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Queen Mary 2
By John Maxtone-Graham

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 Queen Mary 2

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Queen Mary 2
By John Maxtone-Graham
ISBN: 0821228846
Genre: Arts

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Chapter Excerpt from: Queen Mary 2 , by John Maxtone-Graham

Chapter 1

The Giant in Prospect

Queen Mary 2 rose like a great gray behemoth from the bottom of Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique's longest dry dock. Sprawling Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique is the central industrial complex of the town of St.-Nazaire, situated where the Loire debouches into the Atlantic. There, for more than a century and a half, an evocative parade of French Line tonnage has been produced. The patient, skilled hands of those Breton shipwrights gave life to immortals such as Paris, Ile de France, Normandie, and the third France.

In modern times, the yard continued its impeccable output, launching fleets of modern-day cruise ships. No more than five can be produced each year, a reflection of available dry-dock space as well as the yard's maximum capability of steel cutting and assembly. Suiting her stupefying dimensions, Queen Mary 2 was assigned the logistical descriptive of "1.6 ships," yet another unique distinction for this gigantic Cunarder. But whatever their size, all newbuildings are conceived in the same manner. Every ship begins as a single pencil line drawn onto an otherwise blank sheet of drafting paper. From that simple beginning, a welter of additional lines—parallels, arcs, curves, angles, tangents, and grids—spreads across acres of paper. Simultaneously, those same designs proliferate into a profusion of computer databases. Thus is today's complex newbuilding web spun.

From the very outset, Queen Mary 2 was destined to astonish, boasting every maritime superlative save two. She is the longest, broadest, and tallest passenger vessel ever launched, displacing a record 76,000 tons of water and with an unprecedented gross tonnage of 150,000 tons. Budgeted at nearly $800 million, she is also the most expensive. The only two superlatives eluding QM2 are fastest—her power plant falls short of Blue Ribband, or record-breaking, performance—and her draft is shallower than her famous namesake's. But thanks to the combined muscle of a quartet of diesel alternators and twin gas turbines, she can tear along at thirty knots, in the glorious tradition of predecessor Queens.

With an overall length of 1,132 feet (345 meters), she comfortably surpasses the former world's longest Norway-ex-France by a hundred feet. Her 147-foot (45-meter) beam at the bridge betrays her as definitively —nay, defiantly!—too wide for Panama's canal. For this monster to circumnavigate the globe, it's either around Cape Horn or threading her way cautiously through the icy wastes of northern Canada's archipelago.

QM2's draft is 32 feet (10 meters), identical to that of current Cunard flagship Queen Elizabeth 2 but less than the two original Queens, Mary and Elizabeth, whose whopping 42-foot (13-meter) draft sometimes necessitated waiting for flood tide in Southampton or New York. Draft is the only dimension that QM2 and QE2 share; in every other respect, this new flagship dwarfs her predecessor.

The visual impact of Queen Mary 2's hull and superstructure—what her naval architect Stephen Payne describes succinctly as her "air draft"—amazes everyone, whether embarking passenger or envious, shore-bound spectator. From boot-topping to funnel top, she towers above the waterline 203 feet (62 meters), a remarkable elevation that alone separates her from every other vessel afloat. Incredible as it may seem, passengers sailing in and out of New York on the upper decks of this new Cunarder commune eye-to-eye with Lady Liberty.

However trippingly that cognomen—"new Cunarder" —falls off the tongue, it speaks volumes about Queen Mary 2's long-overdue arrival. Indeed, after Carnival absorbed and restructured Cunard, the company was restyled as a two-ship brand—flagship Queen Elizabeth 2 and Vistafjord. (Shortly thereafter, the latter was renamed Caronia.) No new purpose-built Cunarder has appeared for three decades. Not merely a new Cunarder, QM2 is unquestionably the greatest Cunarder of all time. Moreover, mirabile dictu, she is imbued with the glorious but exacting specifications of an ocean liner.

Liners used to make line voyages—hence the name—from Old World to New in all seasons. They sailed year-round, through fair weather and foul, the very antithesis of today's shipboard-for-fun. Rather than pleasurable cruises, these were purposeful crossings. Whereas cruise ships dawdle around exotic itineraries, ocean liners persevere at speed, thundering across the world's most formidable oceans on bruising schedules.

