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

09 August, 2011

Liner Bows

People ask me "Why the fascination in QE2 and her replacement QM2?"  My response is always because both are true ocean liners and there is nothing quite like traveling at speed through less than idea seas.  It is both exhilarating and reassuring that you are on board a ship that can handle the toughest weather that can be thrown at her.  Those comments inevitably launch into a discussion of ocean liners and their differences from the typical cruise ship of today and that often used phrase "form follows function."  It really does apply here. 

Ocean liners are ships traditionally purposely designed to ferry passengers on a specific route or a "line" on a schedule.  The traditional "line" crossing of the Atlantic required a ship with speed to make the crossing under five days, at the highpoint of this type of travel to and from Europe, and to make this crossing safely,on time, and with consistency, despite the weather and sea conditions.  Before the arrival of the Boeing 707, this was the main way to get to Europe and the ships could be regarded as very large and elegant ferries, depending on your class of cabin.  Nowadays, cruise ships are used mostly as "the" destination and not as a pure form of transportation to get to a destination.

Oddly enough, though, QE2 was designed to function as both North Atlantic ferry and cruise ship.  In fact, when the ship was introduced, there was a conscious effort put forth in the advertising that the ship itself was the destination.  This turned out to be the case throughout her service life. 

To this date, Cunard effectively uses this strategy with their current ships, the true ocean liner Queen Mary 2 and the cruise ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.  Both of these ships are designed for the cruising mode, at reduced speeds, which is reflected in more fuller bow sections, which give more interior space, with the resulting less efficient hull form.

Now, the North Atlantic can be notoriously rough certain times of the year, usually from late Autumn to early Spring.  Ships built for this application require strengthened hulls to take the constant strains imposed upon them all the while at the high speeds necessary to keep to their published schedules.  These design constraints dictated slender bow sections to efficiently slice through the seas, bow profiles to deflect the seas in all conditions, and big powerplants to drive these ships at speeds averaging over 28 knots.  Even with this speed, there had to be extra reserve speed available to make up time when bad weather was encountered.  As illustrated in the photo above, QE2's bow configuration was designed for speed and seaworthiness.  In fact, this hull design was one of the first passenger ships modeled with the earliest computer aided design back in the early 1960's.  This hull form was so successful that when the time came to design her replacement, Queen Mary 2, her bow sections were basically lifted right from QE2.  According to her Naval Architect, Stephen Payne, even with all the most sophisticated modeling software available today, they ended up with a scaled up version of QE2's bow, but with a more efficient bulbous bow design.  In the end, why mess with success!

This head on bow shot of the Carnival Miracle shows the difference in bow designs and is the basic hull design that the Cunard Queen Victoria/Elizabeth sisterships has evolved from.  Not that there is anything wrong with this ship in my eyes, mind you, but as form follows function, this ship is designed for cruising speeds maximum of about 22 knots, and must slow considerable when encountering rough seas. 

I am eagerly anticipating another winter crossing on a liner, Queen Mary 2, in January, and hope to see first hand how she handles the North Atlantic like QE2 and her predecessors.

04 August, 2011

Queen Mary 2 in Manhattan

July 1st was a special day in New York City for ocean liner enthusiasts and fans of Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2.  Nowadays, the ship docks at the new cruise ship pier in Brooklyn, but this day, another Carnival owned ship, the Caribbean Princess, which uses the Brooklyn pier exclusively, was also scheduled to be in port.  Queen Mary 2 would be "forced"to dock once again at the Manhattan Cruise Ship terminal, the piers she was originally specifically designed for and the same piers used by her predecessors, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and most recently Queen Elizabeth 2.  For traditionalists, and many former QE2 passengers accustomed to the traditional Manhattan pier, this pier change was a very special treat.

Having made this trek up the Hudson on QE2 back in January of 2008, I can attest this is definitely the best way to arrive in New York City, treated to the beacon of the Statue of Liberty in the early morning on the portside and the entire Manhattan skyline on the starboard side.  This time I would be standing on the renovated Pier 86 in shorts and a polo shirt rather than standing beneath the bridge of QE2, all bundled up and trying to keep my finger on the camera shutter from frostbite.  The weather was picture perfect.  As QM2 appeared in the distance, the morning sun appeared and lit up the ship rather theatrically, highlighting the iconic funnel.  Although QM2 is demonstrably larger than QE2, the ship she replaced, she is every much a liner and a standout amongst the current batch of cruise ship resembling stacks of apartment flats.

In the early morning sun, it was apparent that the ship has suffered some hull damage, in the awkward area of the stern required for the pod propulsion units.  More than likely it was a bump to a pier.  Didn't she make headlines with a mishap at some port in Europe?  The ship is scheduled for drydocking this fall and it clear that she's due for some refurbishment;  antifouling paint is very worn and the hull is in need of repainting.

Queen Mary 2 docked at Pier 88, originally the French Line pier where the Normandie tragically caught on fire during its conversion to troop ship during WWII.  Attempts to extinguish the fire added water to the hull that eventually led to the ship rolling over in the pier and sinking.  With the ship a loss, it sat for much of the war in the pier, as a sad reminder of the war. Carnival Miracle would arrive and quickly dock on the opposite of QM2 at the pier and I was treated to a nice view of several tails; the French built Queen Mary 2, Finnish built Carnival Miracle, British built Concorde SST, and American built  U.S.S. Intrepid.

Before meeting up with ocean liner friends (some getting off QM2, others joining the ship this day for the traditional Fourth of July cruise), I planned to walk the entire waterfront from the Cruise Terminal down to Battery Park and take advantage of the picture perfect weather.  While I would end up seeing such maritime relics such as the Lightship Frying Pan and the fireboat John J. Harvey, my main goal was to get an up close view of the once glorious Cunard Line Pier 54 of the Chelsea Piers.  I've seen it from the water, having it's historic nature pointed out to us on the decks of QE2 and Circle Line excursion boats. 

On the rusted ironwork face, you can still make out both names, the original Cunard Line, and then the subsequent Cunard White Star name of the merger of the two lines which resulted in the completion of the original Queen Mary.

All that most visibly remains is the ironwork arch of the head house and the stone base, which looks like it was fashioned from Stony Creek Granite, from the Stony Creek Quarries of Connecticut that I previously visited through work.  Peering through the fence though, were bits and pieces of the terminal strewn about, including the art deco inspired stone pieces depicted above, a very sad sight.  One can only image what this pier was like in it's heyday.  Sadly this  historic structure, designed by the architects of Grand Central Station, did not escape the wrecking ball.  It was here that the Lusitania sailed for her final time and also where the Cunard Line's Carpathia offloaded survivors of the ill-fated Titanic.

Following lunch, fellow ocean liner enthusiasts and I debated where would the best spot be to see Queen Mary 2 depart.  We would end up taking the New York Watertaxi over to Weehawken, NJ, for the best view of the ships departing that afternoon.  Perched above the access road above the cliffs across from the Cruise Ship Terminal,  it was readily apparent that this was a good decision.

Queen Mary 2 departed on time in the afternoon sun, with short blasts from her original Queen Mary Tyfon horn, which sounded remarkably improved over the last time we heard it while onboard.  She looked ever the part of a classic ocean liner in profile against the Manhattan skyline.

Cunard Line has used several of my pictures in a recent blog post of Cunard President Peter Shanks.

Just above the bow of QM2, the Freedom Tower can be seen rising above the lower Manhattan skyline.  I'll no doubt be back next year, same date, same cruise, and hopefully in Manhattan again (please Cunard make this happen).  Who knows, maybe I'll be onboard.............