28 October 2013


If I had to find a just a word to characterize the Invicta Grand Diver, model nº 13697, this would be the one.
Still in my quest for cheap automatic movements, I laid eyes on this particular one, while surfing on the Amazon.co.uk.
Already a bit familiar with the Invicta time pieces - and happy for now - it was not that hard to press the "buy" button for this one, particularly because it was, at the time (end of September), at a very affordable price of ninety pounds.
The Invicta Grand Diver, model nº 13697, soon became a winner for me. The case is basically similar to the conventional Grand Divers, like the model nº 3045 and brothers. The difference is that, since in this particular model the crown is located at the two o'clock position, it wears perfectly on the hand for such a big watch. You can move and twist the wrist as much as you like and the watch never gets uncomfortable to use. You never notice that there's a crown on it.
A heavy watch by definition, the "Grand" Diver 13697 is a lovely timepiece to wear, and like all the family, it oozes build quality. The member Pebe, from the Forum Watchuseek, was writing on the mentioned forum, on the past year's October, that "The Grand Diver and Pro Diver lines are the only Invicta's worth owning".
I have to agree with him, so far. In a pure relation price/quality, these watches are unbeatable. Like all the members of the family, its stainless steel bracelet is equipped with a fold over machined clasp with safety lock.
The heart of this timepiece is a NH37A automatic engine, with twenty-four jewels. Built by the Time Module company of Hong Kong, a subsidiary of Seiko-Epson, its accuracy was a surprise for me (more on this later).
The watches' face, showing its dial and counter-clockwise rotating bezel with click stops (120 clicks for a full rotation). The dial is decorated with a sea swell pattern in relief, part of its enchantment. Complications are just two: a date window at four o'clock, with a Cyclops loupe for us Magoos out there, and a second smaller twenty-four hour dial, located at ten o'clock. Regarding the latter one, I still don't really know if I like it or if it is just a waste of dial space and materials.
The fact is this sub-dial is merely a twenty-four hour repeater of the twelve hour larger dial. It's only a way to clear any doubts in your mind regarding the time you are reading: is it two o'clock in the morning or fourteen hundred in the afternoon?
Well, it might prove useful on the polar regions. Imagine yourself as a polar explorer, stationed at the Amundsen-Scott base during the whole Antarctic winter, with absolutely no sun light whatsoever for almost four months. You have to know if it's time for breakfast or for dinner, don't you agree?
Anyway, if you are working in Antarctica, chances are that you are rich enough to use a several thousands Euros Swiss watch, instead of a cheap Invicta, like we, working class heroes, do.
So, my guess is that this second dial will not be that useful. Even on the South pole.
Did I mentioned that its movement is permanently linked to the main hands? So, you can forget any ideas of using it as a second time zone. That, in fact, would be quite a useful application for it.
Grand Diver engravings and diving helmet on the crown. The diving helmet in relief is ok. However, the engraved letters are a tad too much. They are not that shocking, but a cleaner look on the stainless steel case would not be that bad either.
The same on the other side. We know it's an Invicta. It shows on the dial, on the bracelet, on the case back... did I miss some other place?
The "cyclops" is an acrylic loupe glued over the mineral crystal, to allow for a better vision of the calendar. The one on mine, due to my professional marine life, is already scratched (see the shadow between the "2" and the "7"?). The world is divided between the "Cyclops" haters and lovers. It's up to you to join any of the factions.
If you are against and want to remove it, check the video of rtomson on Youtube. Kids, don't try this at home.
The Grand Diver model 13697 on my wrist. A lovely and cheap piece of watchmaking.
Accuracy test:
Synchronising (08-Oct-2013):
Watch:             23h56m00s
GMT website: 23h56m00s
Compared (19-Dec-2013):
Watch:             20h54m36s
GMT website: 20h47m00s

