Monday, September 26, 2016

Docking in Astoria

Sailing into Astoria
Almost There
I enjoy cruising. I like the “boring” sea days where we just sail, covering distance across the oceans. Most people however go on cruise vacations to visit new towns, cities and countries, so the ships normally spend whole days tied up in various locations. Here passengers are expected to go ashore and spend their hard earned retirement savings supporting the local tourist economies. The boat normally sails overnight and often we just seem to mysteriously be docked at a new port when we get up in the morning. Unless you are up very early, you don’t feel or see this operation; it just happens. It is one of those necessary operations that the cruise lines try to do when it does not disturb people’s vacations.

Pulling in the Ropes
Today, docking it Astoria Oregon, was different. Not only did we arrive later, my balcony provided a front row seat for the entire operation. As we finished breakfast I felt the ship slow, and so I knew we were approaching port. I got to watch the ship and saw how everything worked, from entering the port to actually getting secured to the wharf.

Pulling in the ropes
It is not a fast process, taking well over an hour from when we started maneuvering to when the gangway was opened to funnel the shopping-deprived passengers into the town. The ship first did a complete turn, basically spinning completely around, so later this evening when we leave we can sail straight out of the port. It is quite the sight to watch a 935 ft. ship slowly spin 180° in the water. Once this was done with tug boats, but now the ship thrusters make these work-horses of the harbor unnecessary, and the ship can turn on a dime and then slowly move sideways into place without making a ripple in my glass of wine. Once close enough to the wharf, ropes are thrown out from the ship and workers on shore catch them and pull first light ropes and then the huge heavy ropes which are used to secure the ship to the shore. No fancy sailor knots are required; loops are put over large posts on the wharf, and the boat winches everything tight.
Going Ashore

Then once all the paperwork formalities are completed successfully, the gangway is attached, gates are opened and the tourist dollars start flowing ashore.  

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