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6th November, 2018


The day at sea yesterday was quire fabulous, such a contrast from the previous passage across to Spain, from Sardinia, where I had to go swell-dodging! The day was brisk, clear blue skies and a crisp feel to the air. Provided you wrapped up, it was great for a stroll around the decks.

Approaching the Gibraltar Straits at noon, with the sun shining on the eastern escarpment, it was quite spectacular and the local ‘levanter’ winds started to blow up. The Atlantic ocean part of the passage, Gibraltar around to Cape St Vincent and up to Lisbon was forecast for a sizeable swell; thus I prepared the ship for heavy weather - better safe than sorry.

In the outcome, last night was quite comfortable, just a few ‘bumps’ along the way, on the nose which unfortunately is a good way to slow down the ship!

Bring called at 0400 this morning to come to the navigation bridge, I was appraised of the ships navigational status, 90 minutes behind schedule. Overnight we had lost around 2knots due to the adverse weather. With this in mind, I re-assessed our river passage and manoeuvring plan for Lisbon. Keeping the ship at full speed all the way to the Pilot Station at Belem I gained 30 minutes; luckily there are no speed cameras on the river! Great cooperation form Len, Chief Engineer and the engine teams.

The good thing about being little late was that the sun was up and we had a marvellous run up the river and under the bridge; broadcasting on open decks and public spaces I rallied my ‘hardy’ guests to be out on the open decks and enjoy the marvel of life. Despite the crisp, but bright sunrise conditions I was pleased to see the decks flocked with life-enthusiastic guests.

Approaching the berth and swinging on the slack-becoming flood tide we were alongside in sharp time and the team galvanised to get the gangway in and ship clear in record time. Ultimately, I was 45 minutes late, but with the capabilities of Nat, the Explore Ashore chap, I know he could make the day work. It was a full-on day with many of the Saga management visiting the ship, a useful exercise as we all work to be one-team and maintain that great experience that Saga is!

I hardly knew the day, it flew by so fast and then it was time to put the down the pen and paper and drive the ship. At lunchtime, sarnie & coffee break, I slipped up to the bridge to see how ‘stuff’ was going. The wind was increasing during the day, but as I was in a day-long meeting, I left the decision to Rob, my second officer, to decide if we need a tug or not. Meeting over, and back on the Bridge at 1630, 30 minutes before departure, my bridge team were organised and ready - what a team. The tug was ordered, Pilot on-board and we were ready to go.

After our departure brief, we re-assessed our status and then made-ready to sail. The forecast conditions up the Portuguese coast and across the Biscay where not good. We re-established the ship ready for ‘heavy weather’, the objective: no slips or trips and not breakages, not even one plate.

Denis, the Staff Captain, was elected to drive out this afternoon. Whilst a straight forward manoeuvre, the wind was brisk and the ebb tide was pining the ‘ole’ girl to the pier. Debarking the Pilot as we passed under the Lisbon bridge at 1730, the engines were pushed up to full speed for our run to Southampton. No time to waste, I needed to get some ‘time’ up my sleeve, it was unpredictable passage.

Clear of the ‘bar’ outside of the river and clear of the coast, we adjusted to the west to clear the Portuguese coast. Time for bed, long day. Let’s see how the next two days at sea fair!

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.