I am sitting at home now putting the finishing touches to the blog. It has been another epic journey. The Tasman Sea was almost like a lake compared to the same crossing around a month ago. The galley market was as usual a rip roaring success. I love to attend and mingle with the guests and crew. Both enjoy it immensely.
We docked in Melbourne and anchored at Geelong before we berthed at Sydney where I left for home. So this blog comes to an end. It is going to be one heck of a leave. I must visit the US embassy in London to renew my Seamans visa. I have to help Debbie pack up the house ready to ship it, our car and motorcycles back to New Zealand. That should be enough to keep us busy for a while.
I will leave you with some photos of the ports we visited lately and my last crew of the day who is our Staff Captain Kaloyan. Until the next time……
The final words ate Kaloyans:
"I was born on 5th April 1976 in Varna, Bulgaria. After living in another city for a few years, my family finally moved back to Varna in 1985. Graduated in Mathematical High School Varna and Naval Academy after that, I set sail to sea in 2000. One of my hobbies for extensive period of time was and still is sail and motor boats, so career path was a natural choice. I am the first ever in history of my family to choose sea as a destiny path. My career began with merchant navy , cargo ships as bulk carrier, general cargo, container vessels and continued with joining cruise vessel industry in 2006. In 2007, I became part of Seabourn family and sailed under the command of almost all Captains in company on different ships. After gaining experience and developing my professional, I was promoted to rank of Staff Captain in late 2010.
I am happily married with two kids, girl and boy; they will be respectively 12 and 7 this year. We are still living in Varna, on Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and enjoying it. Being playing volleyball for years, now all of us are engaged in different kinds of sports, but swimming seems to be the preferred choice”.
On a calm morning we approached Dusky Sound. The sun rose behind the ragged peaks of the Southern Alps. The colours of the sky and clouds changed by the minute. A long rolling swell ran up from the deep south. It was a perfect morning.
At 7:30 we passed the first outlying islands and entered the Sound.
By breakfast time we were entering Acheron Passage.We slowed down to savour the moment and absorb the surroundings. Lofty peaks covered in dense vegetation rose from sea level on either side to dwarf us as we passed by. Those same peaks were reflected on the smooth water surface. Every change of course produced another stunning vista. I have been through here many times and I see something different each time. Captain Cook sailed here. I wonder what he thought of all this.
We left the sound passing Breaksea Island at 0945 and headed up the coast. We maintained a distance of 2 to 3 miles off. This was far enough out to appreciate the views unfolding before us and close enough to view the geology and wildlife from our cabin windows.
We are headed for Milford Sound.The Tasman Sea is as flat as I have seen it in a long long time.
At 16:00 we entered Milford Sound. The wind picked up as the sea air was sucked in through the narrow entrance caused by the heat of the sun on the peaks. The hot air rises sucking the sea air in which is cooler. It got to 25 knots in places and was a little chilly. We are now back on the Tasman Sea heading on a course of 290º T direct for the Bass Straits that lie between Australia and Tasmania. The sea is calm. There is no wind to speak off. It is the perfect end to a perfect day. Actually the French themed dinner in the Colonnade Restaurant tonight after a British themed lunch is the perfect end.
I will leave you with a few photos of Milford Sound.
We have threaded our way though the outlying islands to our anchorage off the small township of Oban today. It is not to be confused with Oban Scotland. This is Oban, on Stewart Island New Zealand. Same weather, other side of the planet. No midges.
It is really chilly this morning. We are swinging around our port anchor. There is very little wind to speak of but the 50 shades of grey I alluded too in the title overhead refer to the sky which is a blanket of cloud in various shades of grey.
It is a quiet Sunday. My morning has passed far too quickly. I have no idea where the time goes some days and I spent it poking around in various lockers and storerooms around the ship.
We are in the Fjords tomorrow. The camera is on charge and I really look forward to the scenery once again.
Tonight was our Club dinner and I presented awards for people that had sailed 100 days on Seabourn, some for 200 days and an award for a couple that had sailed over 400 days with us. I find it all quite humbling to think I have sailed with some of them for many many days..
