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QUEEN MARY 2
CUNARD

INSIDE VIEW:

A Conversation with
Captain Nick Bates,
Queen Mary 2

Part II

by
Richard H. Wagner
Driving the flagship

Following his time at Princess, Captain Bates returned to
Cunard to command Queen Mary 2.   While the modern
Princess ships were a change from the ships Captain Bates had
commanded before, QM2 was yet again another major change
technologically.  Her pod propulsion gives her great flexibility
in maneuvering while her powerful engine plant gives her
great speed.  Her width, length, weight and draft give her
unprecedented stability.
       “It is a different technology.  With the pods, everything is
in reverse [to a ship with a traditional propeller and rudder
system].  The conventional way of thinking is that you put the
rudder over one way and the ship goes that way]  Here, you
put the pods over that way and it goes [the opposite] way.”
     “They have pretty well ironed out all the design faults of
the previous ships.  Some ships in the past did have little
teething troubles with them.  I just find it staggeringly good.  I
love it.  You can go places now that you wouldn’t dare go
before.”
     “When I first looked at [the bridge controls], I said ‘I’ll
never get the hang of that’ but you do.  It is like playing a piano
- - all the different combinations that you have.  Different
captains will have different ways of controlling her.  Some
will use just the side thrusters, others will put both pods over -
- all sorts of combinations.  I like the technology.  It also gives
you a better feel for how the ship is doing.”

A lively style of command

Captain Bates is not the stereotypic stuffy remote sea captain.  
Instead, he is very approachable and passengers who sail with
Captain Bates are treated to lighthearted sea stories during his
noonday announcements and at the various receptions.  These
are quite popular and are looked forward to by many guests.  It
helps to develop a convivial atmosphere onboard.  “If I am not
enjoying myself then that is going to shine through to the
guests.  It gives them a bit of a chuckle so that is fine.”  
    Telling these lighthearted stories to the passengers came
about by chance.   “Just being Irish, I have always loved
stories, telling stories and I always have been particularly
interested in the ones with a nautical flavor to them.  So I just
started collecting them.  I was telling a few stories in my cabin
on the Caronia one day and one of the cruise staff said: ‘Why
don’t you tell a few stories to the passengers?’  I said, ‘they
wouldn’t be interested in that.”  But they said: ‘Oh, you’d be
surprised.’  So I tried one one day and received some good
comments.  I thought ‘Okay, I’ll try a few more’ and it built up
from there.”
    The popularity of the stories grew to such an extent that
Captain Bates soon found himself an author.  “People kept
saying ‘Can I get a copy of that story that you told.’  I’d say:
‘Well, I’ve just got my own copy’ so, I just gave them a copy
of that.  Then, somebody said: ‘Why don’t you write a book’  I
said: ‘Nah, nobody would be interested in that’ but I did it
anyway.”
     The book
With a Pinch of Salt, was initially self-
published by Captain Bates.  However, it is now published by
Seafarers Books in the United Kingdom and Sheridan House in
the United States.  “It has done remarkably well.  It will never
be a J.K. Rawlings but it has been fun.”  Captain Bates donates
the profits from the book to charity.
     Passengers familiar with Captain Bates’ announcements
are also familiar with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, a mysterious
friend never seen onboard but to whom the Captain attributes
the stories and humorous sayings.  Although a vehicle for
humor, O’Shaughnessy is a fictional character that Bates has
developed for a serious reason.  It is important for a ship’s
captain to maintain an image of competency in order to
maintain the respect of the passengers and crew.  “You have to
be careful with that one you know.  If they think you are a
joker, they’ll think ‘he doesn’t know anything about driving the
ship’ or that somebody else drives it - - ‘he doesn’t really do
it.’  In actual fact, they forget that captain does it all.  He does
all the driving apart from when he lets the other guys do it.”
     Captain Bates has been able to successfully walk this fine
line.  On the bridge, there is no doubt about who is in
command. He is all seriousness at the controls and in
communicating to tugs, Coast Guard vessels and to officers
located elsewhere in the ship over his handheld radio.   Along
the same lines, a young officer told me: “Captain Bates never
forgets anything.  He sees something and writes it down in his
book.  Then, the next time he sees you, he asks you about it.”
At the same time, Captain Bates is eager to develop his
officers.  “I personally want to let all the officers drive the
ship so that when I go to sleep at night I know they are
competent to handle the ship.  Of course, I remember my days
as a young navigator; I was dying to get hold of [the controls].  
Some captains wouldn’t let you touch them.  It was quite
frustrating.”
     “We have been quite lucky on this voyage.  Everybody on
the bridge has now had a chance to drive it in or out of port.  
They love that, that’s their job.  But it is more stress than doing
it myself - - watching somebody else doing it and having to
keep your mouth shut.”     
Click below for photos, articles and information about:

QUEEN MARY 2

QUEEN ELIZABETH 2

QUEEN VICTORIA
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Captain Nick Bates - page 2
Above: QM2 under Captain Bates' command.

Below:  Captain Bates donates the profits from his book to charity..
Above: Captain Bates hosting a Cunard World Club
Party on QM2 for repeat passengers,

Below: Telling a story at the Captain's Welcome Aboard
Reception
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