Author Topic: 31 Dec 1975 QE2 collides with coral reef in Nassau  (Read 16118 times)

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Offline peter ward

31 Dec 1975 QE2 collides with coral reef in Nassau
« on: Feb 10, 2011, 04:56 PM »
January 1976, we left a freezing cold  New York (breaking ice as  we sailed down the Hudson) for warmer climes.Arrived in a balmy Fort Lauderdale ,Florida on jan 3..picked up some more passengers and headed off to the Carribean for a 14 day sunshine cruise ...first port of call ,Nassau ,Bahama's ...pilot came on board around 7am to bring us into dock .I was in the Britannia restaurant putting the preserves and butters etc on the tables for breakfast .Fresh coffee and tea on the dumb waiter and awaiting our guests when  suddenly there was a violent shudder and the ship keeled hard over to starboard ,must've been 30 degrees ...plates ,glasses ,cutlery ,preserves etc all went onto the deck and after what seemed an age she righted herself ..everyone was looking around wondering what had happened.It turns out that we had hit a submerged reef in the harbour and holed just above the waterline and below the starboard fwd anchor .We then spent the next two day's in Nassau while they made emergency repairs (I believe they filled the hole with concrete). Anyway that was it cruise over we started back to florida ...a woman passenger sat on the promenade deck with her lifejacket on and refused to go below decks ! Because of the hole and temporary filling we were on reduced speed ,(about 15knots ) but we never made it to Florida as the 'filling' fell out and we diverted to Norfolk Virginia.We sailed down the James river past hundreds of 'mothballed' warships ...some looked like reiics of the first war ..eventually tying up alongside another great liner the SS UNITED STATES . The passengers who were totally pissed off having their cruise ruined were herded onto a chartered train along with a selected bunch of first class dining room stewards (plus the woman in the lifejacket) and taken to NEW YORK.. we had to stay in Norfolk ,By the way Norfolk was freezing  ....I dont' think the pilot brought any more ships into Nassau !
« Last Edit: May 22, 2014, 12:37 PM by Rob Lightbody »
peter

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Re: Sack the pilot !
« Reply #1 on: Feb 10, 2011, 05:15 PM »
Wow, I'd never heard of this before - thanks!!  I don't think its mentioned in my various QE2 books?  Must have been a HUGE impact to cause the ship to keel over like that.  Are you sure it wasn't an emergency evasive action that caused her to keel over?

- Rob.
Passionate about QE2's service life for 40 years and creator of this website.  I have worked in IT for 28 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Online Peter Mugridge

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Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #2 on: Feb 10, 2011, 05:20 PM »
Rob, if she was holed it was definitely a strike, but being holed above the waterline suggests she hit while performing a sharp turn to try to avoid the reef, so I'd suggest a bit of both?

I am now wondering just how many groundings there were in her career?
"It is a capital mistake to allow any mechanical object to realise that you are in a hurry!"

Offline highlander0108

Re: Sack the pilot !
« Reply #3 on: Feb 10, 2011, 05:22 PM »
Would this photo show repairs being made to the damage of the ship?  Looks like there was a patch in the plating on the port side below the anchor.  Thinking if she hit something on the port bow, that might cause a severe list to starboard.



This photo was taken of a slide Commodore Warwick presented onboard QE2 in one of his fascinating talks on the modifications to the ship throughout the years, where he mentioned that the ship had a "nose job."  He did not go into detail on the enxtent of the damage or how it occured, or where the repairs were made if I recall.  Ed note:  not sure on the legality of posting a pic of a slide presented during a presentation onboard QE2.  Delete if necessary.  
« Last Edit: Feb 10, 2011, 05:24 PM by highlander0108 »
"There will never be another one like her" QE2's last Master Ian McNaught
My Blog:  http://qe2-prideoftheclyde.blogspot.com/

Offline highlander0108

Re: Sack the pilot !
« Reply #4 on: Feb 10, 2011, 05:28 PM »
Wow, I'd never heard of this before - thanks!!  I don't think its mentioned in my various QE2 books?  Must have been a HUGE impact to cause the ship to keel over like that.  Are you sure it wasn't an emergency evasive action that caused her to keel over?

