April 3, 2013
Captain Mercer yesterday announced he thought we would arrive just before a blow came through bringing in the rain, well he was few hours off, it had started raining and blowing in the wee hours of the morning. This particular port has their pilot board via a helicopter and not a boat , not sure why but I was wondering how this was going to happen in this weather. The following is our captain’s version.
Richard’s Bay, South Africa
When I left you, we were heading south towards this port on the Natal coast of South Africa. I had last been here on a bulk-carrier, loading 100,000 tonnes of coal for Europe, now I was appearing on a luxury cruise liner, how times change. The good news is that we found that current, once we hit it, we started flying along and were able to reduce the number of diesel generators we needed. That was the good news; the bad news was that the ‘south-wester’ I mentioned came up the coast like a bat out of hell and the early morning found us in 35 to 40 knot winds and driving rain showers; unfortunate, because the direction of channel leading into the harbour resulted in this wind being on the beam as we went in. Hmmmnnn…
There were 20 or so ships at anchor outside, all waiting for a ‘slot’ to berth, all riding awkwardly in the rough sea and wind. I hove-to off the port while we assessed the situation and also waited for the pilot. Distances inside the harbour were checked and re-checked again, speed going in was crucial, speed would offset some of the wind’s effect, but being able to stop, once in, had to be taken into account too.
The pilot boards by helicopter here and soon it appeared out of the rain, it circled once and then the pilot brought it in, hovering over the foredeck, winched the pilot down and was gone in a thrice; neat work in such conditions.
While we had been waiting for him, I had decided that we could make the entrance channel and still have enough distance to slow down before the berth; additionally, the land would provide some lee too and so, once the pilot was on the bridge, I quickly increased speed and we made for the entrance. The channel is 300 meters wide, this made it easier because with the wind’s effect we were ‘crabbing’ in, the width gave us plenty of room to make the allowance.
Sure enough, the land to our south gave us some shelter and the wind came down to around 25-30 knots, much more manageable, but not ideal. Two tugs were leaving their berth and coming out to meet us in the basin and we made them fast on the port side, now increasing my options should I need them. Past a bulk carrier and in towards the berth and, as expected, all I had to do was balance the Amsterdam, letting the wind push us on and me using power to ensure it was not too fast…….40 minutes after entering, all fast and time for a coffee…”
I was invited by Irene to go on a safari with her as her husband did not want to go, and seeing as Kelly was still not feeling great off I went in the rain. We headed out for Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park which was an hours drive, this park houses the Big 5(elephants, lions, cape buffalo, leopards and rhino) but we did not see many animals most likely due to the rain and colder weather. We did see cape buffalo, impalas, wart hogs, zebras and Baboons but that was it.
Hi All….This damp day port found me the victim of the most prolific germ of a cruise ship: flu virus. So I coughed, blew my nose & felt sorry for myself while Angie went on safari. But she came back with nice pictures for you &me to look at.