The watch was not serviced yet. It's still on factory regulation.
I've used the GMT website to check the watch accuracy. Although this is not as valuable as an accurate test with more sophisticated instruments, we can assume the error of the website in just a couple of seconds. If we refresh the web page, while taking the measurements, so that both clocks show exactly the same time, we can assume that we have a precise time calculation.
Based on that fact, we can consider that (in the measured time interval from 08 Oct 2013 to 19 Dec 2013 - about 6.209.460 seconds) the watch advanced in relation to the Greenwich time the sum of 7 minutes and 36 seconds or 456 seconds.
                              6209460 s ------------- 456 s
                                  86400 s ------------- x          (being 86400 s the number of seconds in a 24h day)
x=(86400*456)/6209460= aprox. 6.3448 seconds of advance per each 24 hours period.
Not bad for such a cheap watch, equiped with a China-made-under-Japanese-specifications automatic machine.

23 October 2013

Ships 'n' boats

The Pilot boat Cte Cristiano de Sousa, our oldest in operation (and still roaring), leaving the port of Porto Santo, yesterday at sunset, and taking me to the container-carrier Funchalense 5, of the Portuguese company Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, a centenary Portuguese shipowner still working.
An amateur photographer, positioned on the port of Porto Santo North breakwater, shoots a video sequence of the ferry Lobo Marinho approach and berthing, today, around 1000AM.
Both pictures taken with Nikon Coolpix P7100 and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroon, ver. 4.1

21 October 2013

Club Med II

The Club Med 2, one of the largest sailing vessels in the world, pictured here alongside the key nº 2 of Pontinha breakwater, in Funchal, was my manoeuvre of the day.
Built in 1992 on the Havre, in France, she's one of our "twice-a-year" visitors. During the Northern Hemisphere Summer this five-mast ship stays in the European waters, navigating mostly on the Mediterranean, and heading to the Caribbean in October.
Pilot Card:
Ship's name: Club Med 2
IMO number: 9007491
Type: Cruise ship
LOA: 187 mts
Beam: 20 mts
Gross tonnage: 14983
Displacement: 7671.1 tons (light ship)
Max draft on manoeuvre: 5.30 mts
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, two variable, inward turning, pitch propellers, total propulsion power: 5890 KW
Rigging: Five mast schooner, about 2400m2 sail area.
Rudder: 2 Becker rudders
Bow thruster: 1 (1000 HP)
Stern thruster: 1 (800HP)
Picture taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1

18 October 2013

Las Tres Sorores

The Monte Perdido ("lost mountain") massif is, unquestionably, the most dramatic mountain landscape in all the Iberian Peninsula.
If you are stubborn enough to hike the ten kilometres from the parking lot, in Pradera de Ordesa, up to the Circo ("cirque") de Soaso, walking along the Rio ("river") Arazas, you'll be blessed with one of the most magnificent European mountain scenarios.
A National Park since 1918, the Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido attracts every year thousands of mountaineers, willing to climb its vertiginous rock walls, its three thousand meter peaks or just hiking along the many endless trails along and around the valley.
The Circo de Soaso, pictured here, is the last stop for many daily hikers that just don't have the time to climb the via ferrata at the end of the valley that would lead them to the Góriz plateau and to the Delgado Úbeda mountain hut (the starting point for the Monte Perdido ascension).
Above it, from left to right in the picture, are visible the Cilindro (3325mts), the Monte Perdido (3355mts) and the Añisclo (3254mts). These three are named "Las Tres Sorores" or "the three sisters".
On the right corner of the picture, hiding behind the Añisclo, there's still place for one last three-thousander: the Punta de las Olas (3022mts).
Picture taken, from the "Senda de los Cazadores" with Nikon FM3A and Nikkor 28-108 AF-D lens, in Ektachrome 100ASA film. Post-processing of the scanned TIFF file in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1.

