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4th November, 2018


Thankfully some sunshine this morning after yesterday’s passage across the southern regions of the Sardinian Sea, west bound towards the South-eastern coastline of Murcia, Spain. The wind had got-up overnight after Cagliari; resulting in a brisk easterly wind creating a lumpy swell which had an uncomfortable direction for the Saga Sapphire. Reading the various weather reports and surface analysis and swell expectations, I noted that we were heading for the region of the worst part of the ‘swell’ conditions, or was it heading towards us! The bit to avoid was a positioned midway between Menorca and the Algerian north coast. I had the speed capacity to do a bit of ‘weather-routing’… perhaps this should be called ‘swell-routing’.

Shortly after midday I adopted my ‘swell-avoidance’ routing plan and head nearly due south towards Algerian coast, for about 100 miles. Once 15 miles of the north shore, and because Algeria was not on the itinerary, I then adjusted back out to the west for Cartagena. This had two impacts, firstly it made the afternoon comfortable by running with the swell and secondly, the passage plan took me around and out of the way of the storm. Everyone was happy and a pleasant evening on-board was had by all.

This morning arrival into Cartagena, it was another pre-sunrise arrival, when its dark you need to think more! Safety Officer, Matt, drove in this morning; it was an interesting manoeuvre for him to execute. Not a lot of space with a few ‘curve-balls’ thrown in by the port authority. Backing down on to the berth, which we expected to be clear of all other traffic, transpired to be littered with Military vessels; the aft breast lines were ashore, made-fast and then used as a pivot to push the bow in to the quayside. Nice little maneuverer.

This was another ‘earlier than planned’ arrival to ensure we were not held up by the other inbound cruise ships. So, all done and dusted, gangway in, ship cleared by 0715; it was time for that richly deserved bacon-butty! Leigh will not be happy!

A fabulous line-up of Explore-ashore options arranged by Nat and his team; and the weather was, at last, behaving itself. We‘ve not seen a lot of the sun this cruise!

Clouds grew over the harbour by mid-afternoon and the breeze, from the south, picked up. I watched the weather closely, too strong a wind, I would need a ‘tug’ services to hold the ship alongside, whereas a light breeze would not require a tug. What does not help in such circumstances is the ‘tug-order’ time. In three hours the weather can change dramatically, you can wind up ordering a tug when you don’t need one, or not ordering and then you can’t sail whilst you wait for the tug!

At sailing, 3rd Officer Adam was in the driving seat and we had elected not to order a tug. It was getting fresh, up to 20knots off the berth, and that is border line to unmoor without tug assistance. As soon as Nat gave me a ’all tours back’ message we minimised the gangway ready for rapid removal and once the ship was ‘cleared’ to sail. With clearance given, we sailed, I didn’t want to wait another minute for the wind to continue to strengthen.

The unmooring operation followed to the detail plan and with all ropes gone, the brisk wind blew the ship into the middle of the harbour, where Adam was then in a position to start the engines and drive out. It’s great when a plan goes precisely to plan!

With the Pilot ‘away’ we were clear of Cartagena by 1800 and I set course SW off the Murcia shoreline before turning more westerly towards Gibraltar Straits. With the set speed we are scheduled to transit the Gibraltar Straits at noon tomorrow. Fingers crossed for the weather!

See you in Lisbon, the last port on this rather interesting cruise.

Captain Stuart Horne

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