In the center of the dining room, under the chandelier, is the captain's table. It is a great honor to be asked to dine with the captain. Harry Grattidge, once commodore of the Cunard fleet, wrote in his autobiography of all of the rich and famous people he had the opportunity to meet. Our captain only used this table twice in a week, on formal nights. We could tell when he was coming because they put out special menus by each place setting.
Speaking of Harry grattidge, here is the beginning of the chapter "Commodores and Casinos" in my book, Cruise of the Heart. It is one of my favorite passages.
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I’m trying to share with Linda a passage from a book I have just finished, but I can’t get it out. Emotion has choked off the words. My eyes are wet. How could anyone get so emotional just reading about a ship? I try again. “It … it’s just … very touching when … he first sees …” I give up. I can’t talk.
The book is Captain of the Queens: The Autobiography of Captain Harry Grattidge. He went to sea in 1906 at age fourteen and retired in 1953 as commodore of the Cunard fleet, having captained all of its great ships. But one was greater than the rest. Here are Grattidge’s own words.
In the spring of 1934 I had my first glimpse of my destiny. I happened to be on the Carinthia, returning from New York. As always, we called in at Greenock to land our Scottish passengers. Steaming up the Clyde, we saw her on our port bow, destined to be cherished and discussed as few ships have ever been. Project 534. The Queen Mary.
Within minutes the rails were jammed tight with passengers, crowded to watch her. She had been on her trials and was now proceeding to anchorage; already she had broken all records, with a speed of more than 29 knots against the fastest twenty six and a half. As she loomed above us, the great red funnels with the black bands standing out clear in the hazy afternoon, I was conscious of many emotions. The Queen Mary was the mightiest milestone in the history of British shipping.
From her clean classical stem to her bulging cruiser stern, she was a miracle of naval architecture. Her designer, Sir Stephen Pigott, had solved the problem of constructing a hull that would stand the unimaginable strains incurred as the sea washed under her 1020 feet, lifting her first by the bow, then amidships, then astern. To drive her four screws, each of them twenty feet across and weighing thirty-five tons, the engineers had harnessed the power of fifty locomotives. Beside her, the Carinthia seemed like a ferryboat.
Harry Grattidge had a distinguished career as captain and commodore. Leading dignitaries on the ship often dined at the captain’s table, so his book overflows with stories about famous people. From his first days on a sailing ship to his final career on Queen Elizabeth, his career spanned forty-seven years.