Thursday, February 4, 2016

CAPTAIN’S LOG – 4 February 2016

Oh! that Panama Canal – it is both a wonder and a bewilderment. We raced to arrive before the 1400 booking deadline, went to anchor and waited. It was not too bad, but while waiting you start to look at the clock, and add eight hours, since that is about the normal transit time for a ship of our length.   They called and said the pilot would arrive at 1900, but by the time the pilot climbed up the ladder it
was well after 2000.

The Panama Canal handles about 40 ships per day, and the average size is far larger than Kennedy. Recall that the largest ship that can transit is 965 feet long and 106 feet wide.  The larger the ship the longer the transit time, but not by much.  The ships move in a convoy like motion, grouped as Northbound and Southbound, rotating four times a day.  On Tuesday we were North 31, the last ship in the northbound group that day (You may recall that when we went Southbound we were first).  But being the last means that every delay ahead adds on to your time.

Our Pilot was Captain George Hayes, who coincidentally has his son Donovan aboard as a Third Class cadet.  Captain Hayes actually is usually assigned larger ships due to his seniority, but he wanted to take Kennedy for obvious reasons.  Boarding along with him were Captain Jim Dertien and Captain Luis Munoz – both of whom boarded to spend a short time with their children, Dominque
Dertien and Luis Carlos Muno-Moreno, First and Third class respectively.  I can observe that over the years the incidence of fathers being pilots to our cadets has increased significantly – I like to think it is a testimony to the quality of education at MMA.

So, Captain Hayes had a long night ahead of him, as we had a Panamax container ship ahead of us, who it seemed elected to approach the locks at a frustratingly slow speed.  Before we departed Pedro Miguel locks we were already two hours behind schedule.  So the night dragged on, Captain Hayes and I watching the mates and cadets changing watches. Where we had planned to be out of Gatun by 0300, we finally let go the last locomotive at 0545.  So, it was a long night.  I always say, let me sleep from 0300 and to 0600 and I can go right through the next day without a problem – but going down at 0700 tends to mess up my whole day.

With the Canal behind us, we are now heading to Oranjestad, Aruba – one happy island!  This port always makes the cadets and crew happy (no joke there!). Aruba is one of the most frequented island in the Caribbean by Americans – and we tend to see loved ones “vacationing” at the same time as we are docked there. I hope the cadets have completed all their academic assignments and practical
assessments scheduled for them because as our sea term starts getting short, so does the time they have to complete certain requirements – many of which can only be done at sea.

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