When Queen Victoria was being built in 2006/7, Cunard let it be known that they intended to set up an exhibition on the ship displaying memorabilia from the earlier Queens – the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth and the QE2.

They asked for exhibits. I had built up a small collection and emailed them to let them know what I had. Cunard’s Southampton office was just across the road from my office at Paris Smith and Randall 
and Peter Shanks, who I think was head of European sales at the time, asked if he could see them. We met and he liked, in particular, a log book from the Queen Mary. 
The logbook was the hand written original covering Queen Mary’s first voyage from John Brown’s shipyard on the Clyde to Southampton and then the first six transatlantic voyages. It mentioned the visit to the ship of King George V and later on the same day the visit of Queen Mary, after whom the ship was, of course, named.

You may know the story of the naming of the new ship. Until then Cunarders had names ending in -ia – Britannia, Scythia and so on. The Cunard Board thought that Victoria would be a suitable name for the new ship and the Chaiman met with the King (some say on a golf course and others put the meeting at the Palace.
The Chaiman said that the company wanted to name the ship after the greatest Queen the nation had ever known, to which the King replied that he was sure that his wife, Queen Mary, would be honoured to have the ship named after her. So Queen Mary it was.

The memorabilia project was being run by an outside agency and they met me and earmarked 6 items which they wanted me to lend them for the display which they called Cunardia. A formal loan agreement was drawn up under which I agreed to lend the items for 10 years.

Jane and I sailed on Queen Victoria’s maiden voyage in December 2007 and saw Cunardia for the first time. We were pleased to see my memorabilia together with many other items in the display cabinets. Six years on they are still there.

International Date Line

We crossed the International Date Line last night at about 2200 hours. There was a slight bump as we went over but no more than that. But sadly Monday 24 February proved to be a nothing day. It was a shame really. It just didn’t happen. I turned on Sky Sports News to find that it was still Monday for you in the UK but we had moved on to Tuesday.

The daily newspaper on the ship said on Sunday 23 February “At midnight tonight the ships clocks will be set forward 24 hours to 25 February. At 2.00am tomorrow morning the clocks will be SET BACk BY ONE HOUR. Please set your watches BACK one hour and your date forward one day before retiring this evening, Sunday 23 February”
As you can imagine, some of the Seniors aboard struggled with that!
It will be interesting to see how many people are early or late for breakfast today or is it tomorrow (or yesterday)?
I was really upset about missing Monday. After all it is the first day of the working week and I know many of you still go to work and I like to think about you on Monday mornings. And I’m sure that I must  have paid Cunard for that Monday and for all the food that I did not have. I feel really sorry for all the people getting off the ship in New Zealand and Australia because they have lost a day in their lives.
We are lucky, though, because after we go to Tonga next month Cunard have promised us that we can have an extra day on them. We will call it 17 March No 2. Presumably the Captain will just switch off the engines and drift about the Pacific to use up the day. We will have to wait and see. 
No, it is not the 1st April today and no, I have not lost my marbles! In fact on 1st April we will be in San Francisco and of course we will meet up with the O’Connell clan.
A couple of weeks ago Jane celebrated her birthday. Thank you for all the good wishes and for the E-cards many of you sent. Because of the slow internet satellite service she was unable to pull them up until today. Clearly the system works better on the left of the International Date Line.

We had a party that day in the cabin and on the balcony. I will attach some photos. A prize for the first person to name the male twins (or should I say twin?). A clue – they are members of RMYC.

Enjoy Monday!

Tahiti and Moorea

We were here in Tahiti last year when we had a fantastic day in the lush cattle country up in the hills. 

This year Jane and I decided to explore the capital Papeete. It was a hot and humid day and we probably made the wrong choice. We also had in mind taking the ferry to Moorea (where the ship was going the next day, but as the ship would be at anchor, Jane would not be able to get ashore then).

We thought we could cover Papeete on foot and then take the ferry, but because we found the walking difficult (high pavements and few dropped kerbs) and tiring, we gave up on the trip to Moorea. What we did see in the capital that stood out were the Parliament buildings. We were given a free rein to wander amongst the buildings and the gardens which were lovely. Parliament didn’t appear to be in session because the whole place was deserted!

