Grumpy might as well put his observations in here also. He and Slinkie were at dinner (8PM fixed seating) when the bad weather really got nasty.
The ship was supposed to anchor and tender at Portree, Isle of Skye on the 7th. The concern was that if the anchor did not get a good hold and started to drag, Prinsendam would be on the rocks very quickly. The information available indicated that Scrabster would likely not not be accessible on the 8th. The shore excursion team was able to set up tours for Invergordon, which was not on the original schedule, for the 8th, so the decision was made to skip Portree and Scrabster and sail on to Invergordon.
The rough seas started in late afternoon as Prinsendam was rounding the northwest corner of Scotland. The Isle of Skye to the west had sheltered the west side of Scotland during the day and the seas were not bad. Once around the NW tip there was nothing but open seas to the east and west, and as someone else suggested, hurricane Earl was making his presence in the area known. The narrow strait between the north end of Scotland and South Orkney is notorious for really rough seas as it serves as a funnel between the North Sea and the Atlantic. Winds and waves tend to create a "confused sea" as Captain Albert described it.
The dining room was fairly empty. There were probably a lot of passengers feeling a bit of the mal de mer by that time and stayed in their cabin or grabed a quick bowl of soup in the Lido. At our table, one couple was in the Pinnacle and the other couple came to the dining room with us. Ouir table was #33, in the side dining room. That table is fairly well aft in that room, but is still a mid-ship location. There is a table for two between table 33 and the windows. That table was occupied by Captain Joe and his wife Miriam. Capt Joe is a seasoned sea captain of everything from submarines in WWII to oil drilling rigs in the North Sea. He and Miriam were the senior Mariners on board with 1101 days each on HAL.
When things started getting a little more rocky, the first courses had been served. Prinsendam did some pitching and rolling and the doors on the display cabinet for the fine wines opened up and severl shelves dumped onto the carpeted floor. Fortunately, no bottles broke and the waiters quickly removed all remaining bottles and placed them on the floor. They had already taken the stemware that wasn't being used and turned them on their sides with stems crossed to keep them from rolling around. The passengers in the dining rooms held onto the table with one hand and their wine glasses with the other waiting to see what would happen next. They didn't have to wait long...
Prinsendam did a pretty violent lurch and hard slam into a wall of water. Captain Albert later said that the bridge was covered with "green water" which is a sailors way of describing being in the thick part of the wave and not just in the foamy top. The combination of the hard slam and the twisting motion from not hitting the wave exactly square is what caused the hull to flex enough to shatter so many windows. Also, at the age of the ship, there is some rust buildup in the window frames... those places that can never get painted... and that rust will put pressure points on the glass, even through the heavy rubber gaskets. Although there were more than 50 broken windows throughout the ship, none broke in the small dining room, so we didn't realize the extent of the damage until later.
One of our table mates was terrified, but the rest of us were not too concerned. I glanced over at Captain Joe and saw that he was grinning ear to ear. I imagine he was thinking "Yeah, Baby, this is sailing like I remember from the good old days!" I figured if Capt Joe wasn't worried then I wasn't going to worry. If He had shown any sign of concern, yours truly would probably have gone from calm to terrified in about two nanoseconds. About that time we were jarred by one ring of the alarm bells (there is one about 10 feet from our table and it definitely got our attention!) Capt Albert announced that the alarm bell was only to get our attention and then asked that people remain seated and not move about the ship if at all possible. He assured us that the ship was not in danger. Well... we're at our table, we still have what remains of our first course and some bread, water and wine... no need to go anywhere. Our water said there would be no further courses served. I can imagine what the kitchen looked like at that point.
We stayed for another 20 minutes or so and then our waiter came over and told us our entrees were ready if we still wanted to eat. We all accepted the offer and were able to finish our meal without further incident. All I can say is that Prinsendam has a fantastic crew and they just took all of the turmoil in stride and went about their business.
When we left the dining room, we went up the aft stairs and walked forward through the explorers lounge and photo gallery. There we saw many shattered windows. I noted that it was usually the forward pane in the groups of three panes that make a window that shattered.
We went on up to our cabin which was on deck 11, a little forward of the forward elevators. The cabin steward must have somewhat prepared the cabin before the big waves as the stemware was on its side and interlocked and a bottle of wine was placed on its side behind a shelf rail and padded with a linen napkin. The champagne bucket was off of the stand on on the floor and the small ice bucket had fallen off the desk and was on the floor. My stack of papers was scattered across the floor, several drawers were partially open and a few of the shelves in the closet had dumped their contents on the floor. Surprisingly, there was not one item in the bathroom that was not in its place.
There was one bottle of wine that had been sitting on the desk that could not be found, but it showed up the next day. It had rolled across the room, under a chair and was nestled behind the balcony door curtain. All in all, no damages. There was a laptop sitting on each desk and they had not moved.
The next day the deck crew was busy replacing glass. They keep several panes in the hold for emergency replacement but not nearly the quantity needed for this repair. Engineering was all over the ship, checking each cabin, taking picture, measuring and documenting everything. By the time we got around to Tilbury, after our port days in Invergordon and Rosyth, the glass available onboard had been used up and preparations had been made to do the remainder of the work at the dock in Tilbury. Tilbury was scheduled as an overnight port, so it worked out very well. There were inspector's from the insurance companies on board inspecting the bow area, marking off areas with black markers and taking lots of pictures. I'm sure they were ascertaining that there was no structural damage that would make the ship unseaworthy.
The remainder of the glass was on the dock in Tilbury along with crews to do the installation. By the time we sailed, the dented bow was about the only visable evidence that anything had happened. There was at least one window that shattered later in the cruise, probably some residual pressure in the frame. It was the window right next to the table where Capt Joe and Miriam had been.
Work continued on the rails and structural members around the bow pulpit and there was a lot of hammering, grinding, cutting, welding and painting going on in almost every port. When we left on Oct. 10, there were still some large dented areas that will probably remain until the next drydock. Structurally, all of the ribs that were bent or cracked loose have been straightened, welded and reinforced.
There has been some discussion around the ship by some of the old salts aboard as to whether the stabilizers being in use can increase the twisting damage. The theory is that the stabilizers try to hold the mid ship area in an upright position but a quartering wave on the bow is trying to roll the ship and the result is a twisting action. Although there may have been fewer broken windows if the ship rolled evenly, there likely would have been more loose items in the ship that would have crashed and broken and more passengers thrown about because the roll would have been more severe had the stabilizers been retracted. I think Capt Albert handled the situation extremely well considering what he was faced with. I do wonder if there was sufficient information available to make a decision to go through that channel. Staying in the more protected area on the west side might have been an option, but it would probably have resulted in the loss of all of the ports after that.
Captain Gundersen joked that he gets his weather information from CNN, but the weather lady always has her ample fanny blocking the view of the area he's trying to observe. I hope this whole thing wasn't because Capt Albert was distracted by a fanny blocking his view of that part of Scotland... :eek::D