The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

25 March, 2011

The Shape of Things to Come, Part 2

Yes, this is a cruise ship and not a apartment block on the water's edge.  It's NCL's Epic, as I caught a glimpse of her in Manhattan on the day of her maiden port of call to New York City.

What is going on with the hull at the stern, which looks like it's sprouted a ducktail-like appendage?  This hull feature clearly has a function since it cannot be said that it was added to enhance the beauty of the ship.  Perhaps it was necessary for the hull hydrodynamics for pod propulsion.  Wait a minute, this ship does NOT use pods for propulsion.  Despite being built at the same yard as Queen Mary 2 and is about the same size, conventional shafts and propellers are used. 

So what is going on here?  Surely, the yard is not shying away from pod propulsion based solely on the problems that have been experienced on Queen Mary 2 and other Celebrity ships that utilized the Rolls-Royce Mermaid pod design.  I'm guessing it has got to be to increase the waterline, increasing hull speed, which, in effect, would allow the ship to use less fuel.

Actually, it seems like we're seeing a trend developing here in cruise ship design and it is not a "pod" thing after all.  More evidence here from the stern of the P&O Azura, which sprouted one of these similar appendages.  We saw this ship in Barbados while on our Queen Mary 2 Caribbean Calypso cruise this past January.  This ship is based on a proven Princess Cruise Lines Grand Class design;  you know the ones with the weird handle bar or spoiler attached high above on the stern.  Azura, thankfully, was built without it, and this feature is scheduled to be removed from other similar ships in the fleet.  Apparently, this feature was just not working for the line.  Perhaps those passengers deserted the aptly named Skywalkers nightclub located in the "spoiler" when the seas were anything but smooth.  Anyway, I digress.  Azura is NOT pod propelled , but has conventional shafts and props with thrusters mounted in the keel area for unassisted tug manuevering.  The appendage shown here has slight pockets in it for the propellers, which can be seen in the uneven dark area at the waterline.

Construction photo of the Azura, showing the keel mounted stern thrusters and conventional shaft and prop propulsion.  Photo was found on the Cruiselinefans board here

Back to another example of this new trend.  Here is the stern of NCL's Jewel, taken from a Circle Line excursion boat on the Hudson in October 2009.  Now this ship does have pods; the ABB Azipod design, similar units used on the Vista Class twins Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.  The appendage is nicely integrated into the hull here and while not a fan of all the hull graphics, I am not offended by the design, unlike the massive NCL Epic.  From this angle, it looks like the appendage will act like similar to trim tabs used on smaller boats.  In fact, if you study the hull design of QV/QE and her other sisterships, you can see a less pronounced duck tail appendage in the squared off sterns.

Taken on October 16, 2008, while watching the final departure of QE2 from New York, the Carnival Miracle is one of the first Vista Class type hulls in the vast Carnival fleet.  Technically it is classified as a Spirit Class ship and is the precurser to the current Vista Class ships.  This ducktail appendage appears less integrated into the hull design as in the latest iterations on the QE/QV twins, HAL's Eurodam and Niew Amsterdam, and the latest from Costa.  Carnival is clearly getting alot of their money's worth out of this hull design.  On the Miracle, it really does look like this "stern flap" was added after the fact.  Look at the corners where there appears to be a pipe guard for additional pod protection.

For Cunard's most current ship, here we have Queen Elizabeth, navigating the locks of the Panama Canal for the first time, courtesy of  The stern flap is now seamlessly integrated into the modified Vista Class hull.  From this angle, you can see the added cabins at the stern, resulting in a less rakish profile as compared to the Miracle above.

While this energy saving appendage is subtle here on the Elizabeth, the stern flap appendage appears to have been taken to the extreme on the new Celebrity Solstice class ships.  I'll go out on a limb here and say that I rather like the outward appearance of these Celebrity ships, from the distinctive shear profile, sleek bridge wing design, distinctive sloped stern profile, and even the blunt nose bow shape.  I could do with less of the dark tinted glass, but I liked the design from the day I saw the artist's renderings posted online.

