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QE2 leaves N.Y. after liner makes safety repairs

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- After being delayed for more than 24 hours when Coast Guard inspectors cited safety violations, the problem-plagued Queen Elizabeth 2 sailed from New York early yesterday.

The departure came after a day of continued complaints from passengers who described the luxury ship as a floating DTC work-in-progress whose $45 million renovation was nowhere near finished when it left Southampton, England, last week. A number of passengers left the ship as repairs continued at a furious pace Friday.

Shortly before midnight, the liner's horn sounded three sharp blasts to signal that it was preparing to get under way for the continuation of a 108-day world tour. About 1:15 a.m., tugboats eased the 963-foot liner away from the Passenger Ship Terminal and into the channel.

Four Coast Guard inspectors had left the ship about 12:20 a.m. but refused to answer questions from reporters. Coast Guard officials at Governors Island said they had no word from the inspectors, even as the ship moved into the harbor.

"We will not let the vessel go until it's safe to go," Capt. David B. Anderson, the commander of the Coast Guard's marine inspection office in New York, had said Friday after discovering holes in fire-resistant bulkheads for new wires and pipes.

He said the holes could hasten the spread of fire through the ship.

Earlier in the day, passengers waiting for word on when the ship would depart for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., its next scheduled stop, swapped stories about toilets that exploded when flushed and repair crews who shouted "Niagara, Niagara" as they rushed to plug leaky plumbing.

But other passengers said that by midday Friday, the Cunard line had cleaned up detritus that had blocked stairs and passageways on the trip from Southampton.

The QE2's captain, Ron Warwick, bristled at the word "debris," ++ insisting that what the passengers were stumbling over was not garbage in the conventional sense but discarded wrapping from furniture that had been moved into passenger cabins.

"There are problems, but they're minor," said one passenger, David Jackson, a yachtsman from the Costa del Sol in Spain. "We're having a great time on board, and we're demanding people. Now they have American carpenters with work belts doing the job and doing the job properly. They're really working. In a couple of days, the whole thing will be put right."

Captain Anderson of the Coast Guard spent much of Friday aboard the 69,000-ton ship. He said that drills of the crew and checks of the engineering system had gone well.

But the safety inspection, called a control verification examination, ended with the Coast Guard essentially tying up the QE2 until the problems were corrected.

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