17 October 2013

Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruívo trail (PR1) closed

Due to a landslide on the past weekend, in a position about 1 km down from the Pico Ruívo mountain hut, the Pico do Areeiro-Pico Ruívo mountain trail (PR1) - the most important of the island - is closed to hikers.
And since the landslide happened in a position already near the end of the trail (if you are arriving from Pico do Areeiro) and well after the tunnel that divides the route into two, this, now, makes the trail totality impassable.
Hopefully, the government responsible persons are aware of the problem and already adopting an active attitude (the sooner, the better) towards the resolution of the situation.
After all, this is only the most important mountain trail in a island with nature tourism as its most important asset.
Landslide picture taken from the nearby (and shorter) Achada do Teixeira - Pico Ruívo route (PR1.2), with a Panasonic Lumix GH 2 and Nikkor 28-105mm AF-D with adapter to m4/3. Handheld shot at ISO 2000 (sorry for the noise and lack of detail!).

15 October 2013

USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG58)

In a rare event these days (the global economic crisis also reached the military institution worldwide, forcing the navies to spend less fuel), the USS Samuel B. Roberts, a naval unit from the US Navy, visited our port of Funchal during the present day.
An Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, the USS Samuel B. Roberts suffered a mine attack in the Persian Gulf, in 1988, and, as a consequence of the damages she had to be carried for repairs, in the United States, with the help of a semi-submersible heavy-lifter ship from the Dutch operator Wijsmuller.
Like in (mostly) all the naval units, the crews are friendly and manoeuvres are a nightmare. The problem is that the people that designed these ships only think about warfare and manoeuvring capabilities on the high seas.
You bring them to restricted waters for a berthing manoeuvre at low speeds and almost all of them are lame, to say the least.
Those limitations normally forces the operations to be conducted with the direct aid of tugs to compensate for the deficient slow speed manoeuvring characteristics.
And since the naval architects and engineers (apparently) never heard of winches, all the ropes have to be heaved or slacked by hand.
So, it's always a bit strange to see twenty guys (or girls, by the way) doing their best in trying to hold fast a rope with their bare hands and, thus, managing to stop a four thousand tonnes vessel.
Thankfully, these Oliver Perry class frigates already have what they call APU's (or Auxiliary Propulsion Units). These are, basically, two retractable azipods, located on the ship's keel and right under the vessel's bridge, that do wonders in controlling the ship in more restricted spaces.
Anyway, it was a pleasure to see a woman in command: Captain Erica L. Hoffmann.
The USS Samuel B. Roberts arriving in Funchal, today morning, at 0800 (Local Time).

Ship's name: USS Samuel B. Roberts
Type: Guided missile frigate
Class: Oliver Hazard Perry
LOA: 138.10 mts
Beam: 13.60 mts
Max. displacement: 4200 tons
Draft on manoeuvre: 8.30 (declared)
Propulsion: Two gas turbines, single shaft, single CPP propeller
Propulsion power: 31MW
Rudder: One (conventional)
Manoeuvring aids: 2 APU's (350HP each)

Picture taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1

14 October 2013

Morning glory

Back in my seafaring days, it was always a pleasure to me to see the sun rise and the dawn of a new day.
We can watch it hundreds of times in a seaman's lifetime, but each event is always a diferent and singular one. Maybe it's a particular cloud formation, or just the colour of the sky or a unique interaction between sea and sky. The fact is this astronomical phenomena is prone to endless variations.
So, I really miss my days as a Chief Mate, when, as a responsible Officer for the nautical watches between the 0400 and the 0800's of the morning, I had countless opportunities to see the sun rising over the ocean.
Now, as a Harbour Pilot, I still have plenty of those moments. Mostly during the cruise ships season, like now. When I have to wake up at 0400 in the morning a be in the port at 0500.
When the weather is perfect, with calm seas and gentle breezes, it's really a pleasure to work in this profession.
In the pictures:
The cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse (IMO nº 9404314) proceeding astern, for berthing on Pontinha's key nº2, on the past Friday and...
...the Aida Stella (IMO nº9601132) alongside the key nº3 of Pontinha breakwater, today, around 0730 LT.
Both pictures taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 waterproof and shockproof compact digital camera. The upper picture with the camera resting over a bollard and the Aida's one using the small Manfrotto 709B Digi travel tripod. I find this camera quite useful to my professional life, particularly due to both characteristics written above. Although automatic, It can be, somehow, customizable to a certain level and, thus, allowing a minimum control over the exposure factors. The Auto ISO, used together with the Minimum Shutter Speed and the Image Stabilizer mode, allows for some sharp handheld pictures in less favourable conditions of light and weather, situations that I find quite often while at work.
Sadly, it doesn't allow for RAW files, leaving us to work with just JPEG's (although with a maximum resolution of 12Mp, in the 4:3 format - reduced to 10 Mp in the usual "academic" 3:2). Plenty of resolution, I guess, for detailed digital processing, if needed. 
Post-processing of the JPEG files with the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1.