 Delving into the design of this new class of ship for Celebrity, I found a very interesting article explaining all the unique aspects of the ship and the class found here. 
Note: all photos of the Solstice here are courtesy of

As explained in the above article, an extension of the hull, the extended ducktail, resulted in a sleeker hull and less resistance.  Extensive tank testing was done at Marin in the Netherlands, who were used for Queen Mary 2 development, to optimize the hull form. 

In addition to the ducktail, there is another feature, not readily apparent underneath the tail called an interceptor.  In this case, it was found that a wedge shaped interceptor proved most efficient in decreasing the amount of power required to drive the hull.  More information on hull interceptors can be found here.

I've yet to find any really good pictures of this feature, but there is a picture in the Solstice PDF file referenced above that hints at the appendage under the ducktail.  You just have to commend the Naval Architects and Celebrity for trying out this new technology.  Up close, the tail does look a bit weird to the eye accustomed to more conventional shaped sterns and especially from the air, it really does take on the shape of a ducktail.

Additional measures to reduce fuel consumption included grinding all the hull welds smooth and using the latest state of the art antifouling paint coatings.  Cunard has similarily been using this improved coating on its fleet with success.  While these contribute to the increased fuel efficiency, the second most readily apparent feature on the new Solstice class is the extended bulbous bow.

Piercing the water in the preceeding bow shot of the Solstice, is a bulbous bow, which appears to take this appendage to the extreme as well.  It could very well be the longest bulbous bow fitted on a cruise ship. Unbelievably, it appears to extend to at least the length of the blunt nosed bow.  At first I thought this photo below was distorted due to the camera angle, but the above mentioned article explains that the appendage was indeed lengthened for speed.

The Meyer-Werft shipyard design appears different than the extended bulbous bow on Queen Mary 2 in that the cross section is much thinner, less round in appearance.

 Queen Mary 2's appendage was lengthened during the design process after tank testing did not produce the hull speed specified by Cunard.  As Naval Architect Stephen Payne has mentioned, there are compromised with extending the bulbous bow appendage to increase speed.  "Bulb slap" is probably the worse consequence, which occurs when the appendage comes crashing down into heavy seas first, since it is so forward of the bow and sending shudders throughout the ship.  QE/QV experience this "wiggle" in heavy seas from what I have read and heard from passengers, but Queen Mary 2 is not immune to this as well.  Further discussion on bulbous bows and the eternal cruise ship vs. ocean liner debate can be found here on my favorite forum for discussing all things QE2,

Queen Victoria's bulbous bow in drydock, courtesy

Who knows how the Solstice ships fare in heavy seas, with their more slender bow-like shape.  The interiors of this class of ship are trend setting modern design, much like QE2 was in her time.  In the novelty department, the Solstice has a Owens-Corning glass blowing feature and an industry first; real grass on the sports deck.  One day, I intend to try out both inovative features first hand. 

Jumping on the ducktail bandwagon, Princess Cruises just announded their new Royal Princess cruise ship.  At first, I thought that this ship had to have been designed by the Meyer-Werft yard since it resembled the Solstice Class of ships and even included the bridge projection that the yard is famous for on other ships for Aida and NCL.  Note: all photos courtesy of Princess Cruises.

The stern flap is readily apparent in this rendering, but this ship is surprisingly going to be built by Fincantieri, which has a long standing relationship with Carnival Corporation.  Most recently, Fincantieri has delivered the QV/QE sisters for Cunard for instance and were the builder for the Carnival Splendor, which made the news recently for the dramatic engine room fire and days spent adrift at sea.

As always, you have to follow the money.  Shipbuilders and owners are driven financially by the almighty bottom line.  Apparently, the cruise ship industry has followed the United States Navy in their quest for fuel savings.  I found this paper online, which goes into detail on the "stern flap" technology.  If you're interested in what your tax dollars funded, read on.

