Minerva 3rd Contract

Sunday, November 21st, 2010 at 13:32 | by Alistair Baillie

So I flew down to London back on the 27th of July and joined MV Minerva in Dover on the 28th. After a very brief hand over we sailed from Dover bound for the Shetland Islands and then further north up to Iceland. We spent a few days cruising around various Icelandic ports and fjords – I was on the 12-4 watch and we only really had an hour for two of darkness each night but without fail at 2am we would enter really thick fog – so bad I couldn’t even see the first lifeboat which was only 50m away!

After iceland we returned to the UK stopping at Leith in Scotland on the way and then back to Dover for turn around and the start of our last Northern Europe cruise around the British isles.

We sailed off through the English channel to Sark in the Channel Islands where our tendering operation was a bit of a disaster – firstly Minerva doesn’t have proper cruise ship tenders, she has pretty standard single engine Schat Harding 150 person lifeboats which double as tenders and are pretty much useless in any tight space or wind / swell / current.

The first tendering location lasted for an hour then it was abandoned on the grounds that the tide had gone out and the harbor we were using was now completely dry so we had to relocate around the corner – this meant around a 1.5 mile tender run in a boat that could barely make 6 kts – once the tide changed and the current was against us mine was barely making 1 kt and at one point was going backwards despite having full ahead!

To make maters worse the other tender proceeded to break down on the last run – prompting the deployment of one of the 12 zodiacs with an engineer to fix it!

After Sark we sailed to Killybegs and Glengariff in Ireland – I can’t remember which one of these ports it was but our lovely gyro compass proceeded to fail while we were there resulting in us sailing and making an unscheduled stop in Greenock for technicians to attend. Alas they were unable to fix the problem and it was decided a completely new gyro was required – so we sailed from Greenock and headed up to Oban then on to Mull and round to Kirkwall where our brand new gyro compass was delivered!

Now rather surprisingly when your gyro compass fails you also loose ARPA (radar plotting system) as well as all your satellite communication systems which require the gyro heading in order to track the satellites! Worst of all since you have no gyro stabilization any attempts to do radar plotting manually becomes pretty much impossible with the ship constantly yawing from side to side.

Anyway we made it back to Dover and then headed south to the Mediterranean stopping of at Guernsey and Portugal on the way ending that particular cruise in Napoli. I then moved to the 4-8 watch as we got a new second officer onboard and they decided it was best i do 4-8 since it is generally the busiest as it covers most of our arrivals and departures.

We sailed from Napoli and headed down through the Messina Straits to a small tendering port on the coast of Sicily. Then it was on to Venice and various ports in Croatia and Albania as we made our way to Athens – before heading up to the black sea and visiting Bulgaria and ukraine then back to Istanbul.

This was my first time ever in Venice which is an amazing city. The sail in / out is superb as you head up the main canals (the names i forget) past all the famous tourist attractions before berthing pretty much right in the centre. As i was 4-8 it gave me a good chance to explore and I went out for dinner with Gergana after i finished at night where we
got completely lost trying to find St Marks Square (we eventually found it just after midnight!) but we did find a hard rock cafe on the way and stopped for 1 or 2 drinks!

Oddly enough we were in Istanbul this year exactly 1 year after I joined Minerva there last year. After Istanbul we cruised some of the Greek and Turkish islands before making our way back to Athens then up through the Corinth Canal (see the video below – it has been speeded up to 6x normal speed) to Venice.

This time round Venice was rather cold but I went out for dinner with Jen then we went to St Marks Square – managing not to get lost this time round, before ending up in the Hard Rock Cafe drinking cocktails then back to the ship to drink some more as it was one of our many overnights!

The weather started to decline rapidly from this point onwards – it was generally cold and raining with the odd thunderstorm. We ended that cruise in Valletta on the island of Malta. Which was the cue for my regular outing to the Hard Rock Cafe in Valletta (I seem to be managing to visit lots of hard rock cafes).

We left Malta for my final cruise and headed North to Palermo then west to Tunisia where it was a tad rough during the crossing and then off to various ports in Libya. I won’t really comment on Tunisia or Libya mainly because I don’t have much nice to say about them – I absolutely hate African ports!

We then returned to Europe and Civilisation in the form of Rhodes which is a really nice town – although I guess we visited out of season as pretty much everywhere had closed by 1600 which is not so good when you are there until 2300!

So we sailed from Rhodes and headed to Limassol and the day I left – since there wasn’t space on board I left the ship at 2100 on the 19th and went to a hotel before being taken to the airport nice and early at 0600 the next morning.

So I am writing this on my flight from Larnaca to Schiphol in Amsterdam (on my new favorite gadget the iPad).

I don’t have that many photos – most I do have are on Facebook already but I will upload some to here when I get round to it.

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