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Kirkenes

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

7th September, 2019

What an event! The Silverline Charity auction alone raised over £2,600 pounds with our generous Guests. It was a good laugh and a humorous event - I think the Guests loved it. Anyway, that was last night, where are we now, yes sailing out of Kirkenes.

Last night, sailing clear of Mageroya we formally crossed from the Arctic Ocean to the Barents Sea, a sea that recalls stories of seagoing heroism during the war years. Then sailing off the most north-easterly shore of Norway we turned south at around 0300 and headed down toward Skogeroya, keeping to the west shore to ensure we didn’t encroach into Russian territorial waters. I was on the bridge at 0500, the morning was dull-ish, sunrise masked by the mountains and heavy clouds, but what a spectacular landfall with fresh snowfall on the far southern horizon, which, at reasonable guess, was Russia.

The pilot was embarked at 0600, well inside the Fjord, and we continued south in an ever narrowing waterway. Staffy was driving in this morning, the conditions were reasonable and manageable at the time Denis swung the ship to approach the berth. This was a slow and considered approach because of very restricted waters and the pier was at an ‘odd’ angle to the line of approach. With no tugs here, you got in, or you did not, there was no halfway house.

This was the first time we had called here and so the ‘information’ to hand, was limited. I knew the berth was short and rather rickety, but unsure of the actual conditions.

As Denis made his approach, the wind blew up 35konts, setting the ship rapidly down onto the berth. Given the circumstances, I took the Conn from Denis. It was not about ability, but accountability if it all went pear shaped. Holding the ship ‘head to wind’ we assessed our options. A tug was available, but it was akin to a ‘rowing-boat’!

Using the wind and balancing the engines against the wind, we edged slowly down onto the small pier. A few well worn ‘mini’ road tyres was the only protection between the ship’s hull and the hard concrete pier. Landing gently on, I sighed relief, it was concentrated effort - it would have been easier to abort the port and have another day at sea!

This was our inaugural call and oddly, no-one was there to greet the ship, no Agent, no authorities, just the Shore Excursions provider. If there was ever a ‘self-help’ port, this was it. Even the local fire brigade provided the manpower to handle the ships lines. A bit of the ’ole wilderness’ feel about the place. Still, the purpose of the call, I guess, was the proximity to Russia and the Tour up to the Russian Border!

Walking around the ship few hours later, everyone appeared to be onboard. Still the sunshine came out and made for a pleasant and relaxing day onboard as most didn’t engage with Kirkenes.

Departure was prompt at 1830. The departure manoeuvre, executed by Hugo, the Chief Officer, was also a considered act. With the wind just off the berth it was necessary to push the ‘shoulder’ of the ship onto the quay, remember, ‘mini-road’ tyres… and manoeuvring the bow into the shallow waters beyond the pie before driving astern seeking deeper water. Holding your nerve, springs to mind.

Sailing out in sheltered waters, the sunset was absolutely stunning. See you in Honningsvag.

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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