For further technical reading on combining both stern flaps and hull interceptors, take a look at this paper.  For further technical reading on stern flaps, take a look here.

All this research has brought back those college memories of brain overload with the sleep robbing Architectural Design Studio and the brain frying mathematics of Naval Architecture classes running concurently.

18 March, 2011

The Aft Deck

QE2's aft deck, final call at Liverpool, October 2008 

QM2's aft deck, morning on the Caribbean Sea, January 2011

What's missing from QM2's pic is the guy with the pint out in the sun on QE2.  Mind you we had not fully docked yet at the pierhead in Liverpool in that photo and most folk were at the rail watching the ship approach the pier, he was getting some sun and enjoying his beer.  This apparently was his favorite spot since I inadvertently captured him in a similar pose on yet another day! 

The chairs on QM2 are plastic coated metal with mesh fabric, while QE2's were all PVC plastic with cushions. Somehow, though, I think this guy would feel right at home on the aft deck of QM2.

12 March, 2011

Queen Mary 2 Sunrises & Sunsets

To take your mind off the recent events in Japan, where Queen Mary 2 is currently safe and sound, sailing on her World Cruise, here is a compilation of sunrises and sunsets taken while on the Caribbean Calypso cruise this January.  Although I missed the first morning's sunrise, sleeping in after a few long nights of packing for the trip, I set the alarm and got up for every other sunrise.  It was completely worth it.  Taken with my Nikon D90, bought last minute for the QE2 Farewell to the UK cruise, these photos are just a few of the over 5000 pictures I took.  The Nikon was on my shoulder most of the trip and  it really makes the person behind the lense look like a pro!

The "bit beneath the bridge" was the spot to be at sunrise for most of the trip, until we changed direction and headed back home.  Every morning, I shared this spot with another fellow photographer that I had met back in New York before we even boarded the ship.  We met taking bow shots at the Red Hook terminal, with a common interest; photography of a great ocean liner. He was German and spoke little English, but we exchanged a few words each morning as we were awestruck with our combination of great weather and ship.  You can actually spot him in the video of the bridge shots while we approach Dominica.  Don't ask me why, but we did not exchange email addresses.


10 March, 2011


Cakewalk photo courtesy of Derecktor Shipyard

Why am I featuring this strikingly beautiful yacht here?   First, this yacht was constructed in Bridgeport, Connecticut of all places, not in Europe at one of the more famous yards noted for their mega-yacht builds.  Derecktor Shipyards has constructed the largest yacht built in the United States, and it was built in my home state!  In fact, it was practically constructed under my nose, yet it completely escaped my roving eyes until it was launched.

Since 2004, I have been making a regular trip to Long Island for my project at Cold Spring Harbor Labs, taking Interstate 95 into New York City in the very early hours, spending the day out on Long Island, and then battling the traffic home in the afternoon.  The Derecktor yard is readily visible from Interstate 95, but most times, it was either too dark to notice on the drive in, but quite the opposite on the return drive.  Often, with traffic at a crawl, I could get a good long glimpse of the yard, usually filled with various commercial craft with the occasional large yacht.  Sometime in the spring of 2010, during one of my return trips, the door to the large shed was open and I recall wondering just what I saw inside.  It was definitely a large mega-yacht, but it was a puzzle what it was doing in this yard at this time of year when it should be off cruising in warmer waters.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010.  August 10, 2010 would be a special day.  I had to make the usual trek in to the Lab to deliver drawings and take as-built measurements and photographs of a new project on the campus.  I would not be accompanied by anyone from work, but instead with my son Ryan, who would get to see what I have been working on for such a long time.  With absolutely perfect weather, we drove in and made haste in performing my tasks, with Ryan getting his first taste of holding the "dumb end" of the tape.  He was clearly not impressed with the job, but I promised we'd go for a tour of the the newly opened Upper Campus Lab complex.  If we did not spend too much time there, we could drive further East on Long Island and pick up the Port Jefferson Ferry for a different way home.   Of course, I was detained a bit in the building since I ran into the contractors, who were still working on final touches.  It would be a close call to make it on the ferry.  We ended up being the second to last car to board the ferry and it was departing the dock before we could get out of the car.  It was then I told Ryan that if we missed it, we'd have had to wait another full hour for the next ferry.