The only other ocean liner extant is Queen Elizabeth 2, launched in 1967 and previously considered "the last Atlantic liner." Now Cunard has turned back the clock, rewriting history to duplicate and amplify those demanding criteria for QM2. Her dimensions and achievements should not be construed as hype, but mere hyperbole.

The supplemental thickness of her forward hull plates, the number and stoutness of her ribs, the formidable structure of her bridge screen, and the massive, protective flare of her bows have all been wrought specifically to make her immune to the worst possible weather. So it is not only Queen Mary 2's landmark size, but her staunch, ocean liner genes that enshrine her forever in the record books.

Ships of any description do not just materialize. Their heritage evolves from prior company (or rival) tonnage and they come into being thanks to the dogged labor of thousands. In the vanguard is the visionary, who then seeks out experts—architect, engineer, shipbuilder, designer, planner, sailor, and administrator—and sets them to work. Their accumulated wisdom, experience, and toil are Queen Mary 2's life force, infusing shape, character, grace, and mobility into thousands of tons of inert steel.

Let us meet the principals behind this once-in-a-lifetime mega-project. The visionary is unquestionably Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival corporation. He surveys the world from a tenth-floor office at carnival's Miami headquarters, outside of which an only slightly reduced replica of the company's signature red, white, and blue winged funnel has been installed in the midst of a flower bed.

Seated behind a U-shaped maple desk that belonged to his father, Arison is assured and ebullient, his beaming face adorned with rimless spectacles and a sandy moustache and goatee. At fifty-four, he is blessed with both the inspiration and the means to make extraordinary things happen in the shipping world.

His late father Ted founded Carnival Cruises back in 1972 with a superannuated Canadian Pacific ocean liner called Empress of Canada; the original ship's bell stands in one corner of Micky's office, a potent Carnival talisman. Arison père rechristened her Mardi Gras, and, three remarkable decades after she first sailed out of Miami, Arison fils oversees an incredible floating empire, embracing a consolidated fleet of sixty-six vessels that produces annual revenues approaching seven billion dollars.

Carnival functions today as a benign maritime cooperative. Within that corporate fiefdom, cruise lines operate autonomously, dubbed in-house as the World's Leading Cruise Line Alliance. Participants include the vessels of Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, P&O/Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruises, and Windstar Cruises. The entire flotilla is made up of operators, ships, officers, and crews from around the world, marshaled into a giant consortium headquartered in Carnival's Miami office.

It was Micky Arison's bold decision to buy the historic but ailing British line from the Anglo-Norwegian Kvaerner conglomerate in 1998. For those who had contemplated Cunard on the block with disbelief, news that cruise purveyor Carnival had taken over the venerable transatlantic company seemed equally improbable. But in almost instant retrospective, Carnival's Cunard purchase made eminent good sense. Here at last was a refreshing infusion of cash, practicality, and drive. As Captain Ron Warwick said when he shared the news with his passengers in midocean aboard Queen Elizabeth 2: "We are all delighted to be owned once again by a shipping line rather than a hotel chain."

In fact, Arison had dreamed of a new ocean liner long before his Cunard purchase, suspecting that the historic company could serve as not only the perfect but also the only instrument of his ambition. "We bought Cunard," Arison says flat out, "to create Queen Mary 2, not the other way around." Nevertheless, Arison perceived the Cunard brand as a "hodgepodge," a fleet at odds with itself that boasted, regardless, an incomparable transatlantic heritage.

Arison and his colleagues were intrigued. "But what were we going to do with it?" he reflects today. "This was around the time of the Titanic movie. We were all talking about this overwhelming nostalgia movement in the country. What if we built the next great ocean liner?" I'm fascinated that the fabled White Star liner had contributed its potent mystique into the mix and set Arison and Carnival on the road to acquisition and construction. Moreover, the potent lure of the name "White Star" was not lost on Arison, following the success of the Titanic film. The White Star suffix—half the company name of Cunard White Star dating from their 1932 merger—had been dropped by Cunard in the early fifties. Resuscitated and trademarked, it could only enhance Cunard's present-day image of high-end luxe.

