Day 62 - The Gambia
|Sunday, December 10, 2023: We were up before sunrise to check out our approach to Gambia. Officially, it is The Gambia like The Ohio State University, but we're going to just say Gambia. Those are the lights of the city of Banjul ahead.
|The Port of Banjul is actually about ten miles up the Gambia River and we had to be at the pilot station at the start of high tide. We ate French toast and watched our approach through our balcony doors until we were near the pier.
|By 8:00 AM, we were tied up to the pier and the tugboats that had been shadowing us were released to other duties.
|There were some seaworthy boats in the harbor and some not-so-seaworthy ones.
|We had decided to stay on the ship today, mostly because there weren't any shore excursions that we liked. Visits to craft markets and "the most densely populated town in The Gambia" just don't appeal to us. Since we hadn't planned to get off the ship, we hadn't paid over $150 each for the required entry visas for US citizens, so we were committed to staying on board. We could hear the drums from the folk dancers welcoming passengers off the ship and wondered how the security crew scanning badges could stand that hour after hour.
|Along the harbor we could see, from right to left: another Karadeniz Powership, the Göktay Bey, similar to but much smaller than the one we had seen in Ghana, ...
|... a large collection of small wooden boats anchored just off a sandy beach, a beached ferry, ...
|... the Banjul-Barra ferry terminal (the blue pier), ...
|... the bridge leading to the main port from our pier, ...
|... and the container port containing lots of Maersk.
|We went down on Promenade on deck three to get closer to the action on the pier, ...
|... and were surprised at the rows of chairs set up on the pier. They were filled with guests waiting for the next shuttle bus into town.
|A ferry from Barra came in while we were watching. It was named Kunta Kinteh, after the character from Alex Haley's novel "Roots." Haley's ancestors were from Gambia.
|We were amused that even the folk dancers had to wear safety vests due to port regulations.
|There were vendors set up all the way to the end of the pier, ...
|... selling wood carvings, ...
|... beads, clothing, woven items, you name it.
|The ship's hotel manager and his adorable children were on the pier taking a stroll. The girl had butterfly wings this time. Their luggage must just be full of glitter.
|A great white egret perched on an empty pier directly across the river from us, ...
|... no doubt watching this man fishing with a net off the end of our pier. He would make a cast, haul in his net, ...
|... and dump the fish out on the pier. Surprisingly, there weren't any birds stealing his catch.
|On the far shore, two men and a few boys brought a bunch of goats down to the river, ...
|... and carried them one at a time ...
|... into the river for a bath.
|After the washing was done, he would let the goat go and it would calmly walk to shore, ...
|... while he took another goat for its bath.
|The smaller goats got carried back to shore after it was done.
|Awww. Isn't this photo so sweet?
|Mamas and babies were reunited and clean. This half-black half-white goat was the only one that was tied up. Apparently there was some history there.
|We did a full circuit around the promenade, stopping every now and then to look at the new sights.
|Since we were in port, the shops were all closed, ...
|... but that still didn't stop Tom from looking at the watch ads.
|We wondered if this store was able to get out some other merchandise since all of the logowear had been moved to the new Captain's Collection store. This store was where most of that merchandise had come from.
|It was a good opportunity to get photos for our shipboard photo safari without any crew in them.
|Debbie lingered over this display case and admired a few of the necklaces with multicolored stones in them.
|We went up to the Lido Market for lunch.
|Debbie fixed a plate with her favorite sushi, and added a slice of tri-tip beef to her club sandwich. Perfection!
|For dessert, Debbie had some of the HAL bread pudding, and Tom got a bowl of potato chips. We treated ourselves to two cans of caffeine free Coke Zero, a rare treat since there just weren't enough cans onboard to get a regular supply.
|At 1:45 PM, we went to the Neptune Lounge for a tour of the bridge. There were some desserts out, but we weren't tempted.
|Just before 2:00 PM, Alexa led us to the magic door on deck eight that leads to the officers' cabins and the bridge.
|We were met by 3rd officer Gijs who started the tour on the portside bridge wing.
|There are two bridge wings, both identical, where the ship can be conned during approach and docking.
|Mounted on the ceiling are an array of instruments, including a monitor showing multiple shots from security cameras positioned around the outside of the ship.
|There was a printout of how the ship should be moored from a port report dated March 2023, ...
|... and a PowerPoint slide on one of the bridge laptops showing how we were moored.
|Looking out the bridge window, we could see that our ship was indeed moored exactly that way.
|There were dozens of possible camera views to choose from.
|Debbie took a moment to photograph the LEGO daily calendar right there on the bridge.
|The view from the bridge was fantastic, as you'd expect. We watched as another ferry, the Kanilai, arrived from Barra.
|The bridge was beautiful, and the equipment was all a very soothing Maersk blue. We were free to walk anywhere we wanted on the bridge and we didn't have to stay in a group.
|This cool clock was mounted on one of the control panels. Unfortunately, we never asked anyone what its significance was.
