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

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.

1 comment:

  1. Cakewalk looks awesome! More here -