Of the dozens of newbuildings that Micky Arison has ushered into service, none was more challenging or ambitious than the vessel he envisioned as Cunard's replacement flagship. Arison was determined to burnish anew Cunard's historic transatlantic crown, recapturing for a new generation of passengers the seagoing grandeur that had so enchanted their parents and grandparents. In the chairman's own words: "Queen Mary 2 will carry the grace and elegance of a bygone era into the future."

As a visionary anxious to implement his dream and explore its technical feasibility, Arison had the right expert in-house. A pivotal member of Carnival's newbuilding team is Stephen Payne, a brilliant young naval architect, the oldest of four brothers and a born and bred Londoner. Payne has been intimately involved with a succession of Carnival newbuildings since his initial employment by UK shipbuilding consultants TMP (Technical Marine Planning) in 1985. In that capacity, he was involved with designing Carnival's Holiday and, later, the company's Fantasy-class, its first vessel delivered in 1990.

Following Carnival's 1989 acquisition of Holland America Line, Payne was immersed in the Statendam-class sextet. In 1992, he moved on to Carnival's Destiny-class, followed three years later by assignment as project manager for Holland-America's Rotterdam VI. That same year, 1995, Carnival absorbed tMP into its permanent newbuilding team.

Payne is blessed in that his rewarding profession crystallized from a childhood obsession. An episode from the television program Blue Peter first fired the seven-year-old viewer's imagination. Footage from a Queen Elizabeth 1967 Channel crossing conveyed the majesty of the Cunarder's great hull as well as the size and grandeur of her public rooms; Stephen was instantly hooked. In 1969, Cunard invited the public aboard to inspect brand-new Queen Elizabeth 2, and, not surprisingly, the Payne family, on holiday in nearby Bournemouth, came up to southampton to see her for themselves.

A January 1972 Blue Peter broadcast captured live images of Payne's beloved Queen Elizabeth afire in Hong Kong harbor. In the program's Blue Peter Annual, published later that year, a writer hazarded that a liner of comparable size would never again be built. Payne recalls, "I wrote to the program to say that I thought they were wrong and that one day there might be. I still have their reply, wishing me well and hoping that such a vision might some day come true. Well, the rest is history!" 

A top-ranked schoolboy debater, Payne is a formidable speaker. He speaks with fluent assurance, patently in love with his subject and devastatingly well-informed, as authoritative as he is articulate. Physically, Payne is an Englishman's Englishman, of medium height with a beaming, almost Dickensian visage; wire-rimmed spectacles frame eyes of bemused intensity. His platform style is essentially academic—meticulous but never dull—the words delivered with a pungent South London accent. He punctuates points with spare, disciplined gestures, enlivening potentially dry passages with flashes of deadpan humor.

Amongst the revealing graphics he enjoyed screening when introducing Queen Mary 2 to audiences was his overlay of comparative Cunard profiles. Lower left, looking like a toy, is Britannia of 1840, the Cunard alpha for which QM2 serves as crowning omega. Outlined as well are present-day flagship QE2 and the first Queen Mary, a veritable giant of her time. But QM2's vast footprint eclipses them all.

The genesis of what became Queen Mary 2 was unconventional. Traditionally, when a naval architect is asked to design a newbuilding for an owner, he responds with three essential questions: How many passengers? How fast? How luxurious? But this was no conventional assignment; Arison was obliged to reverse the order of things. Before providing capacity, speed, or lavishness, he needed informed guidance. Nothing approaching the specifications for the vessel about which he fantasized had been tackled before. Hard data would only emerge after some arduous new research. So, in an understandable role reversal, naval architect Payne would ultimately define for owner Arison the exacting maritime parameters he sought.

To that end, Payne was instructed to embark on an extensive study as to what form a viable and economically sound twenty-first-century ocean liner should take. Arison concluded his brief with two wry caveats: "Stephen, in your lifetime, you will only have one opportunity to design such a ship so you had better get it right the first time!"

Moments later, the chairman added: "After this ship, I don't quite know what I am going to give you to follow on. Nothing will ever compare with this."

For the naval architect, it was a flattering, albeit sobering, moment. Payne was gratefully aware that he had been entrusted with contemporary shipbuilding's dream commission. Project Queen Mary 2 was under way.

