28th October, 2021
When you’re supposed to have an easy arrival, well that is when you tend to complicate things and make it hard for yourself, but not today. As Malaga is a pretty straight forward port, I have decided to assign Richard, our Safety Officer, as our designated driver. The Pilot station is just off the breakwater and the Levante berth is the southern-most berth of the port. We reduced our speed down to 6 knots in order to pick up our Pilot. After a brief discussion with the Pilot, we agreed where our final position of the ship would be. Richard continued our approach towards the pier. With good control of the speed and movement of the ship, he made a very successful arrival. We were safely alongside with starboard side to the quay, gangway was rigged and made ready for our guests to proceed ashore on our tours. Shortly after arrival, I joined the port officials for a plaque exchange ceremony.
Our departure from Malaga had to be moved to an hour earlier than scheduled as the day before we received information that our planned fuel bunker for Valletta couldn’t be vouched for due to a storm battering the Islands of Sicily and Malta. Considering that the last thing you want is to run out of fuel, regardless of what type of trip you are making, we had to make a call to Gibraltar in order to fill our fuel tanks.
We made all the arrangements to have both the Pilot and the bunker barge on arrival for 20:00 in order to complete our bunkering operations by midnight, but some things are simply out of our control. We were making our final approach to the Pilot station when we got a call from Gibraltar Traffic advising that our pilot will be delayed. We had been told to stop the ship 3 nm from the Pilot boarding grounds. We were doing 17.5 knots and were under 2 nm from the assigned stop position. We changed steering from autopilot to hand steering and first decreased the engine power to minimum, then reversed the pods. I have mentioned in one of my previous blogs that Spirit class behaves like a racing car - both accelerating and stopping . We stopped bang on the 3nm mark, ending up waiting for an hour for our pilot to board us.
Once he was on board, we proceeded towards our assigned anchorage position where we let go our starboard anchor in 75 meters depth. To be safely anchored, we paid out 9 shackles of chain, equivalent to 248 meters. After the anchor chain was secured, we tried to sight our bunker barge…unsuccessfully. We called them over the VHF radio and got a reply that they would join us in an hour. So much for our planning! By the time the barge was safely tied up alongside, it was almost 23:00. We started bunkering (finally) at half past midnight. We were told that bunkering would last an hour - it took two.
With the bunkering completed and our fuel tanks full, we disconnected the pipelines, signed the paperwork and cast off the barge mooring lines. As the barge departed, we started heaving up our anchor, which took us half an hour. Once our anchor was sighted and reported clear of any obstructions (you’d be amazed what kind of stuff you can pick up with an anchor from the sea bottom) and clean of the mud, we brought it back home in the anchor pocket, then turned the ship to starboard and proceeded south, while accelerating as fast as we could. 2nd Officer Miche checked the path ahead of us. It was surprisingly quiet from a traffic perspective. By the time we were abeam of the Rock (1.25nm from our anchor position), we were already making good speed and we started turning to port to an easterly course towards Valletta, Malta.
Captain Franko Papić
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