OUR ROYAL VISITOR
By JAMIE BROWN
THE Queen made a visit to the North Coast yesterday, albeit briefly. But she became the talking point for thousands of adoring onlookers.
The Queen Mary 2 is the largest and newest ocean liner in the world, and her visit to Australia this week sparked a titanic wave of interest among seafarers and lundlubbers alike.
As the 345-metre long ship, weighing 151,400 tonnes, glided past Shelly Beach at Ballina yesterday traffic came to a standstill with hundreds of onlookers crowding every vantage point.
Off Cape Byron, the ship's bow pulverised royal blue water into thin wisps of spray, cruising at more than 28 knots ? almost 60km/h. Up close her size is awesome.
Local excitement began just after dawn, with many nautically-inclined eyes gazing out to sea, hoping to glimpse the legendary luxury liner.
Ballina Coast Guard volunteer Marge Cannon said the radio tower fielded more than 80 phone calls asking for the whereabouts of the ship, with the first call coming through about 5am.
At the time the grandest of Cunard's liners was south of Port Macquarie.
At 10.15am she was off Coffs Harbour, reaching the Clarence just after midday. By 1.30pm she was abreast Ballina, and cleared Cape Byron less than an hour later.
Throughout her short visit the $800 million vessel maintained a distance offshore of between five and seven nautical miles ? about 12km.
Hundreds of people lined both walls at the mouth of the Richmond River at Ballina hoping to get a glimpse of the ship, and no one was disappointed. But her speed through the water (and over the horizon) proved surprising and disappointing.
"There wasn't much time to take a picture," Mrs Cannon said.
The Queen Mary 2 had already experienced her fair share of adoration on Tuesday, when she was welcomed by 200,000 onlookers to Sydney Har- bour, along with the 40-year-old Queen Elizabeth 2.
It was the first time two Cunard queens had appeared in Sydney together since 1941, when the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were employed as troop ships.
Among the more than 2600 passengers on the Sydney to Hong Kong leg is Ballina's own Lex Teakle, 81, who shares a cabin with her sister Pat, 79, and niece Kay Momsen as they travel aboard the Queen Mary 2 for the next 19 days, disembarking at Dubai.