His formal research began in May 1998. He and colleague Richard Moore embarked on an exhaustive two-year study. One inescapable mantra guided Payne from

the beginning: "You cannot place a ship in regular North Atlantic service in the near winter months unless you have a true liner." He is haunted by the ordeal of the Italian Line's Michelangelo during a westbound crossing in April 1966. Patently, her bridge screen had been inadequately constructed. As she was being driven fast through a storm to New York, a monster wave struck the fore part of the ship, and two passengers and a crewman were killed. Payne was determined that his Queen Mary 2 should achieve epic invulnerability.

Of necessity, every liner shares several essential characteristics: high speed, buttoned-up superstructure, a long bow deck, engines amidships, lifeboats high above the waterline, deep draft, and a finely shaped hull. Few if any contemporary newbuildings meet those relentless criteria. Standard cruising speed seldom exceeds twenty knots, top hampers tower high above the sea and are crowded forward, draft is restricted for tug-free, in-port maneuvering, and, between finely wrought bow and stern, hulls are consistently flat. Since today's ships are assembled from prefabricated sections, or blocks, keeping most of those giant Lego pieces stolidly rectangular makes economic sense.

Admittedly, some cruise ships destined for global deployment share some ocean liner proclivities. One such was Oriana of 1995. She boasted a service speed of twenty-five rather than twenty-two knots. Additionally, owners

P & O required that the vessel exhibit what are called good sea-keeping characteristics, capable of coping with weather more demanding than that encountered in the placid Caribbean.

By the same token, when designing the sixth Rotterdam, Payne and the shipyard modified Statendam's basic hull shape into something approaching a liner. He not only added length to derive an economical turn of speed, but also made the hull less boxy. By so doing, he sacrificed some stability but made it up by increasing her beam. Since Rotterdam would be faster than Statendam, she would have to carry more fuel, so Payne increased her draft for additional bunker capacity.

But those refinements did not make Rotterdam a real liner. No legitimate ocean liner had been built since QE2 of 1969. Faced with the task of designing one more than thirty years after the last one had been built, Payne was fully aware that shipbuilding has changed radically since 1969. Today's passenger expectations are quite different; moreover, a contemporary ocean liner would be notoriously expensive to build and to operate.

Incidentally, there was scant useful input from the world's shipyards. Helsinki's Kvaerner Masa's had submitted a preliminary, ostensible ocean liner design, siting a large dining room aft, directly above the propellers. The Finns were obviously locked into a placid, cruising mindset quite inadequate for the rigors of North Atlantic service. As it happened, Payne's ultimate decision was to position QM2's dining rooms nearer stern than bow, close to what he describes as the "center of pitch."Something similar to QE2 was the obvious answer.

But whereas St.-Nazaire categorizes the size of QM2 as "1.6 of a ship," she would represent 1.4 of a ship in financial terms. Meeting ocean liner specifications involved a daunting 40 percent price differential. The power required to drive the vessel at speed, the increased thickness, strength, and weight of structural components, and, not to be ignored, the potential loss of revenue within a shaped rather than a boxy hull had to be factored in. Regardless of those additional costs, Payne's finished design would have to pass muster with the hard-boiled pragmatists of Carnival's accounting department.

One of his earliest tasks was to analyze QE2's thirty-year track record; "Building on positives and rejecting things that don't work" remains a firm Payne philosophy that has paid dividends over the years. Similarly, he is never not evaluating maritime successes and failures, continually reappraising the ups and downs of merchant ship history.

Since he had sailed as a QE2 passenger many times, Payne was extremely familiar with her interior design. He found, for example, her staircase system "immensely confusing," an inevitable result of conflicting planning decisions when she was built. Originally designed for three classes, QE2 entered service hastily modified for two; nowadays, her passenger load is accommodated essentially within a single class. Had the vessel been designated as such from the outset, her entire arrangement would have been different.

Additionally, the presumed wraparound, enclosed promenade had been incorporated within public rooms instead. Passengers tramping around the open-air promenade up on the boat deck cannot easily complete a circuit around the ship's forward end because of a staircase and elevated, open-air lookout that is untenable in high winds. The vessel's structural details offered cautionary hindsight as well. QE2's top five decks are fabricated entirely of aluminum. (She was launched, in fact, with three superstructure decks already in place.) This involved an enormous plus for the ship's stability, allowing inclusion of one more deck than if her superstructure had been fabricated of steel alone. In this configuration, QE2 was, when built, the largest passenger ship able to traverse the Panama Canal.