- Rob.

Maybe a combination of both a sudden emergency rudder command and then an impact?  Perhaps Flagship has further documentation of this incident.  I have never read or heard of this. 
"There will never be another one like her" QE2's last Master Ian McNaught
My Blog:  http://qe2-prideoftheclyde.blogspot.com/

Offline peter ward

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #5 on: Feb 10, 2011, 07:40 PM »
sorry I can't be of more help..I'm just relating it as I saw it . all these 'rear rudder commands etc' are foreign to me rob, I was a mere steward!!
peter

Offline Dave Lowing

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #6 on: Feb 10, 2011, 07:57 PM »
I remember this incident well. I was serving breakfast in the officers dining room, which overlooked the port bow, on Boat deck. Watching out the window, instead of working, I saw the turning manouver, anti-clockwise. Suddenly the ship shuddered and we backed up a bit. We completed the turn and backed into our berth. Stan Childs donned his scuba gear and camera and was sent down to photograph the port bow. Pumps held the water at bay and we sailed that night for Fort Lauderdale. When we got there professional divers were ready. They fixed a metal/plywood patch and poured quick drying cement into the bow. Not sure how long we stayed in port. But as Peter mentioned we sailed to Norfolk and drydocking. All-in-all a terrible mess and dry docking in Norfolk was a desolate place. I have photos somewhere of them working in Fort Lauderdale. Will post as soon as I find them.

Offline peter ward

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #7 on: Feb 10, 2011, 08:02 PM »
ah yes , we did make it to fort lauderdale..got patched up then off to norfolk ..I put a cartoon up in the brit galley (I used to do cartoons of topical things to cheer the boys up)..of planks of wood nailed to the bow ...funny my memory say's starboard bow but time has obviously got my lefts and rights mixed up ! thanks for verifying my tale .
peter

Online Michael Gallagher

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #8 on: Feb 11, 2011, 10:10 AM »
The incident is in all the books. This is how the Thatcher Book reported it:

Later that month, as the ship was leaving the port of Nassau, under the command of Mortimer Hehir, the ship’s bulbous bow struck a coral reef. The resulting significant damage, including a fracture to the bow and damaged plating, was held to be the responsibility of the Captain. But QE2 officers weren’t so sure – and on a subsequent visit a number of them dived in the area to establish what had actually happened. They discovered that the part of the reef which the ship had struck was not marked on charts, and in so doing exonerated Captain Hehir of blame.

A temporary repair to the damage was effected, but on the voyage to New York the temporary patch started to leak and QE2 began to take on water again. Her speed was reduced to 15½ knots and Cunard had her diverted to Newport News in Norfolk, Virginia, for further inspection and repairs.

The 1,181 passengers were disembarked here and 500 were repatriated to New York on specially-chartered train.

QE2 was put into dry-dock for 48 hours where an eight-foot steel plate was welded into place.

QE2 eventually arrived in New York on 8 January and sailed that day on a revised nine-day (instead of 14) Caribbean cruise.

Online Michael Gallagher

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #9 on: Feb 11, 2011, 10:12 AM »
And these are my notes (drafted for the Thatcher book) on the incident:

On 31 December 1975 QE2 was manoeuvring in the ‘swinging’ ground at Nassau prior to sailing. The seas were choppy and the wind was rough. As her bow turned, her underwater bulbous bow collided with a coral reef and was holed. Passengers reported a ‘jolt’ but there was no panic.

Damage was reported to be a six-foot fracture of the bow, with a jagged hole 18 inches to 20 inches in diameter, and plating was heavily indented.

