Author Topic: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)  (Read 1780 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline StuM

MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« on: Dec 31, 2011, 03:53 PM »
(copied from a note to Rob)   
    You do the QE2 and all that love her a great service. Especially in compiling and sharing so many wonderful points and stories. Thank you and happy holidays.

    My father was a U.S. based Cunard senior manager for 40 years, thus I grew up appreciating the famous Cunard brand and their ships throughout their earlier heyday. I was fortunate enough to sail on the original QM and QE, plus numerous other intermediate ships of the fleet (MAURITANIA -visited, and sailed on CARONIA, CARMANIA, FRANCONIA, the 3 original Queens, CUNARD ADVENTURER, CUNARD PRINCESS, CUNARD COUNTESS, plus a few non-Cunard ships), and grew up with the QE2 from concept to reality. I met several of the QE2's future captains on the smaller ships, when they were junior officers and I was allowed access to the bridges quite often, prior to our modern day maritime security precautions. I still retain many wonderful documents from the QE2's development and building period, plus many other Cunard models, pictures, materials and keep-sakes. I was given free-reign to go through the storage rooms at the old Cunard Building at 25 Broadway in NY, before the office moved uptown in the 60's. I was a kid in a candy store in those rooms!

I can recall the debate my father was part of regarding the 2 vs 3 class design and layout. Also the internal debate within Cunard, following the can canceled Q3 project, regarding "a new Queen class liner" vs two smaller, ~30k GRT pure cruise vessels. My father was in favor of the two smaller ships, whereas he saw the liner run as diminishing and cruising was where the industry was headed. My parents were eventually "company guinea pigs" on the QE2's first, ill-fated shakedown cruise when the turbine blades were such a problem and Cunard refused to accept the ship. I recall that they were allowed to call me during that cruise to test the communications links. I was in awe of getting a call from the already famous QE2.

    I was in NY to welcome QE2 on her maiden voyage in 1969, meeting her in the Lower NY Bay and sailing alongside her on the escort tug, ESSO MASSACHUSETTS. I was on the same tug for the farewell sailing of QE in Oct 1968 and on the bow tug, TERESA MORAN, as we pushed the QM out of her Pier 92 slip for her final voyage out of NY in Sept 1967.  After the maiden voyage reception, I was honored to sail QE2 to/from the UK during her inaugural summer, in June 1969. I was on her bridge, mid-Atlantic, during our eastbound leg that summer and she suddenly lost all power, setting off all alarms and losing propulsion, etc. My father swore that my younger brother or I had "touched something on the bridge" to cause the blackout and he was mortified. It was later revealed to be a generator problem.

We then made numerous voyages on her over the years and I visited her as often as I could, in NY. I took my family on her first full cruise, NY to Bermuda, right after she had her diesel plant installed in the later 80's. She had been late arriving into NY from her previous positioning liner voyage from the UK, thus we ran to Bermuda at 32kts for a good part of that short trip, to make up time. She vibrated quite a bit aft, at that high speed! I was working on the cruise staff of the M/S SEA VENTURE (20k GRT - Flagship Cruises) when we had to quickly run out of Hamilton, Bermuda to "rescue" the QE2's passengers at sea, by launches, when The Queen suffered contamination of her boiler feedwater, some ~200 miles south of Bermuda. Thankfully the seas were fairly calm. So, my life has intersected QE2 in many ways, at many times. She will always be a part of me. Finally, I took the opportunity to visit the site of John Brown's Shipyard in Clydeside in the mid 70's, while serving on a ship that called into Glasgow. It was much like a pilgrimage for me, to see the spot where not only the QE2 was born, but also so many of her illustrious predecessors.

    My Cunard affiliation and my love ships and the sea took me to the NY Maritime College from 1971-75, as a cadet. Upon graduation, with college degree, Coast Guard Mates License and Navy Commission in hand, one of my greatest professional marine memories was being a newly licensed officer of the deck on a ship moored at the south side of NY Pier 92 in about May of 1975. It was my very first ship as a deck officer. QE2 had been moored near us, at the north side of Pier 88 (where NORMANDIE capsized) and I visited officer friends on the Queen while she was in port. When QE2 sailed about 1700 that evening, I was on deck watch on my moored ship and had our engineers put steam to our whistle. As the Queen backed into the stream, dead astern of us, I blew the traditional 3 prolonged blasts of marine greeting/farewell. Our decks were filled with cadets and crew watching her depart. After a few moments of silence, the Queen responded with her own 3 blasts of recognition and I returned the final, one blast, as did she. I still get shivers thinking about how the greatest ship in the world, one that I had grown up with so closely, had spoken to me in her distinguished voice. 

