A grand welcome to a grand old lady 
on her final voyage

Filed on November 28, 2008

DUBAI - As the QE2 approached port Rashid, the still incomplete Burj Dubai stood tall over the city’s towers, waiting for the arrival of the 40-year-old British ship to dock in its final city, the most iconic parts of which are less than half its age.

In trying to describe the QE2 arrival, most people settled on the word “historic.” But some suggested the moment was also bittersweet.

“Well you know, I’m glad Dubai’s got the resources so it can continue to live. It was going to have a fairly ignonimous fate if it had stayed in Britain,” said Francis Carr, who sails with the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and escorted the QE2 from aboard a 45 foot racing yacht Wednesday.

“Just to have an opportunity, just to see her find her final home really, her final resting place,” said Ann McDonald, also originally from the UK.

One man stood at the front of the ship waving a large British flag over its bow, an homage to a time when it sailed under the British flag, carrying troops into the Falklands war and rescuing passengers from another burning ship.

Today, the Lancaster, a British warship already stationed in the Gulf, greeted the QE2 and escorted it while a British naval helicopter flew overhead. As the QE2 and a flotilla of approximately 300 boats sailed closer to shore, the Lancaster said its goodbye, turned and stopped and the helicopter landed on it.

The hundreds of other vessels, ranging from small motorboats with three or four people to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad’s yacht, the world’s largest, continued alongside it. Police boats wove circular patterns around the flotilla and an A-380, normally a passenger airplane with Emirates Airline, made several passes over the mass of boats as it moved towards the shore.

The mood at sea was more celebratory. Passengers chartering small sailboats and motorboats cheered as they passed each other and waived at the vacationers aboard the QE2. Several flew UAE flags and British flags together.

When the ship reached port Rashid, it blew its horn for 10 long seconds as the Dubai Police Band and traditional Arabic Ayallah performers played.

Crew aboard one of the escorting boats said his radar was showing roughly 300 boats in the waters surrounding the QE2.

“Not many people get the opportunity to welcome such a grand old lady, especially on her final voyage,”Blake said.

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