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Old Jun 26, 2010, 06:27 PM
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More reminiscing from one of the QM's engineers:

One memory concerns something that happened during soot blowing. (This cleaning of the fire side of the boilers took place every night so as not to be visible to the passengers). It was customary during these times to station a couple of greasers in the appropriate funnel who supervised the flue gas washing system. On this particular occasion, at about 3.00am, the drains became blocked with soot and a flood of inky water cascaded down the MAIN staircase. By the morning everything had been cleaned up and the passengers were oblivious to the panic of the previous night.

I remember one hot summer's day in New York when we received the news that the New York baggage handlers were on strike, so the ship would not sail until the end of the dispute. Cunard however asked the ship's company for volunteers to load the passengers' baggage to enable us to get away on time. The only crew who came forward were about a dozen off-duty engineers, including myself. We worked ceaselessly in the humid New York heat with no sign of a drink from anyone still aboard. Due to our efforts the ship sailed to schedule but it was galling to witness the pursers at the ship end of the baggage belt coolly accepting the tips due to OUR hard work. The reward for our efforts, for not only getting the ship away on time, but also saving Cunard hundreds of dollars in baggage handlers' wages, was a single letter of thanks pinned to the notice board!

Each trip the two queens (Mary and Elizabeth) would cross in mid-Atlantic. If this occurred during the daylight, the Captain would announce the event over the P.A. system. Passengers would come up on deck and both ships would greet each other with blasts on their whistles. The ships would be about 2 miles apart. If they passed at night, then all external ship lights would be lit. Normal night time illumination on deck was restricted to the red and green on the bridge only.

Each day at noon, the engine room telegraph would be rung from the bridge as a form of time check. It was also rung as a mark of respect to a passenger who might be buried at sea. The coffin, draped in the appropriate flag, would be slid off a board at the open-ended stern. To prevent the coffin from floating, fire bars (carried solely for this purpose) were placed beside the body.

The Port Authority of New York was very vigilant with regard to ships emitting smoke. The fine for doing so was $1,000 and I'm sorry to say that we were fined on more than one occasion. Photos of the offense were taken by a helicopter. We seemed to attract it quite regularly! I remember the Senior Second Engineer, who was a popular character saying to a group of us, "I'll give anyone a hundred bucks if they can shoot that bastard down!".
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