Nevertheless, in the long term, aluminum involves some disadvantages. Though one-sixth the weight of steel, it is less dense and it hardens with age, changing characteristics. After more than three decades, QE2's superstructure has lost much of its initial resiliency. Panels of the metal around the upper three decks are starting to show wear. Cracking has occurred at stress points—around window frames, in corners, and even where holes have been drilled. Since aluminum cannot be easily strapped or patched, occasional panels have been replaced.

This prompted one of Payne's earliest decisions: QM2 should be of all steel construction, a resolve that carried potent ramifications, particularly in the matter of size. By substituting five aluminum with five steel decks, it was clear that he would end up with a ship smaller than QE2, because stability requirements meant that he would be obliged to have one less deck.

Conversely, the economics of the project demanded that QM2 could not be smaller than QE2; it had to be not only as big, but bigger. Indeed, the inevitability of that mammoth expansion was guaranteed throughout the study as Arison added marketing demands into the technological mix. An extract from Payne's notes encapsulates QM2's growth progress succinctly: "Size determination, including review of aluminum superstructure on QE2 allowing Panamax vessel of 70,000 grt, economy of scale and all steel design leading to post Panamax 150,000 grt." (The abbreviation "grt" stands for "gross registered tonnage." "Panamax" describes the largest hull capable of transiting Panama's 1,000-foot by 110-foot [305-meter by 34-meter] locks; post Panamax characterizes vessels prohibited by size from doing so.)

It took the Queen Mary project team a full two and a half years to complete their task. In Stephen Payne's words, "We estimated powering, ship weight to almost 1,500 tonnes accuracy, etc. etc., all from adapting data from QE2 and our own knowledge." The team achieved a monumental triumph. When their data were inspected by the shipyard's naval architects, they were adjudged compellingly complete.

Not the least of their difficulties was that Carnival's management kept requesting greater passenger capacity as well as a higher ratio of cabins with balconies. No sooner had those amendments been incorporated and resubmitted than further increases were requested. Like Alice in Wonderland, Queen Mary 2 "grew and grew" as the preliminary design expanded to qualify as not only magnificent but also a money-earner. In this way, the vessel's height, beam, and length increased to their present record-breaking dimensions. In point of fact, the only limitations to a ship's size are twofold: her overall length must allow her sufficient maneuvering room within home port and ports of call. As regards height, she must pass beneath every bridge spanning every itinerary. QM2's overall length of 1,132 feet (345 meters) creates no problem in Southampton. The Queen Elizabeth II terminal where she ties up between transatlantic voyages boasts a generous quay front that encompasses her length without difficulty. Moreover, the port's lower turning basin immediately offshore is large enough to allow the vessel's routine inbound maneuver. Arriving at dawn off the terminal, QM2 executes a complete 180-degree turn before docking portside, bow pointing downharbor in anticipation of that evening's departure. According to Southampton senior pilot Bill Range, there is a more than adequate radius of 1,500 feet (457 meters) between the berth and a limiting channel marker near the opposite shore, identified—with good reason—as the Hythe Knock. Then too, pilots have a reserve contingency: if additional maneuvering space is required, a pilot can intrude Queen Mary 2's bow over the threshold of the adjacent capacious ocean dock, the now-unused passenger facility where predecessor Queens once berthed.

In New York Harbor, length is not a problem either, although 34 feet (10-plus meters) of second Queen Mary's hull jut out beyond the end of the 1,100-foot (335-meter) passenger-ship terminal's finger piers. Similarly, there is sufficient room out in the channel when she backs out of the slip to turn downriver for departure. Most challenging is the arrival, as inbound QM2 pauses at pier's end. There she must negotiate a 90-degree starboard turn, pointing her bow due east for entry into the 400-foot (122-meter) wide New York slip. This can be a demanding maneuver when spring runoff from upstate buttresses the Hudson's downriver flow, making arduous the northward swing of the vessel's huge stern.

Rather than length, New York's prohibitive limitation is height. Queen Mary 2's formidable 203-foot (62-meter) air draft is the maximum permissible. Payne had to restrict the elevation of both mast and funnel top in order to leave ten feet (three-plus meters) of clearance below the roadway of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. As he jests ruefully, "If we haven't got it right, it will only be a problem the first time; either the bridge or the funnel will disappear."

