Berthed Auckland, 7th February
I realised, after sending my last post, that I inserted a ‘typo’, we arrived here on Tuesday evening and not Wednesday, apologies for that. Our continuing voyage south-west towards Auckland, from Raratonga, was reasonably comfortable. Initially, the wind was from the east, however it slowly swung around, first to the north and then from the north-north-west. The ‘easterly’ section still threw some large swells and wind waves, as we sailed in the 25 kt winds, however, as the wind came slowly round to astern, we had mainly following seas and swells and periods of sunshine; although rough, our stabilisers coped admirably and the movement of the Amsterdam was slight.
Ahead of us though lay a complicated weather system, with a high-pressure area to the west of New Zealand and a low-pressure to the east. Weather patterns such as this always involve strong winds, particularly when one is ‘sandwiched’ between the two and this is where we were heading. Sure enough, on Monday night, the wind slowly died, a portent of things to come and by Tuesday morning we were in a full-blown gale from the south-west, 35-40 kts, we were the ‘filling’ in the sandwich. As the seas were coming from ahead of us, the movement of the Amsterdam was quite reasonable, although our speed made-good dropped considerably; because we were doing 15 knots into the wind, we had almost 50 knots of wind across our decks, so guests had to ‘hold onto their hats’ metaphorically speaking, if they went outside.
The wind showed no sign of easing as we approached the Auckland pilot station and it was necessary to turn the ship through almost 90⁰ to provide a lee to the pilot boat, sufficient for the pilot to climb the boarding ladder in comfort and safety and then we resumed our courses down through the buoyed channel.
With pilot on the bridge, I discussed conditions further inside Auckland harbour during our Master/Pilot exchange. The pilot expected little improvement until we were almost in the berth and there was also a 2 knot current to contend with too. The cost of repairing shell plate (our hull) is extortionately high, the use of tugs insignificant in comparison and as our harbour fees include the presence of 2 harbour tugs and considering the conditions, I made good use of them, making one fast on the stern and another on the bow.
Once ‘inside’ the quays in which we berthed, the wind decreased and all I had to contend with was the current and wind on the stern, which was still in the river, it reminded me of docking conditions in New York, always an ‘exciting’ one. Safely berthed on Tuesday evening and once Customs and immigration had completed their process, guests could go ashore and enjoy this lovely city. Our berth was almost in the main street and surrounded by numerous tourist attractions, all a short stroll away. The sun shone and the wind had dropped by Wednesday morning.
Our company regulations allow for either myself or my 2nd-in-command, the Staff Captain, to be ashore, but not at the same time and so I took Tuesday and Friso, my 2nd-in-command, Wednesday. I chose to go to the island of Waiheke, 20 minutes away and, according to my New Zealand officer, a must-do. He wasn’t wrong, breathtaking scenery, beautiful beaches and, several vineyards for the island is home to some of New Zealand’s best wineries.
Approximately 80 of our guests left us here in Auckland and 30 joined; once we arrive in Sydney, Australia, those few vacant staterooms will be full once more as we continue our voyage. Thursday evening we sail for Tauranga on the north-island and a slow steam for our arrival at the pilot station at 0600. The port has tidal/current restrictions and we have a ‘window’ to slot into, otherwise we will not be able to use the approach channel.
Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.