blue skies and temperatures over 25 Celsius, lovely jubbly! Unless you take the tour around the island, or the shuttle bus over to Villa de Valverde, there is not a lot to do.

By the time it came to sailing, the feedback for the day was fantastic, even the phrase ‘a highlight of the cruise’ was used. Anyway, time to head off for the next island of Lanzarote. The pilot waved good bye from the pier as we sailed out. Because it was such a lovely evening and sunset was not until 1820 and twilight 30 minutes later, we took a scenic passage down the east coast of El Hierro to La Restinga, the ’other’ port on the Island, before turning east towards Tenerife.

Overnight on the Tuesday into the Wednesday, the ships passage plan had us navigating around the south end of Tenerife, up its east coast at dinner time, a lovely spectacle with the illuminations of the Holiday resort lighting up the eastern shores on our port side. Heading into the darkness at midnight we steamed across towards the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. At 0900 on Wednesday morning, we lined up to transit the ‘Estrecho de La Bocaina’, the narrow sea passage between the two islands, the daylight transit providing great coastal vistas.

Turning Northeast, we navigated off the eastern shores of Lanzarote before embarking the Pilot at 1100. Staff Captain Denis was driving-in this morning, a tight manoeuvre, without tugs, and all safely berthed before 1200. A last minute change of berth meant we had the new cruise-terminal, close to town, a flat walk of about twenty minutes if you didn’t take the shuttle bus.

I thought we might have some cloud today, indeed, I had primed my Guests for the chance of significant cloud. Then behold, it was a lovely day, blue skies, reasonably warm if a bit ‘brisk’ in the wind. We were not due away until the following morning and so a peaceful night alongside, what a great way to dine, on the Saga Sapphire, with the family, the crew, in idyllic surroundings.

The following morning, we were ready to sail at 0500. With the Pilot debarked at 0515, it really is just a short run out of the harbour, course was set NNE toward Portugal.

I checked the ‘swell-forecast’, cloud and rain is one thing, a wobbly ship is something else. It was a one-day sea passage up to Leixoes and whilst pleasant enough, we did have a long low swell which made the ship move around a bit, despite the stabilisers being deployed.

On Saturday we were into Leixoes; always wary of the approach into this port as it taken a very slow speed and often with an Atlantic swell running in to the entrance, the ship can roll at the entrance. I had warned the Guests the previous evening that there may be a bit of a ’roll’ in the morning. Picking up the Pilot at 0730, the motion of the ocean was good and the ship hardly moved at all as we went into the port. Better safe than sorry!

Tricky little manoeuvre, swinging using two tugs and backing up through a narrow channel to slot into our berth. It’s a bit of a tricky berth, but it is the best cruise-berth in the port, in my opinion! Still it was dry for the morning, but forecast rain for the afternoon and yes, it did rain, cats and dogs. As the afternoon drew on, the wind picked up from the south, making it impossible for me to leave. With 40knots of wind pinning the ship on the berth, we were not going anywhere.

Looking at the weather forecast and getting good solid information from the local weather professionals, there was a ’lull’ at 2300. As the time ticked away, the wind eased and backed, dropping to about 10knots. Tug as attached, we lifted off the berth at 2315 and made our way out. It was fortunate timing for the ’lull’ otherwise we would have been in Leixoes until the following morning. The Pilot disembarked well inside the harbour, it was too rough for him to get onto his pilot boat out in open waters. The pilot away at 2330, we were clear of the breakwaters 15 minutes later and set course north up the Portuguese coast.

Two days at sea to Southampton – day one was fairly bumpy with a large swell coming in from the west, but day, 2, the “infamous” Bay of Biscay was fabulous. It was like a mill-pond beautiful day, if a bit a bit sharp on the temperature front.

Today, we passed south of the Isle of Wight at 0300 and shaped up for our Nab Pilot at 0415. Whilst a two week cruise, we had several adventures and packed a lot of to-do’s in those two weeks. Great entertainment, great weather in the Canaries, fabulous for the time of year. Berthed just before 0800 at 101 berth, we set our day for the busy turnaround in Southampton.

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.