09 October 2013

NRP Cacine

The good, old, Portuguese-built, NRP Cacine, from the Portuguese Navy, entering the port of Funchal, a few minutes ago, after a routine surveillance mission on the waters of Madeira.
Picture taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1.

08 October 2013

Old trawler

A very photogenic place, the city of Peniche, on the Portuguese West coast, was once the biggest fishing port in Portugal. But, like many traditional sectors in Portugal, the fishing industry suffered a strong impact from the European rules. Against all odds, weakened by modern times and "new" political visions, the millenarian town located 70 kms North of Lisboa struggled to survive.
Converted to tourism for many decades, it's one of the best places in the whole world for the surf addicts, receiving every year thousands of surfers, arriving from every place on Earth.
Supertubos beach is considered, itself, the cherry on the top of the cake of a vast coast line where any surfer can find the right waves suitable for his or hers experience level.
But, a thousand years after being born, Peniche still lives and remains true to her legacy, to herself. It's still a town of fishermen and seafarers. And beautiful to photograph.
Picture taken on the harbour area, near the shipyard, with a Nikon D40X and cheap Nikkor 55-200mm kit lens. Manfrotto 190XDB tripod and 490RC4 ball-head.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1.

05 October 2013

Papa bear, mama bear and baby bear

The tugboats Barra de Viana, Leão dos Mares and Comenda (from left to right) in a picture taken, while alongside in Leixões, from the bridge wing of the M/V Apolo (IMO nº 9251509), during my seafaring years.
On the background the bascule bridge that allows the berthing, on the inner basin, of the big commercial vessels, namely container and bulk carriers.
At the time, the Comenda, with a bollard pull of 70 tons, was the most powerful oceanic salvage tug operating in Portugal.
She's now operated by an Italian company, located in Naples, who changed her name to Marechiaro.
Picture taken with Nikon F100 and Nikkor 28-105 AF lens. Kodak Ektachrome 100 VS scanned in Nikon Coolscan V ED and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1.

03 October 2013

The end of Summer

The Autumn season has just started but the feeling is that the Summer's already long gone. Once again we sense that melancholic mood on the air, the changing colours on the trees and the nearly abrupt climate change, with the temperature decreasing rapidly and the more and more frequent appearance of the rain.
On Madeira's highest peaks the blue skies and clear atmosphere give their place more often to a claustrophobic misty drizzle, converting the hikes to these places into masochistic experiments.
However, even during those grey days we are able to find some magic in the high lands. Sometimes, just in the form of a mountain hut's open door and a warm coffee mug waiting for us inside.
In the picture: Chilli peppers over kitchen countertop on a rainy Autumn afternoon, in Pico Ruívo mountain hut.
Picture taken with Nikon D40X and cheap Nikkor 18-55mm kit lens. Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1

01 October 2013

Achada do Teixeira

The Madeira's central ridge, as seen from Achada do Teixeira plateau. The starting point of many hikes to the island's highest point, at evening light, this past afternoon.
Picture taken with Panasonic DMC-GH2 and 14-42mm kit Panasonic lens. Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, ver. 4.1 and Silkypix software, version 3.1