Extreme weather and natural cataclysms seem to be ever more frequently in the news these days. Look no further than the tsunamis that have devastated Southeast Asia and Japan in the past ten years; the earthquakes in Haiti and China; the floods, the extreme heat, and not, least of all, the typhoons.
All too often, the news is rife with typhoons that sweep across the mid-section of the Philippines, causing catastrophic loss of life. Fortunately, the typhoons that make landfall in Central Vietnam have lost much of their steam. Not that there isn’t plenty of suffering throughout Central Vietnam, especially. Occasionally, these tropical storms do sweep north. And when they do, the Emeraude knows what to do.
Take last week, for example, when Typhoon Rammasun drew a bead on northern Vietnam. Every year at this time, we begin looking out for tropical storms. ‘Tis the season, as it were. When we learned that Rammasun was on its way our way, we canceled passage on the Emeraude for three nights — July 17, 18 and 19. Our captain steered the boat out to safe harbor at Tung Ech, and we weathered the storm.
“We took down the canopy on the sundeck, secured all of the items on deck we couldn’t store indoors, and we rode out the storm in relative safety,” said Captain Nguyen Van Quan. “The rains were strong, but the boat was safe.”
The would-be passengers were safe, too, because they were not on the boat.
No one takes the cancellation of an overnight cruise lightly. We understand that a trip to Halong Bay is the trip of a lifetime for many of our passengers. And it pains us greatly to be a part of their disappointment. But we’d rather be a part of their disappointment than among the grief-stricken.
The Emeraude follows strict protocols when a storm approaches. When a storm is as severe as Rammasun, the Port Authorities on Halong Bay prohibit boats on the bay and direct all vessels to safe harbor one day in advance. These directives occasionally come after the passengers have embarked. Which means they have to disembark.
Sometimes, if a storm is threatening but not yet imminent, the Port Authorities will allow a day cruise. We go out and come back, and at least give guests a taste of the bay. Other times, we delay the cruise until skies clear and set out at 4 pm. And, of course, when need be, we cancel the cruise outright. We do tend to err on the side of caution.
Beyond heeding the mandates of the weather (and the Port Authorities), the Emeraude has been sharpening its protocols, and its store of safety equipment, for every imaginable contingency. We hope we never have to deploy any of it, but if we do, we expect we’ll come out the other side of any predicament in the best possible light.