Time for bed now. Goodnight.
Since Picton we have called at Kaikoura, Akaroa and today, Port Chalmers.
The morning dawned in Kaikoura revealing calm waters, blue seas, cloudless skies and a backdrop that was breathtaking. We anchored at breakfast time and ran our guests ashore in our tender boats. Whales spouted, dolphins leapt and seals do what seals do which seems to be to laze in the sun and do not much else. It was a great day to be out and about in this part of New Zealand. Just 100 miles further south lay Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular to the south of Christchurch. That was our next port of call.
What on earth happened to the weather? It could not have been more different. A strong West wind blew ragged clouds around the cliffs at the harbour entrance. At one point the visibility dropped to around 200 metres and cleared just as we entered into the harbour. It was cold and damp. Where had the sun of yesterday gone?
We anchored at breakfast time again and over the next two hours the weather flip flopped from nice to just about ok and back again settling on dull and chilly. The next few photos show what I mean.
Two dear people that looked after my family when we first moved to New Zealand came onboard and I spent a few wonderful hours with them.
We are now in Port Chalmers again. It was a bit of a lumpy night due to a SW swell caused by the winds of yesterday. It was another grey and chilly morning as we picked up our pilot and ran into Otago harbour passing the albatross colony on Taiaroa Head.
Captain Tony Lawrence, an old colleague from way back in my Condor ferries days, was our pilot having moved to New Zealand with his family around 7 years ago.
One of our tours which is always very popular is a tour of the Heritage of Dunedin by classic Jaguar cars. Here they are lined up on the quay waiting for our guests.
We are due to depart for Oban, Stewart Island this evening at 6pm with a fairish weather forecast to assist us on our way.
I do hope you did not forget that today is Valentines Day.
Stunning scenery, calm weather and blue skies. That is what greeted us this morning when at 6am we picked up Captain John Henderson, our Queen Charlotte Sound pilot. We berthed in Picton harbour at breakfast time whilst across from us the Interislander ferries loaded their wares for Wellington from whence we came.
It was a peaceful crossing of the Cook Strait last night despite my concerns that a large swell from the south may spoil the serenity.
Most of the morning was given over to our crew emergency drill. Today we had a make believe fire in one of our main electricity generating rooms followed by the inflation of one of our training liferafts. The photo album contains a few more photos of the exercise. Click here to view it.
By the time we had conducted our drill and carried out the debrief afterwards the morning had simply vanished. The purpose of the debrief is to learn lessons from the exercise and find areas where we can improve our response.
We sailed shortly after 18:00 and left Queen Charlotte Sound through the Tory Channel. I will leave you with a few photos of the passage out.
Queen Charlotte Sound.
We have docked right beside the Westpac rugby stadium. It was a little windy overnight as we entered the Cook Straits and entered the harbour. As the day has passed the wind has dropped. It is 17C outside which is a little on the cool side but being so bright and sunny more than compensates.
We docked at 7:30 this morning and will sail at 23:00. Many of the guests have gone out and about on seal safaris, bush treks, visits to Te Papa museum which is the national Museum of New Zealand and partaking of retail therapy in the city.
I on the other hand undertook a crew cabin inspection which you will know from the past is akin to inspecting 200 teenagers bedrooms. Interesting to say the least. It is a requirement of law that we do this to ensure that standards of safety and hygiene are met. Their standards and mine can differ somewhat from time to time but I am also very aware that their cabins are their areas of privacy and their home away from home.
After dinner this evening we will have the Kapa Haka traditional Maori dancers and musicians onboard to entertain t eh guests before we leave for the overnight passage to Picton on the South Island.
With a high pressure system moving in this evening I am hoping for a better day in Picton that last time. We shall see.
We departed Picton. Having loaded some very nice local sauvignon blanc into the last tender from the shore we picked up the anchor and set off for Tauranga. The run round was pleasant enough but oh my Lord, when we arrived at the port limits on the morning of the 6th at 5am the port was shut due to the strong winds from the west. They would not let me in. After a review at 9am the port remained closed. All we could do was head for Auckland and see if we could arrive and get a berth for the night. So that is what we did. Not ideal but with no other choice , keeping the ship comfortable was the priority.
