22 September 2009

Farewell, Dowager of the Sea

From the Victoria Advocate on this day in 1967:

Proud Old Sea Queen Leaves NYC Last Time

NEW YORK (AP) - The Queen Mary, once proudest of her breed, eased out of her 52nd Street pier and rode a harbor tide toward the Atlantic and into history Friday. It was her final departure from New York.

"She's a beauty - I hate to see her go," said Victor Rapp, who is studying to be a ship's officer, as he watched from a tugboat.

In 31 years on the high seas, the Queen Mary carried more than two million persons through weather fair and foul, in war and peace, more of them Americans than any other nationality.

This may have been in Mayor John V. Lindsay's mind when he said at a shipboard ceremony shortly before she left: "You don't have to be British to love the Queen Mary."

Beneath a blue sky pillowed with white clouds, the three-funneled liner, symbol of a vanishing era, was saluted by a mile long flotilla of harbor craft, their horns blaring in throaty adieu.

Thousands of persons in skyscraper windows and massed at the Battery waved good-bye to the 81,000-ton queen, second only in size to her younger sister, the Queen Elizabeth.

From her decks, 1,500 passengers waved back. And with grace and majesty, the old ship returned the honors with the deep bass of her steam whistles. She also saluted the Statue of Liberty for the last time. Then, as the impressive skyline of Lower Manhattan dropped down behind her, the Queen Mary blasted a last farewell - and was gone.

A dowager empress of the sea, the Mary's voyage is her 1,000th Atlantic crossing. Next month she sails from England around Cape Horn to Long Beach, Calif., to serve as a floating hotel and museum. Transatlantic jets made her outmoded, and she has been losing $2 million a year.

At her final California berth, she will be far removed from the North Atlantic sea lanes, where she survived fire, mines, gales, collisions, and once a wave so huge it nearly capsized her, all eight decks and 1,019 feet of her.

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