Once his vessel's parameters had been finalized, Payne had next to determine whether the design met or, preferably, surpassed the demands he knew it would encounter in service. Those answers could only be revealed within the confines of a model-testing tank. Carnival's chosen facility was MARIN (Maritime Research Institute), founded in the early 1930s. Europe's largest deepwater and offshore testing facility, it is located in the Netherlands' town of Wageningen, near Arnhem. MARIN recently celebrated testing its eight-thousandth hull, an enviable achievement. The facility's primary function is to prove design feasibility, bridging the gap between well-reasoned theory and hard-nosed practicality. MARIN's technical director, Reint Dallinga, puts it as follows, prefacing his remarks with a wry assessment of his company's travails: "In the financial stress-field between owner and builder, MARIN supplies an ?assurance' of the vessel's speed in trial conditions, its maneuvering characteristics, and its ability to maintain speed and course at sea in service conditions."

Over much of the year 2000, two scrupulously wrought, yellow models of the Queen Mary 2 hull—one large and one smaller—were built and tested at MARIN. These were the first actual three-dimensional replicas, however small, of the giant vessel itself. Both betrayed the brute strength and pronounced flare of the real ship's bows, reminiscent of both Queen Elizabeth 2 and the original Queen Mary. But because three decks of cabin balconies are incorporated within the hull, Payne had amplified the protective flare of his forward steel hull plates to divert oncoming waves more efficiently to either side.

In turn, each model was launched into MARIN's largest tank, a giant, indoor cement trough nearly 600 feet (180 meters) long, 131 feet (40 meters) wide, and 16 feet (5 meters) deep. Once afloat, the larger QM2 model was attached by a rigid towing bridle to a carriage that spanned the tank and rode on twin rail tracks along either side. First towed by the carriage to determine resistance, then subsequently self-propelled to ascertain powering requirements, the model's form was continually refined to improve performance. For subsequent sea-keeping tests, the smaller of the two models was employed, detached from the tow but linked to the carriage by a multiconductor umbilical cord. Equipped with both propellers and stabilizers, this smaller model could be propelled and steered from "shore" by radio command. The tank's water can be roiled to produce any sea conditions, from a force-two breeze to fearsome rollers. Thus, models can be made to pitch (the bow rising and falling), roll (rocking from side to side), or scend, a diabolical combination of the two. For days, as computers monitored her performance, QM2's hull was run at varying speeds through a gauntlet of increasingly ominous sea conditions.

The bow configuration proved admirable. persevering at twenty knots through simulated, hurricane-sized waves, the prow negotiated approaching juggernauts superbly, shrugging potential inundations aside.

Next, it was necessary to find out if the vessel's stern matched the efficiency of the bow. The smaller QM2 model was liberated from the towing bridle and waves were generated to impact the stern. Early in the design phase, Payne had debated incorporating a planing surface into his underwater stern. A planing surface—an arbitrary expanse of flat steel beneath the counter—encourages a hull to rise and literally plane across the sea. Such a refinement had contributed to United States's phenomenal performance back in 1952 when she won the Blue Ribband. But planing surfaces involve a cautionary catch-22: Speed may be improved but at the cost of a more vulnerable stern. As a result, Payne's final design combined a modified transom with elements of the first Queen Mary's cruiser stern; described as the "Constanzi stern," a similar arrangement had been pioneered for Oceanic and Eugenio C in the mid-1960s. The hybrid was necessary because a simple transom stern, slapped by a following sea, can set up troublesome vibrations the length of a hull. But the Queen Mary 2 version had to be further refined to provide appropriate "landing spaces" for her propellers.

The model's four working stabilizers were located as on the full-scale prototype—two a side amidships. Payne and MARIN were both anxious to know not only how they would perform during damp rolling, but also what corrective effect they could exert with a following sea. Subjected to a wave onslaught from astern, model QM2 exhibited what is described as a ?hunting instinct': The hull cycled through a series of random, side-slipping undulations. When those waves were amplified, the movement was so pronounced that propellers tended to emerge above water. The solution was installation of a remedial skeg—a stout vertical steel divider separating the two aftermost propellers. That skeg, in combination with the stabilizers, minimized the hunting instinct and vastly improved QM2's longitudinal stability in a following sea.