For me, I cannot pass up any opportunity to get on the water and today, we were going to take the Port Jefferson Park City car ferry back to Bridgeport, Connecticut, making the short trip across Long Island Sound.  While not much of a time saver since the ferry is NOT one of those high speed jet drive catamarans, we were back on the water with picture perfect weather to boot.  Ryan was quick to point out that this was actually the first time the both of us had been back on a ship since our final trip on QE2 in October of 2008;  way too long to be away from the water.

Now there's a familiar shot!  Yes, the Park City has exposed bridge wings and those life raft canisters are so reminiscent of those on the rear deck of QE2.

I've taken this ferry several times before for work, and today, the seas were like glass, unlike the last time, which I recall was shortly after my QE2 January 2008 Transatlantic Crossing.  Winds were howling and the shallow depths of Long Island Sound whipped up the seas for an interesting hour long trip.  Plodding along in seas maybe 10 feet high, she was rolling considerably.  Co-workers ribbed me when I had to shut the laptop and go up deck for some air.  I make an Atlantic Crossing in January without incident, but I go green on a little jaunt across the Sound in seas that weren't that bad...go figure.

Today was the complete opposite; very warm, little wind, and dead calm seas.  Still, there was that smell of salt air and the occasional whiff of diesel exhaust from the funnel.  Call me crazy, but I just love the smell of diesel exhaust and sea air!  Yeah, I love the smell of diesel in the morning too.....Granted, the smell is a bit different that the heavy bunker grade fuel used on cruise ships such as QE2 or QM2, it still is a "good" smell to me.

The Park City appeared to be twin screw, but from way it maneuvered and all the noise and vibration felt in the deck below our feet, it appeared to have bow and stern thrusters.  There would be no tug assists on this mini "crossing" of sorts!

To the left, Ryan's doing his version of a "funnel run,"  something we never got to experience on QE2.

Reliving our favorite moments on QE2 spent watching the sea from the "bit beneath the bridge", we made our way to the same spot on Park City.  She's got a bit of a different foredeck for sure since the bow swings up to allow the cars below to exit upon arrival.  Still, with the wind on our faces, we were approaching port, but not anticipating any crowds cheering and waving as we approach the pier.  The chimney stack in the distance is the power plant located in Bridgeport harbor, our final destination, which seemed to take forever to arrive at.  Park City is no speed queen!  I asked one of the deck hands what her cruising speed was, and he stated it was 16 knots.  It felt more like 10.

Bridgeport harbor is very much a working harbor, with Derecktor Shipyard and other commercial piers, mainly with local fishing boats tied up.  As we made it into the breakwater, Derecktor's appeared off our starboard bow, with a large floating drydock and boat shed dominating the horizon.

Just beyond the drydock, I could make out a large yacht.  We were going to get a closer look as we approached the pier and perhaps I could make out a name.

What was this thing?  It was very out of place for here I thought.  Perhaps the yacht had to make emergency repairs.  This is a Derecktor yard, who's other yard in Newport was famous for America's Cup racing sailboats, most notably Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes, which successfully brought the Cup back home to the States.  It never occurred to me they would actually build a yacht of this caliber here. 

Wow!  What a striking profile and pleasing set of lines, but no name yet.  Today was August 10, 2010.  Incredibly, the yacht was only launched two days before on August 8th.  I'd have to wait several more months until I saw a write-up of Cakewalk in a boating magazine to find out the details of this very special vessel.  Cakewalk was proudly built by this Bridgeport yard by local craftsman, hidden away in the large shed during most of her construction.  She is 281 feet long and is the largest yacht ever built in America.  Check out more beautiful images on her own website.

