06 February 2009

A Daring Exhibition

Today in 1953, Captain Donald Sorrell docked the Queen Mary without the aid of tugboats. It was the second time in the ship's history she was guided into her slip without assistance -- Commodore Robert B. Irving also had to go it alone in 1938. Both occasions were due to striking tugboat workers. (The ship docked in 1946 with the assistance of U.S. Army tugs, due to yet another strike).

Sorrel required two attempts to find success. His first one was somewhat hair-raising for those who witnessed it -- the ship was caught by a current and it looked as if she might not only brush up against Pier 90, but plow into Pier 92, until engines were reversed and the Mary's four powerful screws churned her away from danger. Plan B went much better. Captain Sorrell brought his ship, the size of the Empire State Building, safely into her ice-littered West Fiftieth Street pier at mid-morning, during ebb tide. The New York Times called his achievement "a superb and daring exhibition of seamanship."

Launches from the Caronia -- which earlier docked alone but had left a 15-foot dent in her pier -- aided the Mary as her bow entered the slip. Winches were then employed to swing the bow around, and, with some help from of the tide, the stern was moved into position so that the ship slid safely into her berth. During the hour and a half it took to dock, an estimated 2,000 people had gathered to watch, shouting their approval at Cunard employees as they maneuvered heavy cables and hawsers stretching from the ship to the pier. When the Mary was finally moored, they let out an exuberant cheer. 

New York Times
The Canberra Times


  1. This blog continues as one of the best on the web. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Maggie. I'm glad you're enjoying it as much as I do.