When we got to Auckland the wind was still over 30 knots until we got into the lee of the city. Then we got some shelter and berthed on the Queens Wharf. All our mooring ropes were put out to hold the ship through the night. We had wind, rain and chilly temperatures all within the space of a few hours. Then by dawns early light it all changed. The sun came up, the clouds disappeared and the people came out to see us.
This was another busy day for this was change over day. Departing guests left for all points of the globe. Arriving guests did just that, arrived. The sighs of relief at having arrived onboard I swear were audible for all to hear. A glass of chilled champagne freshly poured from the ice bucket does wonders and kick starts the relaxation process nicely. We sailed at 16:00 back to Tauranga on the first step to retrace our passage to Sydney.
As I write I am watching the people enjoying the sunshine on the beach ahead of us. Blue skies prevail in marked contrast to our visit here not 48 hours ago. Well, we did not visit as the port was closed but you get the drift. Astern of us is the Oosterdam of Holland America line and astern of her is the Albatross. She is an elderly lady of the sea with German passengers. A busy Sunday in port. We will sail this evening and spend tomorrow at sea before arriving in Wellington on Tuesday.
We have arrived in Picton. What is much more important is that my camera has gone on the bugle. I am reliably informed that it is the battery. I am stunned as the camera is less than 4 months old. What could I have possibly done to cause this. I hope one of the wizards on board knows how to rectify the situation and soon.
In the meantime, since my last missive we have visited Timaru, Akaroa, Wellington and today Picton. We have been tracking a large area of low pressure that has been battering the west coast of the South Island for a few days. These systems tend to unsettle the atmosphere and one usually leads to another. One was responsible for the unsettled weather in Stewart Island and Port Chalmers and another is brewing. We did manage two days of fine and settled weather for Timaru and Akaroa. Timaru in particular is a small port and really requires fine weather to navigate into and out of. We were blessed. For on the day the weather was calm and still whereas the night before we arrived it was blowing 30 knots from the North East. We arrived and anchored in Akaroa harbour at 7:30. The sun rose at 06:30 and the warm morning light gave the entrance cliffs a pink hue.
It was a beautiful day here. We tendered the guests ashore in our boats and by all accounts they had a superb day.
From here we went up to Wellington. In the evening we started to feel the influence of the next large low pressure area building in the Tasman Sea. By the time we entered the SE entrance of the Cook Strait the wind was gusting to 50 knots and although there was little swell the sea was quite rough. Our pilot boarded at 8am and we berthed ahead of the Sun Princess and spent rather a pleasant day in the harbour. Yes, it was windy but we were tied up alongside and it was a bright and sunny day. I had lunch with an old friend whom I had not seen in nearly 20 years. He is a Captain on the Interislander ferry that connects Wellington to Picton now. We were in Stena Line ferries on the Irish Sea many years ago. Captain Jonathan Birdsall was looking very well.
When we sailed at 23:00 for Picton the wind had dropped and I thought that we would be spared the worst of it. When I woke up the next morning for the run down Queen Charlotte sound I was wrong. It had risen to 45 knots again from the North West. Once in the shelter of the Sound we made good time and by 07:20 we were at the port entrance. I decided to anchor instead of docking for the forecast was such that I could get the ship berthed but may not get off again, pinned to the wharf by the wind. I was glad I took that decision for the wind was strong and gusty all afternoon. The tenders ran successfully all day and we used the engines to provide shelter for them once they came alongside. So here we are, swinging around pour anchor with gusty winds blowing and warmish weather.
Since my last blog entry we have now crossed the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. The Tasman this time was much kinder in that although we had some swell is was not as bad as the last crossing. An Albatross picked us up at the Bass Straits and followed us for most of the way to New Zealand. I was watching him outside my cabin window and grabbed a snap as he passed.
That was all to the good for two days before we arrived in New Zealand we held our galley market event again. It would have been spoiled if the weather was not kind.