I went on to sail as a licensed deck officer on US flag ships. Later I moved into shore marine operations and mgmt and served a total of 36 years with the wonderful Esso/Exxon/ExxonMobil energy organization. Early in my shoreside career with Exxon, in the early 80's, I was asked to select an office space for some of our new marine operations in Long Beach, CA. Of course, I found one directly overlooking the original QM at her permanent berth! That site selection was no mistake on my part!

I recently retired as the VP of Marine Operations in the U.S. within the ExxonMobil family of companies, thus always keeping my link to those wonderful ships and the sea, throughout my life.  If it's any indication of my ongoing devotion to them, my wife provided me with three new books concerning QM2, QV and QE under the Christmas tree this year. She knows...............

    QE2 (and her fleet mates, past and present) will forever be within my soul and I miss her terribly. To me, she is still "the new Queen" and I find it so hard to believe she has seemingly so quickly arrived, served so profoundly well and now retired. Like her illustrious predecessor, QUEEN MARY, may she forever survive in body and soul and continue to impress and intrigue many future generations.

    Stu McRobbie
    Marine officer and manger, retired

Online Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #1 on: Dec 31, 2011, 06:53 PM »
Hello Stu, and thank you!

Your QE2 stories would make many of us green with envy! Once the New Year's festivities are over, I look forward to reading some more and to asking you questions about the events you mention.

Wishing you a very happy new year, and do let us have some more of your memories :) .

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #2 on: Dec 31, 2011, 07:36 PM »
Hello Stu

Thank-you for posting your moving story about your memories of the QE2.  You have been very fortunate that your paths have crossed so many times.  It must have been an amazing feeling when you were a Deck Officer in 1975 to have the honour of greeting the QE2 as she left NY. As I originate from Clydebank and my father worked on Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE2 they are all special ships in my eyes and I love to hear stories from people who have been lucky enough to have been onboard. 

There is so many interesting points in this and your other posts that I have enjoyed reading about.  Looking forward to hearing more from you on the Forum.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Offline StuM

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #3 on: Dec 31, 2011, 08:22 PM »
Hello Lynda and thank you for your kind return.

I've often told folks, that my first sighting of the original QUEEN MARY was exactly what set me on a nautical path for the rest of my life.

It was a very cold, gray, winter day in about 1965; a Saturday. My father was taking me with him into the NYC Cunard office for the morning. We took the bus and as the rig rounded the New Jersey Turnpike loop into the Lincoln Tunnel, I turned towards midtown NY, all gray and dingy. There, standing out like a beacon of black, white and Cunard red, was the QM. She was like a bright ornament on a Christmas tree and I was again in awe of her size and presence.

I bugged my father to take me up to her, after he finished his office work and he finally relented. I can still recall standing at the foot of the slip, looking up at her towering prow. The most famous ship in the world (prior to QE2), right there before me. I was hooked forever.

We later had a chance to sail on her and the QE, both on NY<>Caribbean cruises as they ended their careers. My father felt it important for us to experience those two famous ships before they retired. Two ships, which together, Churchill said helped to end the war in Europe a year early, with their tremendous troop carrying capacity.

I preferred the QE to the MARY, simply due to being the slightly larger and cleaner in appearance and the flow within her spaces. To this day, I cry, thinking what happened to the LIZZY, the only Queen liner no longer with us, in body. By the way, several more recent Cunard Queen book photo's of the QE2 and/or QV and/or QM2 within the Port of Ft Lauderdale, show an interesting and unique perspective for those who truly know the Queens' history. In several of those photo's they show an empty, or sometimes filled berth, situated along the U.S. Atlantic Intra-coastal waterway through that port. It is at that space that the QE rested for a year or so, during her Florida retirement period. Prior to her ill-fated transit to Hong Kong and into history. Somewhat scary whenever I look at those pictures. I have visited that port many times on business and pleasure and I once walked to that empty berth, standing there thinking about might have been if the QE could have survived there, much as the MARY does in Long Beach. The world would have all six famous Queen's to relish.

I recall how the QM and QE  drew large crowds of small boat admirers at our Carib ports of Nassau and St. Thomas, where we had to anchor out, due to deep drafts. Remember, this was a last ditch effort by Cunard to earn a bit more revenue by them. The QE at least sported her new (1965) installed lido deck and outdoor pool, so she was a bit more enjoyable to sail on in those warm climates. She was to originally continue in service, along with Q4 (QE2) for several more years. Unfortunately, high operating costs and low passenger levels killed that concept. I won a kids swimming race in QE's large lido pool, one hot afternoon.