Mention of "the two aftermost propellers" tips my hand. This is obviously the moment for preliminary discussion of the remarkable propulsion system of the Queen Mary 2. She is the first quadruple-screwed vessel to appear on the North Atlantic since France of 1962. Employment of four propellers was sine qua non for all giant twentieth-century Cunarders from Lusitania on up to but not including Queen Elizabeth 2, which has only two. But Mauretania, Aquitania, Berengaria, and both predecessor Queens joined QM2 in boasting four. The view over the second Queen Mary's stern reveals the same broad wake that furrowed the North Atlantic in the old days. But apart from their number, everything else about QM2's propeller quartet is radically different. To start with, the vessel's "engine room" is not even inside the vessel. Each propeller, as well as the huge electric motor driving it, is part of a separate pod suspended beneath the hull. Though the two forward pods are fixed, the after two rotate through 360 degrees, obviating the need for a rudder. Initially, provision had been made for a rudder, but tests indicated that it would have to have been so huge that unacceptable drag would have resulted. So there is no rudder whatsoever; QM2 is steered instead by her two azimuthal pods.

The electrical power required to drive the vessel's propellers comes from two sources, the first of which is four diesel generators positioned low down in the vessel amidships. Their uptakes to the funnel have been divided, in the manner of Vaterland, Normandie, and Nieuw Amsterdam. Rather than disrupt passenger access along the keel line, the chimneys connecting generator room with funnel adhere port and starboard to the quarter-width sides of the hull, leaving an unobstructed central thoroughfare connecting public rooms. Two additional engines produce even more electricity. These are twenty-five-kilowatt gas turbines, sited high in the vessel where they not only have convenient access to the huge volumes of air they require but also obviate the need for additional uptake casings. Concealed within both sides of the funnel's base, each is chambered within a soundproof enclosure. That pair, in concert with the four alternators below, churns out sufficient kilowatts to meet all of QM2's engine and service electricity needs. Their combined output could power a city the size of Southampton. Payne's hull passed her MARIN tests with flying colors, Reint Dallinga's daunting "financial stress-field" successfully negotiated and fullest "assurance" guaranteed. Now to document Payne's upper deck choices. Some fellow architects and ocean liner aficionados had hoped that the second Queen Mary might be topped with multiple funnels similar to the trio adorning her famous namesake. Why not enhance Arison's commitment to steamship nostalgia by replicating that beloved profile with three stacks—genuine or dummy—perhaps with lounges incorporated into their structures?

But Payne never even considered it, quick to point out that for every ton of top weight, two tons must be added below decks. Moreover, he likely felt but did not articulate that cluttering the vessel with fake special effects would vitiate the purity of his design. Queen Mary 2 is, after all, neither a styled cruising fantasy nor a whimsical retro reproduction. Rather, she is a valid ocean liner, a serious creation that, uncompromisingly constructed, must convey a maximum of 2,800 passengers safely and comfortably at speed in all weathers. Payne was determined that nothing should sully his profile. "To my knowledge," he ruminates, "though they may have inherited some, Cunard never built a liner with a dummy funnel. So why do so now?"

That said, he did succumb to some minor upper deck fakery, an ingenious trompe l'oeil device adorning the corners of his bridge screen. (The bridge screen is the forward end of every vessel's superstructure, the maritime equivalent of an automotive hood and windshield.) By application of two decks' worth of horizontal, wraparound black lines, Payne has visually recapitulated the look of the original Queen Mary's forward deck crossovers.

Structurally, the second Queen Mary's bridge screen emerged as an intricately wrought marvel, form adhering faithfully to function. It radiates strength and reliability, what the French express so eloquently with the single word puissance. So compelling is its complexity of curves, a traditional bowed front (Queen Mary 1 again) that slopes as well, cone-shaped, rising to the formidable brow of the bridge and doubly convex for strength. Perhaps most distinctive are its stout corners, gracefully sloping brackets that tie all superstructure decks together while incorporating yet another audacious curve—concave, this time—into the mix of planes. Those robust shoulders define and encapsulate the entire structure. Overall, Queen Mary 2 has been blessed with a forward-facing façade that proclaims itself immune to the worst possible seas. Would that poor Michelangelo had boasted such an enviable forward rampart!

