Since departing Easter Island, ms Amsterdam has sailed a westerly course toward the South Pacific. Here is a recap of Captain Mercer’s blog posts. You can read them in their entirety on his blog, www.captainjonathan.com.
Here are some photographs of our welcome to Saguenay, Quebec, Canada, yesterday as the 100 call to the port. It was a very special event in picture-perfect conditions.
Our guests were overwhelmed by the welcome we received. A folklore show was awaiting our arrival and Hotel Director Ron Bontenbal and I were welcomed by the local dignitaries including the mayor of Saguenay.
The vessel received a beautiful painting and we returned the gesture with an inaugural Delft plate.
The last of our itinerary that has us calling at Juneau first (for as I write we have just completed a call in Glacier Bay and dashed from Vancouver in order to make it, too). Not a great week for weather initially, Juneau was socked in with rain, however Skagway was a little brighter. An unusual sight here, an ‘old’ steam train, from the White Pass railway in Skagway, (although I suspect that she is no longer a coal burner). Nevertheless it made a wonderful sight as it ‘chugged’ over the crossing and wound its way around the town.
When the Pacific High pressure system is sitting over Vancouver/Seattle, the system keeps all the low pressure areas to the north, that’s us, in Alaska, so while I receive emails from a ‘glorious Seattle’, little do the senders know that they are hogging all the sun and we aren’t getting much
A glorious week, the sun shone, the whales frolicked, the glaciers calved, what more can one ask for? A sunny day in Juneau, I did what I always try to do, at least once a season and that was the Juneau whale-watch tour. There was room on the evening one and what a lovely evening it was too, orange sky, and beautiful scenery added to which were the whales; the Saguenay and Favorite (sic) channels had them and their spouts were easily spotted with the low sun making the mist sparkle.
Our speed from Vancouver to the ‘Great Land’ and our first port, Juneau, is governed by the time of slack water at Seymour Narrows. The parameter for the transit of this narrow passage is dependent on the speed of the current. We have compulsory pilots with us, from the Pacific Pilotage Authority, and they have more or less set these parameters after years of experience. Most will go through with a current of 4 knots or less, on the ebb or flood, ideally around ‘slack’, when the tide is about to turn. The challenge with this is that any vessel, be it cruise, fishing boat or tug and tow, are also trying for the same ‘window’ of opportunity, some going north and others going south; so as one can imagine, it can be hectic at times.
After leaving Vancouver, the ideal time for a ‘slack’ tide is around 11 p.m. that evening, this results in a manageable speed to Juneau. This week, unfortunately, the tide was earlier and even had we left Vancouver 1-hour early, we would not have been able to make it and so I, reluctantly had to ‘bite the bullet’ and go for the next opportunity, this was at 0240 on the Saturday morning, (having departed Vancouver on Friday afternoon). We slow steamed towards Seymour, biding our time until the early morning tide and once through had to put the ‘pedal to the metal’ to achieve a speed of over 20 knots in order to arrive in Juneau on time. This was achieved, however looking at the fuel consumption on my Bridge instruments, on our way north, it brought tears to my eyes, (metaphorically speaking).
Beautiful weather for our guests this week, glorious sunshine and calm water, we were once again treated to pods of humpback whales in Chatham Strait and Steven’s passage; they all seemed to have stayed further south this year, as the regular ‘whale sighting’ reports indicate few to the north. The fishing boats are out in force during ‘openings’; allotted times in varying areas when salmon may be caught, apparently it’s a good year for the salmon run.
I have first-hand knowledge of it, for in Skagway, just by the bow of the Amsterdam is a ‘salmon ladder’, a contraption which assists the salmon (coming in to spawn), through the dock ‘wall’ by way of a pipe, which leads to Pullen Creek a few yards away. A short stroll along a footpath which meanders alongside the creek, (it’s about 20 feet wide) and lo, one could walk on water, or on the backs of hundreds of salmon, battling their way upstream, one could almost reach out and touch them.
It has been a week since I walked up the gangway, on a glorious Vancouver morning and, once again, was greeted by familiar faces and beaming smiles, it’s always nice to come back to my 2nd ‘home’. Making the transition from man of leisure to Captain of a cruise ship is always something of a ‘culture shock’; one minute playing in boats, swinging golf clubs and imbibing in a glass of wine, one is suddenly brought down to earth with a wallop, responsibilities are once more to the fore, man-management skills required and endless paperwork; a far cry from just writing a shopping list or booking a tee-time
Nevertheless, I relish the position and enjoy Alaska immensely. Although I have been coming here on and off, (for the most part, ‘on), for the past 18 years, I never tire of her immense beauty. Even though I am not required continually on the bridge, I still spend time up there, particularly when in whale-waters; there’s nothing I enjoy more than sighting a ‘blow’ in the distance and being able to let our guests know in good time that they should have their cameras ready. It is something of a joke on here that I manage to see whales at distances that defy my eyesight.
On April 28, the ms Volendam was in Glacier Bay, Alaska. She is the first HAL ship and the second cruise ship to enter Glacier Bay this season.
The day started with snow storms in the early morning and strong winds. It can be seen that the ice is on the window wipers on the bridge and on the various outside decks.
After that it cleared and we had a spectacular day as can be seen in the pictures.
Glacier Bay, Alaska