December 9, 2010
We Are Cunard
As Queen Mary 2 continues her Caribbean season, Queen Elizabeth has returned to the Canaries; her first voyage there since the maiden Voyage in October. Meanwhile exactly six years after the contract to build her was signed, Queen Victoria is in the Blohm and Voss dry dock in Hamburg, undergoing her first refit. I’ll have more of that news from Queen Victoria’s Deputy Captain, Andrew Hall after this week in Cunard’s History from the 3rd to the 9th of December:
|December||3||2004||The contract is signed with Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard to build hull number 6127 – Queen Victoria|
|December||4||1975||QE2 completes her first million miles of steaming|
|December||6||2008||Queen Victoria makes her maiden call at La Goulette|
|December||7||2007||Queen Victoria arrives in Southampton for the first time|
|December||8||1852||Cunard’s first iron-hulled, screw-driven vessel, the Andes, makes her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York having been built by William Davey & Sons of Dumbarton.|
|December||9||1967||Queen Mary docked at Long Beach, California after her final voyage|
Just over a week ago Cunard’s newest Queens, met for the first time in their home ports of Southampton and I’m delighted to say we have been sent a link to a Vlog made by Steve Read, which captures the moment perfectly.
After that meeting Queen Victoria headed straight to Hamburg and I’m excited to be able to post the first Guest Blog by her Deputy Captain, Andrew Hall, in a series of Blogs looking at her refit.
It hardly seems possible that three years have passed by since Queen Victoria’s arrival into the fleet. In that time she has travelled over 343,500 nautical miles, including three full circumnavigations of the world, and has made 619 port calls. She hasn’t had a day out of service or a day without guests on board, so it’s now time for a well-earned rest and makeover, with the assistance of our friends at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, as well as a number of other companies contracted to maintain and upgrade guest areas on board.
We arrived in Southampton at the end of our last Mediterranean Voyage a little earlier than usual in order to make a flying start to the refit period. The operation to offload guests’ luggage was the usual swift operation and soon after our guests started to disembark. However the refit preparations were already underway in the crew areas with carpet and deck protection being laid and an army of contractors, of various disciplines, waiting in the terminal to embark.
Once the guests were all ashore the whole ship swung into refit mode. The team from Housekeeping, lead by Executive Housekeeper Roz Price-Evans, unrolled thousands of metres of plastic sheeting covering carpets (or at least those destined to remain), as well as putting protective covers on the furniture and artwork. Meanwhile, a team from the company Trimline were hard at work removing curtains and drapery, which were to be landed in Southampton for dry cleaning.
The pace on the dockside was frenetic with cranes swinging on tools and equipment. Meanwhile, through the ship’s side doors, tens of pallets of materials and spare parts, required for all the planned upgrade work and in depth maintenance, were loaded.
At 1.00pm, after only seven hours in port, mooring lines were let go and Queen Victoria sailed for Hamburg, with some 797 crew and 197 contractors. Sailing from Southampton we passed the Ocean Dock where our new sister Queen Elizabeth was about to embark upon her new voyage. This was the first meeting of the two ships and was, of course, celebrated by the usual sounding of the ship’s whistles as we passed. Sorry Southampton!
The following day was spent at sea, arriving at the mouth of the river Elbe at 6pm and commencing the long river transit into the centre of Hamburg. The timing was critical, as we had to arrive off the entrance of the dry dock at 12.45am in order for the height of tide and tidal stream to be suitable for docking.
Already, onboard, the pace of work had accelerated in the guest areas with large amounts of carpet having been removed through many areas. This was the scene in the Grand Lobby adjacent the Pursers Desk; it’s amazing how much mess you can make in such a short time!
As planned we arrived, in a somewhat wintery Hamburg, and right on time we were positioned off the dock as a fleet of tugs pulled the Caisson (dock gate) open. We then gently nudged the ship ahead, connecting the positioning wires as we did, until the whole ship was safely in the dock. Now the work was only really just starting!
With the Caisson back in position, work began to pump out the dock; the ship’s position being adjusted according to laser measurements taken to ensure that at the point of taking the blocks, the equipment on the ship’s bottom (such as the tank plugs and speed log transducers) were not obscured or damaged.
The Elbe 17 dock is one of the largest dry docks in Europe, with a capacity of 240,000 cubic metres of water, albeit some 45,000 were being displaced by Queen Victoria’s hull. The dock pumps are rated at 11,000 cubic metres per hour so pumping the dock dry was going to take some time. However, at 3am the keel touched the blocks and we were no longer afloat!
Soon after all the lifeboats and tenders were lowered into the remaining dock water and subsequently lifted out of the dock by crane to be positioned on the dockside for their own makeover in specially erected tents.
Pumping out the dock continued for the majority of the day, but as darkness came the last of the water disappeared into the huge gratings beneath the Caisson, as the shipyard team entered the dock to sluice down the silt from the river leaving the concrete floor in the dock clean to work in. Soon after the Captain and I, along with the Chief Engineer and company Technical Superintendants, made our own way into the dock bottom to conduct the initial assessment of the hull by torchlight! The initial assessment was good, just the usual build up of growth and slime, which was to be expected after three years of service. The thrusters, stabilisers, azipods, sea chests and so forth, all seemed to be in excellent condition.
We now have nine full days here in the dry dock. I’ll be back in a few days with an update on the progress. Join me next time!
Thank you so much Andrew for that fascinating insight to the Dry Dock process along with the great pictures; we look forward to part two next week. Meanwhile I’ll be back on Monday with more news, including some special guests who sailed on Queen Elizabeth recently, and of course I’ll be back on board Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday as she begins her Christmas Voyage to the Caribbean.
Cheers for now, Alastair