Tuesday, 12 September 2017

We are Sailing...#3 Cruise Diary

Cruising Iceland, Greenland, and Norway #3
Continuing my cruise diary updates...

Saturday 26th August 2017

Black Watch tender to shore at Tasiilaq, Greenland
On Saturday 26th August after we sailed away from Tasiilaq, Greenland, around 5.30 p.m. the seas became quite choppy.

Just before my early dinner sitting at 6.15 p.m. the captain, Age Danielsen (apologies for lack of the fancy accent above the letter A), was on the PA system warning us that the Force 3/4 of the late afternoon had developed into a Force 6. He gave us fair warning that the winds were likely to strengthen quickly to more like Force 9 that evening and that the deep low weather depression above the Northern Atlantic meant that the same gusts and wind conditions were going to last all night and well into the next day (Sunday 27th), perhaps even into the day after (28th).

Observatory Lounge, Deck 9 , The Black Watch 
He informed us that our progress would be severely hampered and the average of 15 knots that he had achieved on the way to Greenland would be a thing of the past week and that he was aiming to achieve something more like a steady 7 or 8 knots as he sailed eastwards battling against the wind. He promised us more regular weather updates and progress reports since the general Captain’s Log was normally only issued at noon on days at sea.

My Saturday dinner (26th) was superb and afterwards my husband and I went off to enjoy a few more drinks up in the Observatory Lounge where we could look out for the last of the icebergs as we headed east and watch the swell surges rise above the lower decks.

(There's a reflection in my 'selfie' but there's also an iceberg to the left of my shoulder that I was trying to capture! )

Sunday 27th August
video

For around 36 hours the Force 9 gales battered The Black Watch and to make it even more exciting they were interspersed with intermittent stronger gusts that some passengers quoted at Force 10 or 11 gusts—though as far as I know that information didn’t come from the captain himself.  Whilst I found it great fun lurching around the public areas of the cruise ship, some unfortunates spent that day and a half in their cabin ensuite bathroom doing a different sort of ‘heave-hoeing’ (like one woman I chatted with a few days later). That must have been really yukky! They lost a ‘cruising day’ with potentially many different activities on offer to while away the time and probably missed the wonderfully entertaining talks about the places we were due to visit.  They also missed out on the excellently presented cuisine which was of superb quality every single meal. However, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the ‘poor’ sailors were in the minority and that most people attended meals as usual—even if the corridors, lounges and bar areas were pretty quiet during the day.  

The sick ‘cruisers’ also missed the hilarity of getting ready for the ‘Dress Formal’ evening on the Sunday night, the second of the three nights during the cruise when ‘Black Tie’ was the order of the day. Applying face make up during a Force 9 Gale was a huge challenge for me in the close confines of our small ensuite bathroom but we scrubbed up pretty well.

My husband was glad he had his Jardine tartan trews outfit packed rather than his kilt! The meal that night was as superb as usual, the mainly Philippine waiters not batting an eyelid when the huge surges came and the waves battered the side of the ship – and they didn’t drop a single tray!  

After dinner the show really did ‘still go on’! The gales continued to batter the ship al night long but in the Neptune Lounge, the main theatre area, The Black Watch Show was excellent late night entertainment. The romantic tunes of the 20s and 30s went even better with some extra unplanned ‘clutches’ and smooches when the ship rocked and rolled!   
Wave rush as high as Deck 8 -as seen from Observation Lounge 27th Aug 2017

Those were the fun bits for me that night but the bad weather meant there had to be changes to the original schedule.

When the weather conditions are not in the captain’s favour he has the ultimate judgement call on what is about to happen to all of the souls under his care. He did a superb job to keep up the general morale when he delivered a special, somewhat disappointing, Captain’s Log update. Due to our slow speed, and the projected continued bad weather conditions in the coming days, it was not possible to visit both of our next 2 scheduled stops on Iceland.


Instead of arriving during the very early morning of Monday 28th August to our third port of call, Akureyri,down the fjord on the northern coast of Iceland, we would not arrive till around 2 p.m. The knock on effect of our late arrival to Akureyri would be that we’d not be leaving at 5.30 p.m. to chunter down the east coast of Iceland to Eskifjordur, our intended fourth port of call. The best that Captain Age Danielsen could do for us was to get us to Akureyri for early afternoon on Mon 28th where the ship would remain overnight, and in safer conditions, at port instead of journeying on to Eskifjordur.(near Reydarfjordur on the map below)


Akureyri was do-able given the adjustment to scheduled berth bookings (other ships using the harbours as well) but we had to abandon a stop at Eskifjordur.

For tourists who only disembarked at Akureyri to wander around the town for a couple of hours our 2 p.m. arrival didn’t really didn’t matter so much but for those who had pre-booked tours to see more of the countryside of Iceland it meant cancellations and reorganisation. My husband and I had originally booked a 3 hour tour in a 4x4 vehicle which was to take us to ‘The Vacant Valley’. This tour would have allowed us to see areas, and hidden gems, that coaches cannot travel to but it was cancelled. The weather was also very poor on Iceland that day so that particular tour, being off road, might have been too dangerous.

Instead, we joined the coach tour named ‘Jewels of the North’. This was a much longer tour of 8 hours. Normally this tour has a stop around the half way point for lunch but since we didn’t start the tour till 2.30 p.m. our meal replaced an on board dinner instead. Our viewing stops were curtailed a little to make the tour a shorter time of 7 hours. That meant we were back to the ship quite late but since the Captain had decreed we were spending the night at Akureyri it was fine.

Look out for more about my Jewels of the North tour  in my next ‘Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway’ post.

Slainthe!

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