Musing on Cruising #5 Transatlantic in December

imageWhen you think of cruising your mind conjures up images of sunshine, steamer chairs in the deck, white jacketed waiters bringing you iced drinks. That may be the case except in the Atlantic in December. Here you should be thinking about Master and Commander, The Cruel Sea and any other movie that features black seas, violent storms and a pitching ship.

As I write this we have been at sea for five days. We have seen the sun for twenty minutes and the wind speed hasn’t dropped below Force 7 or about 38mph. Our record this afternoon was Hurricane Force 12 with wind over the deck of 78knts or just under 90mph and then it started to snow.

The wind causes a few problems with stability but the Queen Mary 2 is very sure footed. The problem is the pitching. When the swell is a moderate 10 feet most people wither retire to their cabins or totter about the ship looking slightly drunk as they gently bump into walls and furniture. Here is my guide to transatlantic wind speed and how to judge it

20mph – 30mph      Moderate swell

Brits are talking about it being a smooth as silk and Americans are jogging around the deck

30mph-40mph         Rough Force 8

Brits are using words like ‘choppy’ and have switched from beer to spirits. A few Americans are still jogging.

40mph-50mph         Rough Force 10

Brits are talking about having a light supper and only one cocktail. Last American still jogging

50mph-60mph       Big Swell Hurricane Force 11

Passengers using both hands on the banisters, bars half empty, doors to the decks are closed. No Americans jogging

60mph-70mph         Hurricane Force 12

Shows cancelled but the Balls carry on regardless. Dancing style goes out of the windows as people try to slow waltz by adding extra steps in a desperate attempt to keep their feet on the floor. Spin turns result in couples exiting the dance floor uncontrollably and ending up in the bar. Or was that just us.

70+mph        Armageddon

Brits crash into one another in corridors smiling while saying “I haven’t had my first gin yet”. All soup is cancelled. Every second lift is shut down and the Captain makes impromptu announcement that we needn’t worry as the ship will be the through the worst of this in the next six hours. Seats available anywhere you want. The sea looks like it’s going backwards and the wave hit the windows on deck 7. People start hallucinating claiming to have seen dolphins, whales, Wales, submarines, land or mermaids out of the windows.

In reality the condition aren’t too bad if you have reasonable sea legs but I wouldn’t do a transatlantic again. Six days at sea with no sun is just too boring regardless of however many balls and dinners they offer. Either start in the sun or start sailing when there is the remotest chance of some sunshine however brief.


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