They were both such well built ships. Strong, sturdy and truly the Queens of the entire world's merchant marine. Today, I have a brass voice tube mouthpiece and porthole deadlight dog from them, as reminders of their history. In my home office right now is a large, framed painting of the QE, portside quarter view, underway on a darkened night sea, stars all out and the Queen sailing away, portholes and funnels all aglow from bridge wing to stern. Other walls contain paintings and pictures of LUSITANIA, MARITANIA (1907), AQUITANIA, etc. One space contains an original, framed, LUSITANIA partial deck plan, dated 1907. A set of six original oil paintings, of older Cunarders from the sail/stem era up through the BERENGARIA are elsewhere in my home. Are these famous ships forever in my blood; absolutely.

In addition to sailing on QE2 numerous times, I also used to seem to constantly cross paths with her on the N. Atlantic or in port, while I served on other ships. I suppose she was so fast, that she covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. (The period of 5 day crossings and 28.5 kt service speeds). I remember tracking her on radar early one morning. I didn't know it was her until I computed the target's speed. In excess of 26 kts at the time, I figured it could only be one large ship, along that route. And indeed it was. She eventually passed across our bow and our ships' company all came out to marvel and take pictures. She was sure beautiful at sea, at full speed.

I could go on for hours, having so many fond personal and professional memories of these ships and especially of QE2. The smaller cruise ships of the line were also great fun and more homey and intimate. On those too, I sailed numerous times, especially on FRANCONIA from NY to Bermuda. As time provides, I'll try to relate other remembrances and hopefully post a few pictures of my treasures.

Safe sailing, Stu

Offline No 736

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #4 on: Dec 31, 2011, 11:28 PM »
Stu, your memories  and comments epitomize just how much so many of the forum members feel.
What an interesting career you must have had. Please tell us more in due course.
Happy new year to all,
Steve S.
« Last Edit: Jan 01, 2012, 10:56 AM by No 736 »

Online cunardqueen

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #5 on: Feb 05, 2012, 07:09 PM »
Hi Stu
 Welcome oboard ! Look forward to hearing more tales as and when you have time, there is quite  alot of topics on here to work through, but im sure you will find them fun !
 Your free run of the storage rooms at Cunard in New York sounds like an incredible experience....
Im sure the rest of the members also look forward to hearing more of your experiences.
From the moment you first glimpsed the Queen,
 you just knew you were in for a very special time ahead.!

Pat Curry

  • Guest
Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #6 on: Feb 05, 2012, 07:12 PM »
Hi Stu

Welcome to a great forum. And already your contributions have enhanced it

Enjoy  ;D

Offline Rod

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #7 on: Mar 02, 2012, 12:05 AM »
Welcome Stu and thanks!
I sailed on the Franc during her final 3 months. Loved that ship!

Offline Jeff Taylor

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #8 on: Mar 02, 2012, 12:45 AM »
Interesting to hear your recollections, Stu.  I especially enjoyed hearing about your preference for the Lizzie over the Mary.  It's so traditional to laud the Mary as being such a happy ship and having such a soul, not to mention the faster which I suspect the Lizzie could have bested any time she wanted, while I always felt that the Lizzie was a far more attractive design both exterior and interior, and so much more relatively modern seeming.  Part of my affection for the Lizzie was that Geoffrey Marr who you must have met more or less adopted me on one of the later crossings, and actually let me take the helm briefly, but I've bored everyone here with that story before.  In any event, it's nice of you to share some of your experiences on the Cunard fleet(s) with the forum.  Stick around!

Offline StuM

Re: MY Life-Long Affair with QE2 (and Cunard)
« Reply #9 on: Jun 18, 2012, 12:46 AM »
Thanks Jeff. I too, took the helm of FRANCONIA on a Bermuda cruise. Senior Watch Officer (I think he was then Chief Officer), Robin Woodall, was on the bridge, in mid-voyage and let me take the telemotor helm. I learned how to switch over from electric/"Iron Mike" steering to the older hydraulic telemotor and I steered for some time. It was such a thrill. When I was a maritime cadet, later in life, that initial training served me well, as I was a fairly good helmsman and steered one ship through much of the Panama Canal.

On a later FRANCONIA cruise, I was again on the bridge and a group of visiting passengers were there for the old, pre-security, bridge tour. The watch officer let one young lady "steer" the ship for a few minutes, but never let on that the iron mike was actually doing the work. I quietly motioned to him about the valve and control settings on the helms and he simply put his finger to his lips, as if to say, "this is our little secret".

I met so many of the ongoing, famous Cunard officer on the FRANC. She and CARMANIA were such nice, intimate ships. Plus, many ideas and design concepts for QE2 were first tried out on those two 22,000 tonners.


Tom McGee : Lifelong Liner Enthusiast

Started by Tom McGeeBoard Passengers & Enthusiasts Introductions

Replies: 4
Views: 301
Last post Jan 25, 2019, 03:54 PM
by June Ingram