Feb. 08, 2011

Captain Dag Saevik, The World

by Milbry Polk

Click to enlarge images

Milbry Polk,
The World, Puerto Montt, Chile
January 31, 2010

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

Captain Dag Saevik

Growing up on the west coast of Norway, the sea has been part of Dag Saevik’s life since he was young and “playing in boats."

"I was always thinking about working on ships and in 1979 I decided to go to sea,“ said Captain Saevik. He began his career as an electrician and then went to sea as a deckhand to see if liked that life. He did, so applied and was accepted at the Maritime Academy in Tonsberg, Norway. It took him eleven years of study, and working his way up the ladder, to eventually become a captain. He joined the ship, The World, when it was being built nine years ago.

The World by Europa Glacier, Chile

[/caption]The World is a unique place. It is the largest privately owned, residential yacht on earth –- a unique community-at-sea whose Residents travel to the planet’s most exotic and breathtaking destinations from the comfort of their own home. Because the Residents own the ship, they decide in collaboration with the ships officers and The World's headquarters in Miramar, Florida, what the yearly itinerary will be. Captain Saevik explained the process.

I work with a small team to come up with three options for the year. The committee that has been elected by the Residents then discusses the ideas with us. Then, the Residents vote to select one of the three itineraries. Next, we create a day-by-day proposal, which the Residents also help with. For example, we will tweak the itinerary to be in a port during local festivities or, if a port is over-active, we will change the dates. We have agents all over the globe who give us particular information. Taking in all the input from Residents, agents, and navigators, we then work out a detailed itinerary. We usually work two years ahead.

The World seeks out places that few, if any, other large passenger ships ever go. One such place was the Russian Arctic -- with stops on Wrangell Island known for its large polar bear population. One resident told me they saw more than 105 bears in just three days! To plan a complicated trip like this, the Captain calls on local experts, pilots, and others with knowledge.

Navigation showing Puerto Montt, Chile

Captain Saevik with First Officer of Navigation

While The World can carry a maximum of 270 crew members and 300 Residents and guests, it is a large ship, comparable to some expedition cruise lines. So, once the decision has been made to take the vessel to unusual places, the Captain and his navigator must have the most up to date charts -- usually provided both by the host country and the British Admiralty.

Luckily, The World is quite agile and maneuverable for its size. The ship can cruise along at 18 knots. It can also come to a full stop within three minutes.

They also have several types of sophisticated electronic navigating devices. In addition to the usual depth echo sonar and radar, they have forward scanning 3D sonar and, in tricky places, they launch a special boat the Captain has outfitted with an echo sounder. The crew on the launch can then radio navigation information back to the bridge. For the upcoming expedition through the Northwest Passage, the Captain is planning to purchase longer range sonar, which will give views 900 yards out from the ship. This is important because The World will be in areas with ice and where charts are not fully complete.

Because The World goes places other large ships have rarely been, navigation is sometimes challenging. Captain Saevik said Antarctica and Greenland are the most difficult because the charts they must rely on are incomplete. In Antarctica, The World often goes places other ships of the same size don’t. In Greenland, the ice melt is opening new channels, so of course there are few charts of these new areas.

Robert Lohmeyer, First Officer, Navigation

Robert Lohmeyer, First Officer for Navigation, who is instrumental in cruise planning, explained that he works in close collaboration with local Pilots if they are available. For the Chilean cruise, he worked with two Chilean Pilots who came aboard to help navigate through the fjords.

Officer Lohmeyer also explained that for information about the weather, he depends on the local weather service and a subscription to a worldwide marine weather forecasting services.

Some of the worst weather The World has encountered was on the passage from South Georgia, Antarctica to Ushuaia, Argentina. Captain Saevik said that as he was standing on the bridge -- the 10th deck of the ship -- he was looking straight out at the crest of a wave. He estimates the wave was between 20-25 meters high. Luckily, they rode out the wave and it did not break on the ship, but it was quite rough.

One problem The World runs into is encountering small sailing ships -- especially in tight shipping channels. While commercial ships have the right of way, often the small boats don’t understand or follow this rule. Captain Saevik explained that small boats need to be seen by the larger ships, something that might be hard in choppy water. For greater visibility, a small vessel should always use a good radar reflector and use AIS transmitters because then their presence will be picked up on the larger ship’s radar.

Luckily, in all its years navigating the ocean, The World has never encountered critical problems with other boats or with really bad weather or with challenging navigation, due, of course, to very careful planning.

The World is not just a supreme luxury ship it is also a green ship. From day one, the ship was built to be an environmentally responsible vessel with one of the most efficient operating system available.

The operating systems are overseen by Brian Hannah, the Chief Engineer. Officer Hannah, who hails from southwest Scotland, first went to sea in 1987. He trained to be an engineer on a cargo ship. After the a time on cargo ships, he went to Cunard and other large passenger ships. He started on The World in 2001. "I always loved the sea," he said.

Brian Hannah, Chief Engineer

Officer Hannah told me about the fascinating recycling system he runs below decks. The World, he explained, has no need to take on water in port. Not only does the ship completely treat and recycle all the waste water used on the ship, but they also have a large desalination plant to create sparkling fresh water from seawater. This recycling system is essential since The World uses about 180-200 tons of water a day. Solid waste material is highly compacted and burned in an efficient incinerator, which also absorbs the smoke. Only excess clean water is discharged and there is zero polluted discharge into the sea -- which may explain why no sharks or other fish trail behind The World as they do other ships. The only waste The World has to dispose of when it comes into port is crushed glass, ash from the incinerator, and compacted recyclable metal cans.

Hannah and Saevik also explained that The World has a lesser carbon footprint than many other vessels because it runs on the lightest grade diesel fuel, not the heavy grade used by many other ships. With pride, Captain Saevik said that The World, although nine years old, is still a state-of-art ship.

Milbry Polk is the Founder and Director Emeritus of Wings WorldQuest, the preeminent organization supporting women explorers throughout the world. She is the author/editor of a dozen books including Women of Discovery, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, and Egyptian Mummies; and she is the book reviews editor for The Explorers Journal.

About Milbry Polk

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