Queen Mary 2 & Queen Elizabeth 2
An exciting day in Southampton on the 2nd June 2008.  It was the 55th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and she chose to mark part of the day paying a final visit to the ship she launched 41 years before, the QE2.  The weather was pretty lousy when both ships associated with the Queen arrived, with QM2 due to dock in Mayflower for 5.30am with QE2 at QEII half an hour later.  Mary emerged into my view at 4.41am, the mist making it a little hard to see.  Lizzie, with the assistance from Svitzer Sarah on her bow and Lyndhurst and our personal favourite Lady Madeleine on her stern, appeared half an hour later in worse visibility.  I hoped it would improve later.
It had been in the Echo that at around noon the Queen would give the orders to a cadet to blow Lizzie's whistle three times and it would be responded to by Mary.  We went to the marina to wait this historic event.  The wind whipped up and rain started leading to my umbrella just about living to see another day.
The Royal Standard was flying proudly from the top of Lizzie's mast at 11.45am signifying the Queen was aboard.  Now we waited.  There were a smattering of people with us waiting too.  11.56am there was one solitary blast and complete silence from Mary down the other end and we weren't the only ones looking in that direction.  How disappointing after all the hype!  So we went home to have lunch.
We'd decided to catch the 2.50pm ferry across to Town Quay, thinking it would be a lovely day and bring out the crowds so we needed to be by the fence.  It was drizzling by now and as we walked down the pier we heard another solitary blast from Lizzie at about 2.25pm which led to the lowering of the Standard.  The Queen was gone.
Despite the rain it didn't stop many people being on deck to photograph the ship.  That's one of the best things about Hotspur IV over Great Expectations.  There was an amateur who works for the railways with an enormous lens but he missed the Standard.  There was also an elderly lady waving a Union Jack to her daughter who was on the ship but not outside.  She may not have even boarded.
To pass some time and decide whether to go back or not, we headed to Mayflower Park to get Mary.  The car carrier was originally listed to sail at noon but was still there so ruined the view for dead on shots.  We chatted to a workman who was revamping the old children's play area.  He told us they wanted it expanded for the boat show and there would be a water feature.  The trees the Lib/Lab council had wanted knocking down when they seized power from the Tories would be staying with the Tories back in complete control.
The rain eased before stopping and the wind changed direction so we stayed.  As we waited the crowds very slowly built up.  Mary was supposed to sail at 5pm with Lizzie at 5.30 but Mary was acting the diva.  She's too young to emulate Lizzie!  Must have hated not being the centre of attention and her Godmother not even saying hello.  The tugs Svitzer Sussex and Lady Madeleine went to attach themselves to Lizzie and finally, nearly twenty minutes late, Mary moved, blasting three times - yay!  A hush descended over the crowd which is most unusual.  People even gabbled during the three Queens in April!
The passengers from both ships shouted, cheered and whistled to each other as blastmania ensued around the docks from these two grand Cunarders.  Even the elderly lady beside us, who thinks ships today are ugly with horrible sterns, quite liked Mary.  Silence fell between the two ships then the blasting started up again.  They were giving us our money's worth today!  As soon as Mary was safely out the way, the tugs began to pull the star of the show out.
After Lizzie had given three deep blasts, the crowd dispersed so most missed Svitzer Sussex take the few remaining by surprise and turn on the water!  A woman on the other side of my dad quickly switched her camcorder on again.  It rounded off what turned out to be a marvellous day despite the crap visibility.
Lady Madeleine detached and returned to the kennel while Svitzer Sussex continued leading Lizzie down towards the Solent.  Lizzie had almost gone when the batteries in my camera died.  Couldn't have waited a few more minutes, could it?  Grrr!  Luckily I had spares and caught her disappearing around what will always be her dock.
Watching Lizzie fade from view brought a tear to my eye as I thought about the coming November.  It was going to be really hard, more so probably than when Canberra went as Lizzie's been around longer now in my life and I've sailed on her.  When Lizzie returns, so will I on Boudicca with Pam.  When she's back in after that, it's the cruise with Rowan, Amy and Jason.  Thinking of those days cheered me up as we went to get the ferry and it rained again on the way back.

For photos of the
QE2 in the Solent and Southampton Water after the cruise as I followed her in on Boudicca, click here.
 
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© Patricia Dempsey 2nd June 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission