Queen Elizabeth 2, Sea Princess (II) & Oceana (II)
After the mechanical fault off Dubrovnik, Croatia on the 7th September 2007 delaying the QE2 by 24 hours, it was a case of playing major catch-up to arrive in Southampton on time for the 15th.  Originally due in Gibraltar with Oceana and Sea Princess on the 12th, the call had been cancelled as she was still in the Sicilian Strait and only passed Gibraltar at 7am on the 16th.  So would she make it?  She certainly put her foot down.  So much so she ended up passing Sea Princess at around 12:20am doing a belting 25.6 knots to Sea Princess's 19.2, which slowed to 19.1.  The arrival times were Oceana 6:15am, QE2 6:30am and Sea Princess 7am.  I received a text from Amy just before 4.15am saying she was doing the Calshot turn.  She'd beaten them home!!!!  Lizzie truly is Super Ship and I can't see Queen Victoria, no matter how much they like to claim she's a liner, being anywhere near as impressive.  Meanwhile Oceana disappeared from the AIS then reappeared ahead of Sea Princess after initially being behind.  As the QE2 was in the turning circle, the other two had slowed at Fawley and had to wait for her to be out of the way before progressing.  Sea Princess was almost on top of Oceana!  I was up as my friend Nick and his partner Geoff were returning on Sea Princess after their very first cruise but they slept through all the action.  So Oceana went on to dock at Mayflower with Sea Princess returning to City where she
started but by now the Mayflower Park area was built up as the 39th Boat Show had begun.  There had been a small outbreak of Norovirus on
Sea Princess which was quickly contained but thankfully Nick and Geoff hadn't been affected.

Pam was onboard
QE2 for the cruise to celebrate 40 years since the ship's launch.  Rather annoyingly, thanks to this 40th anniversay misinformation put out by Carnival/Cunard too many publications, including our own Southern Daily Echo, have reported she has had 40 years of SERVICE.  To be honest, if Pam hadn't been on her I wouldn't have gone to the marina as anyone worth their salt knows launches are not celebrated but the entry of service is the only date which matters.  Paying off pennants also are as long in feet/metres as a ship's service life and don't include the years(s) before launch.  Also there had been none in the past while she celebrated her 30th in 1999 with as much of a send off here as her 35th just three years ago.  By the time we arrived at the marina just after 3pm it wasn't as packed as we'd thought.  Several people there got up and left.  So we waited for the departures as they were all down for 5pm and hoped Lizzie's obvious list wouldn't get worse.
As we waited the crowd began to slowly build up but not until well after 4.30pm.  We heard a couple of funny things.  One bloke walked past us with several others saying of Oceana and Sea Princess, "Look like sisters, don't they?"  Another a while later was talking to some tourists, also about those two and told them, "Sea Princess is newer because the funnel's white."  I texted that to Amy and Pam because I knew they'd get a kick out of it.  Amy replied asking if the stacks turn yellow with age.  My dad said it's all that smoking!  Pam did lifeboat drill at 4.15pm but for once we heard nothing from any of the ships.  Half an hour later two tugs emerged to attach themselves to the QE2.  A further tug went to the stern of Sea Princess.  At 4.57pm the first of Lizzie's ropes were cast off.  By now the marina had become chock-a-block with people, locals and tourists.  She was very slowly moved away from the dock, much slower than normal.  Meanwhile as this was happening, up at 101 Sea Princess was also on the move and blasted.
Once she had straightened, the QE2 gave three very loud and very long blasts.  Surprisingly for such a well-hyped event, the number of small boats or even a Blue Funnel ferry to escort her towards the Solent were non-existent.  I know it wasn't due to the Boat Show as there were many small craft on the water all afternoon but they were just zooming past as usual.  A little further on, she blasted again, as did Sea Princess and the tugs turned on their water sprays after letting go creating a rainbow when the sun was at the right angle.
As the QE2 passed Hythe pier, a Red Funnel ferry gave her a salute which she reciprocated with one blast.  The people beside me had stopped waving their Union Jack at their friends onboard and a handful of people left.  This is unusual when there is a major maritime event here because once something is past the pier, there's very few people left.  Not this time.  Even the pier itself wasn't full to bursting and the majority stayed.  In fact no one up until then around me had even mentioned 40 years of the QE2.  They simply didn't care as the vast majority were there to wave friends off on whatever ship or just watch all of them sail.
The tugs left their charge, turned off the water and returned to the dock.  Meanwhile up the other end Oceana was finally on the move and followed her sister.  They really are so identical Pam told me later she couldn't tell which was which in that light so I had to tell her.  I hope she got good shots off Calshot.
Never one to miss a trick, Sea Princess also gave one final blast as she passed the pier and now a few more left but several hundred remained.
Some women a bit further down the marina were trying to get their friends on Oceana to see them but couldn't.  So the people next to me leant them their Union Jack.  When one of them screamed excitedly, "They can see it!" they got a cheer and round of applause from the rest of us.
While Pam and the QE2 disappeared around Calshot everyone remaining now left and still, as we followed people back along the path to Hythe village centre and had many behind us, stopping only to take the last above photos, not one of them mentioned this anniversary.  Even our taxi driver coming home said the 40th was 2009 and was completely disinterested in this.  The Cunard hype machine failed big time with the general public but I'm sure everyone on her will have a wonderful cruise on a magnificent ship.

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© Patricia Dempsey 15th September 2007
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