On 2 January a temporary five-foot concrete patch was fitted by a diver when QE2 arrived as per her schedule at Port Everglades to land passengers prior to continuing her voyage to New York. QE2 remained in Port Everglades for 24 hours.

However, on the voyage to New York the temporary repairs started to leak and QE2 began to take on water again. Her speed was reduced to 15½ knots and Cunard had her diverted to Newport News in Norfolk, Virginia, for further inspection and repairs.

The 1,181 passengers were disembarked here and 500 were repatriated to New York on specially-chartered train (at a cost of £1,250) – a journey which was also beset with mechanical problems and delays.

QE2 was put into dry-dock for 48 hours where an eight-foot steel plate was welded into place.

QE2 eventually arrived in New York on8 January and sailed that day on a revised nine-day (instead of 14) Caribbean cruise.

Captain Hehir was held responsible but on 28 January, the liner’s next call at the port, Staff captain Peter Jackson along with First Officers Sturge and Warwick and members of the ship’s sub-aqua diving club took a boat and set off to investigate the reef. To the exoneration of their Captain they found, by use of sextant readings and landmarks, that the reef had been incorrectly charted: instead of running practically straight it had two 50-foot headlands and on one of these, which projected from the charted line, was evidence of QE2’s collision. A marker buoy was also found to be incorrectly moored (being 130 feet away from its recorded position) and the two errors combined confounded the ship’s navigators’ assumption that the safe water that they had reason to expect was not there.

Permanent repairs were made to the bulbous bow in January 1977 at Bayonne (New Jersey) during a special repairs period.

Offline Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #10 on: Feb 11, 2011, 03:04 PM »
Staff captain Peter Jackson along with First Officers Sturge and Warwick and members of the ship’s sub-aqua diving club took a boat and set off to investigate the reef. To the exoneration of their Captain they found, by use of sextant readings and landmarks, that the reef had been incorrectly charted...

It is quite amazing to note the many fields in which the QE2 officers were expert... those same people with whom we freely mixed during receptions, cocktail parties and shared meals at the officers' tables, not only knew how to drive this hugely complex ship, run an enormously complicated hotel business -- but in addition had the scientific knowledge and the diving training to carry out these checks and provide proof that the fault did not lie with the QE2 Captain. Extraordinary people ran the QE2 bridge...

P.S. It does not look as though the pilot was to blame either...

Offline highlander0108

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #11 on: Feb 11, 2011, 04:49 PM »
So it does seem that pic I posted earlier is of the repairs being made in Bayonne, NJ?  It looks like plating repairs have either been done or it is the temporary plating mentioned.  Glad to hear the captain and pilot were exhonerated!
"There will never be another one like her" QE2's last Master Ian McNaught
My Blog:  http://qe2-prideoftheclyde.blogspot.com/

Offline Janice Naylor

Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #12 on: Feb 11, 2011, 05:02 PM »
Another great QE2 story from the point of view of crew members who actually experienced the incident to historical documentation that fills in the details.  And, Isabelle, your comments are perceptive and thought provoking as usual.

Janice
Whenever I hear a sea story I think of the first time I saw the QE2 and the great adventures that followed.

Online Rob Lightbody

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Re: Sack the pilot ! (Jan 76 Collision with reef)
« Reply #13 on: Feb 13, 2011, 10:52 PM »
The incident is in all the books.
Thanks for correcting me - thats what you're here for!   I think it was the dramatic listing that Peter described that i hadn't heard mentioned before.
Passionate about QE2's service life for 40 years and creator of this website.  I have worked in IT for 28 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Barbara London-Marsden

Re: 31 Dec 1975 collision with coral reef in Nassau
« Reply #14 on: Feb 18, 2013, 05:18 AM »
I remember this time very well in the NYO.  I had just started with the company and had to call pax and agents to cancel their plans for the next sailings.  And just a side bar, Jackson, Sturge, and Warwick went on to be tranferred to the Princess when she was fitted and sailed from Denmark.

 

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