Still following along and wondering what's the real significance with this yacht and QE2?  Interestingly, the yacht's hull is constructed in steel, with her superstructure done in aluminum, just as in the case of QE2.  The mirror-like finish of the steel hull is a testament to all who labored on her construction.  Cakewalk had both a yacht designer and a naval architect, as well as an interior designer on the design team, similar to QE2's design team.  Designer Tim Haywood crafted the look of the yacht, with the naval architecture handled by Azure Naval Architects, and interior design by Dalton Designs. 

Tim Haywood previously worked for over 20 years for Jon Bannenberg Ltd., a designer of megayachts and whom QE2 fanatics will recognize as one of the designers responsible for some of the interiors of the original QE2.  While Tim did not work for Jon at the time QE2 was on the drafting boards, he worked with Jon before his death and influence of his style is very much evident in the lines of Cakewalk.  More on his bio and clips can be found here.

Azure Naval Architects, responsible for the hydrodynamics and engineering of the yacht, are located in the Netherlands.  Unbelievably, they too have a QE2 connection.  Browsing their website, low and behold, there was a photo of QE2 in their projects section, listed under "refits."  Apparently they were hired by Nakheel to perform engineering for the yet to be accomplished, hopefully stillborn, plan to convert the ship to a floating hotel.  Note to self;  contact them for a future blog post if they are willing to divulge any details on their QE2 project.

August 10th would not be the last we'd see of Cakewalk, however.  During our January 2011 Caribbean Calypso cruise on QM2, I recognized the distinctive blue hull while on our way to the aerial tram in St. Thomas.  There she was in the harbor, off the bow and dwarfed by the futuristic looking Ruby Princess and sharing the pier with NCL's butt ugly Norwegian Jewel.  Queen Mary 2 can be seen off in the distance at the Havensight pier in the aerial photo.  (This deepwater pier was not built at the time we called at this port on our first trip on QE2 in 2000.  QE2 anchored between the islands and we tendered in to the pier.)

While on the tram, we witnessed the Ruby depart the pier unaided, churning up the sandy bottom, and giving us a bird's eye view of our Connecticut built mega-yacht Cakewalk.  This time, her name was clearly visible.

Cakewalk is available for charter for a cool million a week.

01 March, 2011

QE's Funnel Comes Up Short

Photo to left, QE2's funnel, taken from the rear.  Photo to right, QE and her captain, courtesy of Cunard's Facebook page.

What happened here Fincantieri, designers and builders of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria?  Why does the funnel casing stop short of the engine exhaust uptakes?  Even the arrangement of the uptakes is untidy.  They're not symmetrical, but who notices these little things except ship nuts like me?  The builders managed to do this on other similar Vista Class ships they have built for Holland America Line as well, but then again, they were not tasked to replicate the QE2's iconic funnel.  Okay, so they probably were not asked for a carbon copy, but a modern interpretation of what the world has come to recognize as distinctly QE2 and in effect Cunard.  The vertical ventilation slots are there on QE's stubby funnel, but we're just missing the top row!

I have yet to hear a rational reason why the casing must stop short.  The argument that I have read elsewhere is that it is an aerodynamic/functionality issue.  That explanation falls on its face when you look at Queen Mary 2's beautifully designed, if not a bit vertically compromised, funnel.  You can just make out the large, well concealed gas turbine uptakes from this photo.

Notice the similarity to QE2's funnel below, abeit abbreviated due to that damn Verrazano-Narrows Bridge height restriction!

QE2's iconic funnel in the early morning sun off the Isle of Man, October 3, 2008 ( photo mirrored for comparison to QM2's funnel)

For a more in depth discussion on the subject of QE2's funnel, including a comparision to the new Queens, visit my favorite QE2 website here.  From a link in this discussion, here is an excellent side by side comparision of QE2's magnificant funnel compared to the stubby versions on the new cruising Queens.  Looks like I need to practice some Photoshop editing here to illustrate what these funnels could easily have looked like! 

Photo courtesy of Albireo2006 found here on Flickr.