We covered a vast distance around the town, but our maps were not brilliant and Jane would say that I took a number of wrong turns!
Tahiti is a beautiful island but the best bits are out of town.
As Moorea is only a short distance from Tahiti, the Captain decided to extend our time in Papeete until 0500 next morning to give passengers (I keep forgetting – we are not passengers, but guests) the opportunity to experience the nightlife. We didn’t bother and stayed on the ship that evening and when we awoke next morning we were anchoring off Moorea.

Moorea is magnificent, but as Jane had to stay aboard I took a tender and made some rapid trips east and west from the dock courtesy of some black pearl outlet stores that were running free shuttles (ancient vans). I didn’t bother with the black pearls but covered a fair amount of the island. It was a hot and very humid day. Jane survived without me for a couple of hours.

Soon after we had weighed anchor the Captain announced that we would have to return to Tahiti. Someone was seriously ill and needed hospitalisation. I imagined that there would be some sort of transfer at sea, off Papeete, but that did not occur and we returned to the quay that we had left at 0500 that day. 
The seamanship was exceptional. An ambulance was waiting. QV glided into the berth, a gangway came out and after some brief discussions between the medics and the ships agent, the patient was transferred. Then it was a very quick departure, the Captain turning the ship on a sixpence, before we headed out of the harbour and back onto our westerley tracks towards Fiji.


Pitcairn Island

At 0630 as the sun rose above the horizon a small island lay ahead of us. We arrived off Adamstown at about 0800 as planned and shortlly thereafter a metal longboat packed with people was spotted motoring towards us.

We counted 48 people in the boat and as there are only 56 inhabitants, clearly just about all of them wanted to come aboard QV. The plan was that the islanders would set up stalls in the Queens Room and when they were ready the passengers, armed with US dollars, would be allowed in to buy. At the same time one of the islanders, Jacqui Christian, would give presentations in the Theatre about life on Pitcairn.

It all worked like clockwork. The presentations by Ms Christian were exceptional. She was educated at Otago University, NZ (Gretchen’s Uni), in Australia and at Cambridge, and spent many years away from Pitcairn before returning and settling there.
She is a seventh generation descendant of Fletcher Christian who, you will recall, led the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. A little history follows in case you haven’t seen any of the numerous Mutiny on the Bounty films!
The Bounty had left England for Tahiti in December 1787. It was a difficult journey and after 10 months they arrived in Tahiti and for various reasons were there for 5 months. When the time came for them to sail away, many of the crew were reluctant to leave the beautiful girls they had met. They knew the voyage ahead would be hard and within 3 weeks of departing, Fletcher Christian led the mutiny. Captain William Bligh and 18 of his supporters were cast adrift in one of the ship’s boats and the Bounty made her way back to Tahiti.
After a number of attempts to find a remote place where they could settle (and avoid capture and the gallows) Fletcher Christian and 8 of the mutineers plus 6 Tahitian men and 12 Tahitian women and a small girl came across Pitcairn and decided to settle there. The mutineers divided the land amongst themselves, ignoring the Tahitian men who they treated as their slaves. That led to unhappiness and unrest. Christian had not thought through the fact that there were 15 men and only 12 women. And there was a further issue when the partner of one of the mutineers died following a fall and the mutineer then demanded the wife of one of the Tahitian men. 
Numerous murders followed and 9 of the 15 men (including Fletcher Christian) were killed in 1793. By 1796 only 4 mutineers and no Tahitian men were left alive. Two of the women had been murdered as well so for a time there were just 4 men and 10 women living on Pitcairn.
The community on Pitcairn survives, but only just. The population is diminishing. In 1936 about 200 people lived on the island. By 1966 it was 100 and now it is just over 50. Children are educated initially on Pitcairn but they spend the last 2 years of High School in NZ and thereafter most of them choose to settle away from the island.

Meeting the islanders and listening to their stories enthralled us all. They had managed to relieve us of fistfulls of dollars and appeared to enjoy doing so! They sold us stamps and tee shirts, caps and carvings, jewellery and honey and every conceivable momento. They even managed to extract US$10 for a Pitcairn stamp on our passports!

To finish, after rapidly boxing up their unsold thrinkets, they sang beautifully to us all. They then piled back into their longboat and made their way back to the tiny quay tucked into the rocks, which formed the only viable access to the island.

It was a memorable day for us all. As a young boy I had heard all about Pitcairn from my father and it was great to see it and talk to some of the residents. Andrew Christian (nearly everyone was called Christian) told me that the Fletcher Christian who my father had met back in the fifties was his Uncle and had only died at the end of last year.

