MT Rainey experiences an Atlantic storm on the QM2

Rainey MTMT Rainey, stormy weather on an Atlantic crossing. 

You think this weather is bad? And maybe you are worried about having to take a ferry from Ardrossan to Arran or Wemyss Bay to Rothesay? Be assured it will be nothing to the white-knuckle ride experienced by Dumbarton woman MT RAINEY who, just one year ago, was on a QM2 transatlantic cruise from New York to London.  MT, who is deputy chairperson of Channel 4 television, writes: “Happy and confident that Hillary(Clinton) would win, having just felt the buzz of her campaign while volunteering for her in Brooklyn, I was enraptured again by my bold, beloved America. I remember that slow leaving from downtown New York, on a glowing early autumn day, gently following the sunset by the Statue of Liberty, past a glittering Coney Island and under the Verrazano Bridge into the Atlantic, where we picked up speed into the night. The last time I saw America. The last time that America existed. Here’s my piece about the mid- Atlantic storm. Could have been an omen.” 

Atlantic fury upsets the Queen Mary


The Queen Mary 2 in the harbour at New York.

It was plain sailing till it wasn’t. Just after lunch (a delicious cottage pie and a nice Belgian wheat beer, since you ask) this boat began to rock. Pleasant at first, a familiar feeling after any good lunch perhaps, this gentle post prandial motion seemed to lull many of the elderly passengers to sleep, and the rest of us into a false sense of security.  Five hours later we were facing 40-foot waves in a Force 8 gale. The soporific motion had turned into violent pitching and rolling, the promenade decks were closed, the infirmary was full of felled passengers and the Purser was out of drugs. Hatches were presumably battened down.  Against his noon-time convention, the Captain returned to the tannoy and in that Vox Dei tone I had always thought unique to British Airways pilots, reassured us that we were not going down. The Atlantic is “an unpredictable beast of an ocean,” he said, “and we are entering an unusual system of heavy northern swell that looks like it will prevail for the next 36 hours.”  Gasps of horror from all quarters. I suppose that unlike in a plane where you can easily vector a new course to avoid big weather. It’s much more difficult for this massive ship to point itself in a different direction and expect to be home by Tuesday. “Fear not,” he continued, “this ship was specifically built for this crossing and this ocean, and we’ve seen much worse conditions before.”  Feeling this great ship rise precipitously into the sky and fall thunderously into the waves, with nary a rattle of cutlery, redoubled my respect for the ingenious mix of steel, science and stabilisers that was keeping us afloat.  My own way of dealing with the storm was to look it in the eye: I bagged prime position in the highest lounge at the bow of the ship, with the horizon dancing in front of me and hundreds of tiny rainbows shimmering momentarily in the leaping surf. Though strangely enough, the ship still creaked and groaned as if it were made of wood and bearing Jason and the Argonauts.  That evening, it was the hard half of the passenger list that lurched, staggered and clutched its way on a comedy journey to dinner. Waiting staff trained to be nonchalant in the face of crisis, gamely performed the acrobatic challenge of wine pouring, beef carving and Crepe Suzette flambéing without injury. Absent friends were toasted and many a new metaphor for “under the weather” was coined.  Steadied by the Sancerre, we made our way to the first Gregory Porter concert, a highlight of the trip. In the bowels of the ship sits this fantastic 600-seat theatre called The Royal Court. It was full. Many who couldn’t face the food could clearly face the music. Gregory had thought to bring a stool. His saxophonist executed a flawless three-minute solo while standing. But, of course, this is jazz so who knows if there was the odd bum note in there?  The concert was wonderful, and as we made our way upstairs to wind down with a nightcap, the waves and the winds that make the weather wound down too, giving us an early reprieve and a restful night.

  • MT RAINEY is one of a number of contributors to TWO MINUTES SILENCE, a new book of nostalgia and reminiscences for Christmas edited and published by BILL HEANEY. Orders can be placed on-line at

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