RMS Queen Mary, sale and last voyage.

Confederation Marine Modellers

            In July 1947 the Cunard company's transatlantic liner "Queen Mary" returned to commercial service at the end of her war service. She resumed her weekly crossings which continued until air travel took so many passengers that she became no longer commercially viable. In 1967 Cunard offered the ship for sale and the City of Long Beach was the succesful bidder. The following is an extract from an article in the Ships Monthly magazine of June 1986 describing the delivery voyage.

            No story of the sale of the ‘‘Mary’’ would be complete without reference to the delivery voyage, a far more onerous operation than Cunard had been expecting to undertake under the terms of the initial Letter of Intent, by which it had been simply agreed that the ship would be delivered to Long Beach on a ‘‘Dead Voyage’’ basis at buyers’ cost. On their return from Long Beach, however, the Americans promptly sought to carry this a big stage further in asking that the voyage be opened up to fare-paying passengers in order to defray the delivery costs to some extent. Since the buyers themselves had neither the means nor the knowledge to manage such a venture, they asked Cunard to undertake the task. This created considerable tooth-sucking in both London and Southampton. Legally speaking at this point Cunard, had they chose, could have walked away from the deal since this new, considerable requirement by the buyers went well beyond
anything agreed under the Letter of Intent. At a time when they were already slimming down their operation in all areas, it would be inconvenient, to say the least, to undertake an exercise which seemed to be fraught with complication and uncertainty. On the other hand the prospect of announcing that the sale had fallen through, not to mention the irksome process of returning the ship to the sale market with uncertain consequences, were scarcely palatable. Albeit with reluctance, Cunard agreed to provide this additional service while warning the buyers fully of the problems they were likely to encounter and protecting themselves from the sharing of any loss which might be incurred.
          The two "Queen’’ liners, the "Queen Mary" and "Queen Elizabeth" had been designed for a specific purpose: the carrying of passengers to and from New York and Southampton. Their range measured in terms of bunker and fresh water capacities had been geared to just that and no more. Moreover, since the dimensions of the ships ruled out the use of the Panama Canal, the Queen Mary would have to take the greatly more extended passage around Cape Horn, 
inevitably necessitating frequent calls en route for the replenishing of bunkers and fresh water. Further difficulty could be expected to arise from the deep draft of the ship, effectively preventing her from berthing alongside, at any of the ports of call. In the not unreasonable belief that they would never be required, neither ship had been equipped with shipside accommodation ladders. Because of this the port authorities or agents between them, at each of the ports of call, would need to provide pontoons to lay directly beneath the liner’s entry ports, permitting the use of gangways from ship to pontoon and pontoon to shore tender. The ship itself was equipped with no more than conventional open lifeboats, the majority manually-propelled. Disembarking and embarking of passengers in such circumstances seemed hardly an attractive prospect in the heavy Pacific swells of the West Coast of the South American continent.

          A small team, headed by a senior member of the Cunard management in Southampton, applied itself promptly to the masterminding of what seemed to be a daunting situation to say the least. That the delivery voyage was achieved without major problems said much for the masterminders ashore and not least for Captain John Treasure Jones and his staff aboard the ship herself.
          On 31st October, 1967, the proud old ship, dressed overall and carrying from her mainmast top a 310 ft pennant (each ten feet representing one year of her life) took leave of her homeport for the last time. Her mighty basso profundo sirens roared their farewell again and again as other ships and craft saluted her on the passage down Southampton Water. On her decks were the many passengers who had booked with Cunard for the final voyage to California, keenly anticipating the experience of an unusual itinerary which included the rounding of the dreaded Cape Horn. The Queen Mary bade her last farewell to Europe on leaving Lisbon three days later, headed for Las Palmas, St Vincent, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro before rounding the Horn for the long haul northwards.
          Her welcome to Long Beach was rapturous, indeed almost hazardous, given the enormous number of pleasure craft littering the port approaches to greet her. The Queen Mary was fittingly welcomed by the proud community which now owned her and to this day she stands resplendent, a perpetual monument to the days of Atlantic travel by sea at its glamorous zenith, and a monument also to the foresight of those concerned in the great Cunard Company of the late 1920s for conceiving the bold idea of the ‘‘Big Pair’’ to service the North Atlantic ferry route.