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.

No comments:

Post a Comment