Easter Island

We went round Easter Island yesterday. It might seem a strange thing to do bearing in mind that it is so remote and took us nearly 4 days to get there from Chile. Although you can fly there, and smaller ships do visit, we were considered to be too large.

We knew what to expect from lectures aboard. A volcanic island 15 miles by 8 and triangular and well known for its giant moai – stone heads, sometimes in rows and sometimes dotted about on their own. Their origin is a little blurred. They look inland and it appears that they are thought to keep the villages they overlook safe.

We approached the island at about 1600 hours and cruised along the southern side, about half a mile offshore, round the small islands at the western end, and then along the northern side before turning round and heading off on a westerley course towards Tahiti. It took about 2 hours to round the island. We had a commentary from one of the guest lecturers who knows the island well and he pointed out the landmarks and the giant stone moai.

Then it was off to Pitcairn and Tahiti and the rest of Polynesia.

Captain’s table

We received an invitation to sit at the Captain’s table last night. The Deputy Captain Simon Love was the host. Jane sat next to him and he was in excellent form. We knew that he had gone to sea as a young man, had gained his Masters ticket, but after marrying had left the sea. And after 17 years ashore he had returned, working initially for P&O and then for Cunard.

Over the years I have met many men who left the sea when they married but I had never heard of anyone returning after such a long gap. Apparently he had worked for the family business while ashore and some 8 years ago his elderly father (who had been a P&O Captain himself) decided to take all his family on a cruise. They were on the Aurora and by chance the Captain was a man who Simon had worked with in his early years at sea. He told Simon that Carnival were trying to encourage people like him to return to sea. As his children were growing up and as his wife and children could accompany him from time to time, he took the plunge, requalified, started with P&O and has now moved to Cunard.

I have no doubt that it will not be long before he has his own command.
Sitting to my right at dinner were a couple, Tim and Jean (who are to the right of me in the photo). It was quickly established that Jean grew up in Southampton, went to the Girls Grammar School in Hill Lane, played lacrosse with Jane in the Southampton Ladies Lacrosse Club that Jane ran for many years and, like Jane, had been a teacher. 
There were other coincidences. Tim had been at Southampton University a few years after me. He went into Tourism and was Head of Tourism at Poole and then Director of Tourism at Torbay. While working in Poole they lived in Merley, less than a mile from my school Canford!
It was an excellent evening.

Captain George E Smith

As many of you will know my father, George Smith, was a Cunard man. Born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire in 1914, he went to sea when he was 15. He studied at the Grimsby Nautical College and joined the New Zealand Shipping Company as a cadet. He had been round the world 7 times before he was 21.

After the cadetship he joined the United Baltic Shipping Company and eventually Cunard White Star Line as it was then called. During World War II he served on both the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth and after the war he was assigned to the Queens, which resulted in my parents moving in 1946 to Southampton, where my sister Elizabeth and I grew up.
In those days wives of serving officers were not allowed to travel with their husbands which meant that my father was away from my mother and the family for long periods. While on the Queens it was not so bad for my parents as the transatlantic runs meant that my father would be home for 2 days every 2 weeks while the ship turned round in Southampton.

My father also served on the Sythia, Media, Parthia, Mauretania, Caronia, Saxonia (later renamed Carmania), Ivernia (later the Franconia), Carinthia and Sylvania. It was the Caronia that I remember really well because my father loved that ship, but it did take him away from us for long periods of time. I am talking about the Caronia that was affectionally known as the Green Goddess (in service between about 1949 and 1965) and not the Caronia of later years (which was the renamed Vistafjord). There is a model and display about the old Caronia in the Chart Room on QV.

What I remember well was his return after he had been away for 6 months on the Caronia, initially on cruises out of the US to the Caribbean followed by a World Cruise again out of the US. I guess that I was 8 or 9. Of course it was good to see my father again after all that time, but it was the large additional suitcase that he brought back that was more exciting. He had bought and been given momentos of the various magical places he had been to around the world and it took us 2 days to open all the gifts while listening to the stories about the places where he had acquired them.
The point I was intending to make was that one item he brought back for me was an envelope bearing a Pitcairn Island stamp, duly franked and signed by Fletcher Christian, a descendant of the original mutineer of that name, and at that time the Chief Magistrate on the island. 
We are due to sail by Pitcairn on Sunday 16 February. We understand that some, if not all, of the 50 residents of the island will come aboard QV that day and will set up stalls in the Queens Room. We will not be able to go ashore. The island could not cope with so many people.
What I have not told you is that a few years after being given the Pitcairn stamp I stupidly swapped it with another boy for what I mistakenly thought was something better. But I did keep Fletcher Christian’s signature.
I think my father was a Chief Officer at that stage. He went on to become the penultimate Captain of the old Queen Elizabeth and the second ever Captain of QE2. His last ship before retirement was the Franconia which ran between New York and Bermuda on a weeky basis. 36 hours at sea from NY to Bermuda and then 3 days tied up on Front Street, Hamilton and then 36 hours back to NY and a day to turn round.