By way of bewitching contrast, immediately aft of each bridge screen corner, an exterior panoramic elevator provides a delicate, illuminated verticality. At the bottom of the bridge screen's slope are two resonances from another of Payne's ocean liner favorites, the French Line's 1935 Normandie. The white steel arc of a whaleback conceals the forward mooring machinery, and a stout, V-shaped breakwater—shaped like an inverted locomotive's snowplow—serves as a supplementary line of defense against encroaching seas.

Amidships, QM2's overriding profile feature is her towering single funnel. To either side, its base is cradled within the twin, curved, aerodynamic flumes that elevate and disperse stack gas well over the stern. The entire funnel structure, although distinctive and more massive, renders homage to the predecessor flagship, extending Cunard's contemporary design continuum. But there is not a shred of QE2 continuum the length of QM2's flanks. Here instead is a formidably up-to-date commitment: Superstructure and hull are perforated with row after row of balconies. Their presence in extenso cogently underscores Stephen Payne's appreciation of how much shipboard has changed since QE2 first appeared in 1969. Not one cabin balcony had been incorporated into her original configuration. Admittedly, balconied suites, in the form of prefabricated, aluminum modules, have been attached to her upper decks over the years.

Outdoor cabin access aboard QE2 is restricted, perforce, to occupants of the vessel's most rarified accommodations. By way of exhilarating contrast, no fewer than eight QM2 decks are festooned with balconies. (In fact, Arison had requested seven but Payne upped the ante with an additional deck's worth.) The bottom three balcony rows are inset (uniquely) within the hull itself, at a secure remove from the bow. The incredible result is that fully three quarters of Queen Mary 2's cabins come complete with open-air terraces overlooking the sea.

The two most palatial balconied suites—appropriately named Sandringham and Balmoral—are double-deckers occupying the after corners of the superstructure on Decks 9 and 10. The visual effect of the terraced descent of her five after levels, from Deck 12 down to Deck 7 (strength), is yet again reminiscent of QE2's stepped profile. Payne has sloped all their protective windscreens—mullions and glass alike—with a forward-facing, streamlined rake, imparting a dynamic urgency to the vessel's after end.

With hull and general arrangement completed and approved, the next step was for shipyards to submit their tenders to build Queen Mary 2. This happened on June 4, 1999. Kiel's HDW yard bowed out, confessing that the project was just too big. Similarly, the excellent German yard at Pappenberg could not qualify because of the fixed, restrictive dimensions of their permanent building shed. Finland's MASA yard was extremely interested but preordained building schedules forbade it; their capacious Turku dry docks on the country's west coast had been preempted by Royal Caribbean International Voyager-class newbuildings. Similarly, Italy's Monfalcone order book was full of Princess and Carnival Destiny tonnage. Closer to home, the venerable Belfast yard of Harland & Wolff had internal financing limitations that could not accommodate the scale of the QM2 undertaking.

The French won out. A letter of intent with Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique at St.-Nazaire was signed in March of 2000 and in November, a final building contract certified delivery for December 2003. Here was a double first: A Queen to be constructed outside the United Kingdom and a Cunarder to be built in France. Britain's traditional shipbuilding preeminence had tragically eroded. In 1886, 151 steamers were built on the Clyde alone; today, only one Clyde-side shipyard remains extant.

This moment conjures up the opening vision of this chapter. The vessel's optimum shape had been determined, its steel shell perfected. Stephen Payne was not only pleased with his creation, he was also supremely confident of its groundbreaking qualifications. "Queen Mary 2," he declared, "is probably the strongest and most adequately designed transatlantic liner to date." An additional bonus was that the vessel be imbued with what he described as "a forty-year fatigue life." Although North Atlantic liners traditionally anticipated a thirty-year life expectancy, Payne was adamant that Queen Mary 2—his superliner, if you will—comfortably exceed every prior expectation.

The next step was for Cunard and its appointed interior designers to decorate and furnish every corner of their giant steel structure. Having examined QM2's exterior, it is time to meet Cunard's management and their chosen designers before embarking into the belly of the beast.

Excerpted from Queen Mary 2 , by John Maxtone-Graham . Copyright (c) 2004 by John Maxtone-Graham . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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