|Another 3rd officer, Nathan, demonstrated the ship's radar capabilities. It is able to show targets out to 96 nautical miles, but they rarely use it at that distance. It is most often set to either 12 or 24 nautical miles.
|The radar was superimposed over a nautical chart showing water depths in meters.
|Gijs answered lots of questions about instrumentation, procedures, training, experience, you name it. Here he is answering one of Tom's questions.
|He changed one of the displays to show our projected course to Dakar, Senegal, and explained that they no longer used paper charts for navigation.
|Another monitor showed a quick status of various systems around the ship. We were surprised to see a panel showing the current state of the pools and hot tubs. Wait. There's a third pool somewhere on this ship!
|Tom asked what this device was. There were two of them mounted on the ceiling. Gijs explained that they used to show the rudder angles, but now that they have azipods, they are of limited use. They still accurately reflect the azipod angles until they turn beyond 90 degrees, and then they sort of go haywire.
|We could just make out the 2023 Grand Africa banner on the white panel just below the bridge.
|This is the starboard bridge wing.
|There was a spotting scope at a table in front of the instrument panel to allow for taking sightings and plotting their exact bearing.
|A glass panel in the floor gave a view straight down the side of the ship.
|What an amazing view. We think that's the captain's cabin right next to the bridge based on where he was sitting when we left.
|Here's the instrument panel. There are four different ways to drive the ship from here including a simplified joystick, individual azipod controllers, a miniature ship's control wheel, and lastly, pushbuttons in the event that all of the others fail.
|This conning screen showed course information, water depth, temperature, humidity, azipod positions, and current power output from the engines.
|A display showed the ship's speed through the water (STW) or the speed over ground (SOG).
|There was a framed photo of the Zuiderdam taken in Alaska hanging on the back of the bridge with a "We Heart Alaska" banner where our current Grand Africa banner was.
|There was a large repeater display showing the screen from one of the bridge laptops, ...
|... and we watched as a navigation officer put together a PowerPoint presentation for the departure from Banjul.
|The 3rd officer had said that there would be a staff briefing before we left port where our intended course would be explained, ...
|... and this was apparently part of the materials that would be used during that briefing.
|There was also a briefing being prepared for our stop in Mindelo, Cape Verde, on December 13th.
|Behind the main area of the bridge, separated from it by glass, was a damage control station with a huge console showing the status of fire alarms throughout the ship.
|In the category of random things that are fascinating, we were amused by this spreadsheet of sunset and sunrise times for December, especially since it contained notes for when the ship's clock would be changed.
|Nearby were two notice of mortgage statements, which we thought was interesting. Kind of a reminder, maybe, that the ship wasn't paid off yet.
|The Zuiderdam was delivered to Holland America twenty one years and one month ago. Hey, the Zuiderdam is of legal drinking age!
|After thirty minutes, our tour was over. The last thing we saw before exiting the bridge was this rack of old-school signal flags. In this age of computer-driven everything, it was amusing to see these relics of communication dating back to the early 16th century.
|Our trip back to our cabin somehow went through the Lido Market, where there were Hanukkah specials being served.
|A couple of jelly doughnuts may have found their way back to our cabin, along with some mint chocolate chip ice cream.
|We went to dinner in the main dining room tonight, where Tom had the split pea soup, which he only eats on Holland America ships, ...
|... and the Big Jonathan Burger, which was two six ounce patties, bourbon onion jam, a fried egg, pulled pork, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and one large onion ring. He had to eat it with a fork and knife, but it was delicious. It's named after the food and beverage manager.
|Back in our cabin, we watched as a string of wooden boats crossed the harbor while we prepared to unmoor.
|Before departure, the captain made his usual announcements about how far we were going to travel to the next destination and how fast we would be going, but then he mentioned that Banjul had been a troublesome port for him during the day. In addition to a bunch of surprise inspections, an official had come aboard during the morning and requested that all of the passengers and crew disembark the ship and wait on the pier while they fumigated the ship. When the captain told him that it wasn't required and that they had all of the necessary certifications, the official told him that they could waive the local certification requirement for 40,000 Gambian Dalasi, about $600 US. The captain refused to pay the bribe and the official departed. Wow.
|We love to see the dockworkers take out their phones and take pictures of our ship as we are leaving.
|We watched as the vendors packed up their wares, ...
|... and the folk dancers finally got to rest as they waited for their ride.
|Two tugs shadowed us as we maneuvered away from the pier, ...
|... and left the ferry terminal ...
|... and Goat Wash Beach behind.
|A tree in the distance was covered with large birds.
|Debbie documented our departure, as always.
|As we made our way out of the river mouth and back to the Atlantic Ocean, it was now completely dark out. All we could see were the channel markers.
|Later, we heard crickets chirping away on our balcony and went out to investigate. We found three of the largest crickets we've ever seen, easily as large as our thumbs, behind chair legs and under a crack in the deck. Our trusty flyswatter took care of them, and we were back to ocean-going silence once again.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy