Another turn-round day is behind us and we are on our way to have ‘another go’ at Grand Turk. This time of year sees regular cold fronts traversing the Florida peninsula and this cruise is no exception, however, we appear to be a day ahead of this one.
After last week’s weather, anything is an improvement, and today we have southerly winds, unusual for this area. When we arrived in San Juan last week, after our eventful (weather-wise) voyage south, our lovely dark-blue hull looked as if we had been in a snowball fight, the salt caked so thick in places that copious amounts of fresh water were needed to rinse it off. Not just the hull, our superstructure was also affected and it was only on this call in Port Everglades that we eventually managed to get it down to acceptable proportions.
Yesterday was a busy one for us. Every 90 days our crew have to go through a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) inspection, basically to verify that we are all here, working with correct visas or documentation, entitling us to enter the U.S. every week. With almost 900 crew this takes time, and so yesterday we arrived early.
This was not as straightforward as it may seem, the cruise-ship season is in full swing in Port Everglades now and we were one of eight ships scheduled to arrive, two of them massive monsters — the QM2 and the “Independence of the Seas”. The Harbor Master has to juggle the timing of each vessel, trying to avoid conflicts in vessels passing each other in the narrow Intracoastal berths, (29, 26 and 25) and make sure each vessel has an appointed time ‘slot’ to facilitate this.
We are given times at the pilot station, 15 minutes apart. This, theoretically, gives each ship time to get down the channel, on the leading lights and clear those lights before the next one comes in. We followed the “Carnival Miracle“ and the captain wasted no time on swinging off the leads (lights), thereby allowing us to gain precious minutes and enter sooner. The entire early morning is a delicate ballet of ships, each arriving for their ‘slot’ with precision and doing their utmost to ensure there are no delays for the others.
The CBP were arriving at 0545 and we had the gangway in at 0546, so there was no delay for them boarding and starting the inspection. We also had ‘heavy load’ — every alternate week we schedule our stores load for all the ordered parts we expect, everything from machinery spares to items for the hotel department. This is as well as our ‘normal’ loading of fresh produce and our bunkering of fuel, in this case 1,150 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. Not to mention guest baggage off and on, so, contrary to what one might think, Saturdays can be even more hectic than a ‘normal’ cruise day. On the ‘light load’ days, we still have fuel, baggage and fresh produce to take care of, coping with this, all in the space of 10 or so hours, needs excellent co-operation from ship and shore alike.
Departures can be just as hectic. Although we are all given 15-minute slots for arrival, departure is a case of ‘first come, first served’, inasmuch as that each cruise ship informs the port control when they are absolutely ready for departure. We then sort out in what order we will depart through communication with our individual pilots.
We were ready before the behemoth, ”Independence of the Seas“, which was docked ahead of us in berth 25. Had the weather (wind) been stronger, or from another direction, I would have had to stay put, until she had sailed, the room in the Intracoastal Waterway, when passing her, is ‘tight’ to put it mildly. However, yesterday the wind was light and therefore passing her was an option. Even so, some delicate manoeuvring was required, ensuring that we gave sufficient room between her and us, without getting too close to the shallows on the other side. As we passed her, our guests and hers were exchanging shouts and waves, the noise, through the open bridge-wing window, was deafening. The ”Carnival Miracle“ preceded us and then it was our turn to depart. Obviously, we were concentrating on the bridge, no time to take photos, so here is a photo of the manoeuvre as seen from our bridge, when the ”Carnival Miracle“ passed.
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Mercer