Another early morning and coffee on the Bridge at 5 a.m. while I became acclimatised to my surroundings, familiarisation of the status board, shipping, weather and, of course, approach charts.
We were asked to be at the pilot station at 6 a.m., unusually, this is several miles down a long, narrow and shallow approach channel, rather than at the outer sea-buoy.
Apart from the usual suspects, fishing boats, we were accompanied by 2 other Cruise ships, the “Aida Sol”, the “Libra” and a Casino ship, quaintly named the “Amusement World”. She was hovering outside, though how people would use the casino at 5 a.m. was beyond me.
We were informed by Penang control that we could enter the channel, however it had not escaped our notice that there was a rather large lump of metal already in it, namely an outbound cargo ship. There was no way that 2 ships could pass each other and as a consequence we waited outside until it cleared.
Having transited the channel, we embarked our pilot, a jovial Malaysian gentlemen. He showed no desire whatsoever to take the con, which, as you know by now, suited us admirably and so we made our way towards Penang itself.
Unfortunately we had chosen a bad day to arrive, 4 ships and 2 berths, so someone had to draw the ‘short straw’ and in in this case it was us. We would anchor for 5 hours, tender guests ashore, while the Aida Sol and another Casino ship would dock. Then the Casino ship would leave and the “Libra” would dock and then the Aida Sol would go to anchor and we would dock, got that? 😕 Phew, it was going to be a busy day.
We anchored in a 3-knot current and the tender coxswains did remarkably well in such conditions.
The tide changed at 11 a.m. and we swung in the current, facing north. At 12:45, the Aida Sol left the berth and we picked up anchor, having stopped our tender operations. We were now going to dock in a 4-knot current and, having got half way to the pier, I switched to joystick. The current was so strong that I used it to assist me towards the berth, I controlled how fast we dropped and a bias ahead, so that we ended up in the correct position. What with Semarang, Jakarta and now this, I was getting a handful.
Safely ‘parked’, there was little time to go ashore, none to be precise, so some photos from the ship.
We departed at 5 p.m. and made our way towards Phuket. The departure pilot was more than pleased to get home to his wife and children, when I told him I was more than happy to let the Bridge team take us out, off he went, within 5 minutes of leaving the berth.
We made the 170-mile transit to Phuket, overnight and putting our clocks back yet another hour while we did so.
Docking in Phuket involves turning outside and backing down the channel. There is a ‘turning’ basin, however it is silted up. So, having swung (and battling a 3-knot current), we backed the 1-mile channel to the berth, where we now sit. Karen, Col, Paris, Randy and Linda just phoned me; they are reclined in a resort, swimming in the pool and having a beer or two, that cheered me up no end. 😀
We leave here at 5, heading for Thiwala, the gateway port for Yangon, or Rangoon, Burma. That’s going to be a 3 a.m. pilot and a long, river passage to our berth. With 2 days there I will, optimistically, manage to get ashore for more photos.