Life on the Ship–A Visit With the Captain (Saturday PM, September 2)


IMG_3907We returned to the ship for late lunch and to sail to our next destination. After lunch our little group spent time on the sun deck, waiting for a scheduled visit with the Captain in the ship’s wheelhouse.  (See above, which is a photo from another Viking ship.)

The wheelhouse, which takes its name from the wheel used to steer ships in the old days, can be lowered when the ship passes below low bridges. The ship is steered via modern technology.  No wheels here—just joy sticks, buttons, computer and radar screens. Shipboard radar as well as GPS technology keeps the Captain informed as to where every ship nearby is located.

On European rivers, ships normally pass each other on the port (left) side—like autos on a U.S. highway. However, a ship sailing upstream (upstream has the right of way) can signal it plans to pass on the starboard (right) side. It does this by raising a blue sign,

IMG_4011 (2)
Another ship, blue-boarding up the Rhine

called the blue board.  (See above photo.) The downstream-sailing ship acknowledges this signal by raising its blue board. (This signaling is also done electronically.)

146 from ColeWe spent a good bit of time talking with the captain, a tall, thin German who looked every inch a captain. (I confess I wrote down his name and now can’t find my note.) For our purposes, I will refer to him as, uh . . . the Captain.

I asked the Captain him how he got into his position. He said that previously he was a diesel mechanic for Mercedes Benz and didn’t like the job. Through a friend he met a river captain, who encouraged him to apply for the training program that leads to a captain’s license. The program only takes applicants as needed, and the Captain applied for two or three years before a spot opened up.  The training takes several years, involving classes as well as on-board experience working under a licensed captain.  But there is no set schedule for obtaining a license. The length of time involved for a man (or woman) to receive a license depends on expertise demonstrated by testing and evaluations by superiors.

Captains work for several weeks and then are off for several weeks. Our Captain was finishing his on-duty period at the end of our cruise in Amsterdam, after which he was flying to Spain where he and his family live.

After the wheelhouse, we relaxed around the ship, with dinner and a post-dinner lively, well-lubricated, and smoky discussion by the guys on the sundeck.  The women, sensibly, went on to bed.

Tomorrow morning is what I call “Castle Day,” and tomorrow afternoon we will tour Koblenz.


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