The galley market is of course a huge success for guests and crew alike. It is one of Seabourns signature events and always worth a photo or three.
Our first port of call in New Zealand was Milford and Dusky sounds. The weather was due to turn a bit inclement again during the day and would last for the next few days. However the conditions inside Milford Sound were fantastic. Our pilot was Captain John henderson. He is another 30 year veteran of these waters and he guided us seamlessly through the sounds. A few more pictures can be found in the bits n pieces photo album.
After Milford Sound we headed south for a few hours to Dusky sound. The poor weather had come in and the clouds shrouded the lofty peaks of the sound. Nevertheless the scenery was spectacular and was enjoyed by the guests.
After Dusky Sound we returned to Oban and anchored off Stewart Island. Here the weather really was not kind. The wind came up from the east to 30 knots and brought cool and drizzly conditions. Much of the islands were shrouded in mist and fog which only lifted to a few hundred feet above the ground at best. This is summer here! We are now moored in Port Chalmers behind a large container ship. It is still blowing 25 to 30 knots and curtains of drizzle are sweeping in off the ocean. It has not deterred the guests from going ashore.
This is the only port I can think of where a train comes to our gangway. The TAIERI GORGE RAILWAY train stops on the dock and the guests going on tour board her to go and see the spectacular scenery of the gorge. It is amazing. If ever you like scenery and trains this is a must do.
If Sydney was bright and clear then Melbourne on arrival was clearly not. In fact when we arrived it looked positively gloomy. It was not to last. By midday the sun had burned its way through all the murk and bright blue skies were the order of the day. We had an overnight stay here again and most of the guests and crew took advantage of that.
The Australian Open tennis championship is being played at the moment in Melbourne and many people took advantage of that to get a ticket and watch a game. Not my game so I was content to remain onboard and hold the fort.
It is a busy time for us here. We take on fuel oil from a large tanker barge that berths alongside us. We also use a gizmo called a cherry picker to get to those spots on the ship to paint that are simply impossible to get too otherwise. A cherry picker is a large extendable arm on wheels with a basket at the end in which our people can stand. It is then manoeuvred into position hydraulically to paint. This is a sight not often seen.
One of our boys painting outside the bridge windows about 30 metres above the quay.
As I write we have left Melbourne and are heading for the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa, New Zealand. The weather out here is so much better than our last crossing. We have a wind from the southwest about 20 knots and a swell also from the southwest about 2 metres high.It is a bright day but a little cool as the wind coming up from the southerly latitudes keeps the warmth away for now. Out of the breeze in the sun is still warm enough to sit and read a book and snooze.
I am looking forward to getting back into the fjord land region of New Zealand. It is comparable to Norwegian and Patagonian scenery. Simply awesome.
Finally, my crew member of the day is one of our Third Officers. He is one of our navigation team that keeps a watch on the bridge. He is on the 4-8 watch with a First Officer and his other duties include in assisting with the maintenance of the Life Saving appliances such as lifeboats, liferafts, lifebuoys and so on.
Here is what he said about himself.
Hello everyone, my name is Martijn. I am a Third Officer on board the Seabourn Odyssey. This is my first contract as an officer as I graduated from nautical college last September. My final graduation internship for nautical college I did at Holland America Line. However due to change in manning on board the Seabourn Odyssey, Holland America granted me the opportunity to work here for this contract. I really enjoy this experience because I have been given quite a lot of responsibilities and I also was allowed to navigate the ship away from anchorage. My country of birth is the Netherlands and this is also where I have enjoyed my nautical college. The college is located on a small island, called Terschelling, in the northern part of the Netherlands. The island is connected to both the North Sea and the Waddenzee. The Waddenzee is a sea which is a nature reserve listed on the UNESCO world heritage list. Because of the low water depths in this sea it is an ideal location for kitesurfing. This is also where I picked up this sport and where it grew out to one of my favorite hobbies. Other hobbies that I have are: riding a motorbike, reading about history and philosophy, visiting festivals and travelling around the world, which I can do now even while I am at work.