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Ponta Delgada

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

7th June, 2019

It was an interesting four days at sea. Firstly we were faced with thick fog and it was forecasted to last from Halifax on the 2nd June right through to 5th June. This was problematic because there was the need to sound the fog horn which disrupted a fair bit of shipboard life, parts of the ship were closed down and I needed warm seawater. In these foggy conditions, the sea temperatures were below 5 degrees and as such, making freshwater was a challenge because were consuming a lot more fresh water than we were making, a shortfall of 200 tons per day. What’s that saying? “Water water everywhere, but non to drink”!

After 20 hours I resorted to tracking south to find the Gulf steam, warmer water and favourable currents. However, this would add distance to a sea-passage that was already requiring a high speed for Ponta Delgada. I was pinning a lot on finding the favourable Gulf steam.

At noon the second sea-day, having moved much farther south, the fog cleared and the sea temperature went up by 11 degrees at 16 Celsius and occasionally 20 Celsius. Such a rapid rise, itself caused Air Condoning challenges, making the system sweat. However, the positive was no fog, no fog horn, authorised watertight doors were opened, we were making lots of lovely fresh water and the Guest could see a horizon and we could go ‘flat-out’. Then, Len, the Chief Engineer called me later that day to tell me we had a failed fuel pump on the Port Main Engine. The upshot of this is that we had to run that engine on six cylinders and not seven, reducing the maximum RPM from 120 to 110. A serious impact upon the potential to get to Ponta Delgada, even risking missing the port all together.

Now it was time for serious ‘tidal flow’ hunting. The Atlantic west of the Azores has a complex surface current system and is being modified by environmental conditions on a daily basis. I used data secured from NASA, yes, NASA. I have attached a screenshot of what that looks like. So we spent the next two days, plus, hunting favourable currents and avoiding adverse surface conditions. Of course, roaming around the Oceans adds more distance to steam - so it was an hourly review, night and day to make the most of a difficult situation. I was adamant we were not going to miss the Azores.

Ultimately, despite suffering added distance , through lack of speed and longer sea-passage we managed to get alongside for 1400, just one hour late. The end of four days of mild anxiety!

Departure from Ponta Delgada this evening was fabulous. After a good afternoon alongside, we delayed departure to allow for sailaway under the stars, sailing at 2200. I was only following the instructions of the Cruise Director. The evening was balmy and the challenge of the departure manoeuvre fell to the 3rd Officer, Adam. Whilst straight forward, driving a ship always calls for forward thinking married to a good dose of reactive actions. Nice job Adam!

Clear of the berth, we disembarked the Pilot at 2220 and set passage along the south cost of Sao Miguel under perfectly clear starlit skies and glass calm seas.

I left the Bridge promptly to go and join in the sailaway party under the stars on Deck 9 aft, the Verandah deck. When I got there it was in full swing. I have never seen the deck so busy, so late; I was even dragged up for a dance. Now that is a rarity! I left the deck before midnight, but the party was still going. Am I too old for this malarkey?

Four sea-days ahead and much to do, driving a desk.

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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