We arrived on time at 0630 and sunrise revealed a clear blue cloudless sky. A perfect day appeared to lay ahead, but by the time we had had breakfast a thick sea fog had swept in, enveloping the city.

We knew that Santiago, the capital of Chile some 2 hours inland, had smog problems but we did not anticipate fog in Valparaiso. We decided to travel a short distance north to Vina Del Mar (in Lord Cochrane’s time it was known as Almendral) now a beach resort. It is apparently the main holiday resort in this part of Chile and we knew that some of the people who left the ship in Valparaiso were spending time in Vina Del Mar before flying home. When we arrived there the fog had gone and the sun was shining.
We found a very tidy and clean resort with vast expanses of sandy beaches, modern hotels and apartment blocks. We also found the President’s summer residence which appeared to be a copy of a small Windsor Castle! We walked for miles through leafy parks before deciding to return to the ship in the late afternoon.

Valparaiso marked the end of the 3rd segment of the world voyage and in the region of 800 people left the ship with a similar number joining for the segment to Australia. Those joining appear in the main to be Australians judging by the people having difficulty in working out whether the lifts (elevators) are going up or down (I mean judging by their accents!).

In the early evening we left Valparaiso and set sail for Tahiti and Polynesia – a longish passage at sea. Hundreds of local people watched our departure, some in a vast array of colourful pleasure boats and many more on shore.


Lord Thomas Cochrane – Vice Admiral Chilean Navy 1818 – 1822

No this was not another Admiral aboard QV as a guest lecturer. My brother in law David Holt lent me a book on Lord Cochrane some months ago. I brought it with me but only realised, when it was mentioned in a lecture last week, that some of Cochrane’s greatest exploits happened here in S America. So I dropped Alex Ferguson’s autobiography (a Christmas present you understand) and started to read “Cochrane the Dauntless” by David Cordingly from which I gleaned some of the history I will share with you here.

As many of you will know, Cochrane was a hero after his naval successes in Europe, but he fell out with the British Establishment and was imprisoned for a time. In 1817 Cochrane was persuaded to join General Jose San Martin and General Bernado O’Higgins (remember him?) who were attempting to establish an independant republic of Chile.

Over the previous 300 years Spain had effectively controlled central and southern S America (only Brazil lay outside their control – Portugal ruled them) and the people resented not being able to run their own affairs. O’Higgins realised that they needed control of the seas if they were to succeed and for that reason he signed Cochrane up to lead the naval skirmishes.

Cochrane and his family left England in August 1818 aboard a 300 ton merchant ship, the Rose, and the voyage across the Atlantic and round Cape Horn took them 3 months. Interestingly, on approaching Cape Horn they met a fierce westerly wind which they battled for 3 days and they only managed to round the Horn by travelling south before finding a favourable wind that took them past it.
They then sailed north to Valparaiso where they met up with O’Higgins. I can recommend David Cordingley’s book. It deals with Cochrane’s career in Europe but in addition the battles he fought in liberating not only Chile, but also Peru and Brazil.
That little history lesson was designed to give you a some background. Our next port was that very same place – Valparaiso.


Puerto Montt

After fleeing North America in the early 20th century Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are said to have settled in Argentina and bought ranches with the proceeds of their US bank and train robberies. They are said to have crossed the Andes and travelled to Puerto Montt to sell their cattle and buy supplies. As we know they returned to the more exciting life as bank robbers and were eventually killed in a shoot out with the Bolivian army.

The main street of Puerto Montt did not appear to have changed very much in the years since they were here. It had the feel of a cowboy town, but those that travelled out of the town found breathtaking mountain scenery in Chile’s Lake District and at the resort area of Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue.

As QV was at anchor Jane was not able to get ashore but I had nearly 3 hours wandering around the town and taking in the Cathedral and museums.