Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Heir to the Throne

At the time of her launch, the Ecstasy was the ultimate ship in my fleet.

It is a simple statement, but sweepingly effective. She was the embodiment of everything I now knew about building big. She was the encarnation of my ageless dream of the 8-foot radio controlled ship (R.C.S.). The dream that began somewhere in my early grade school years, and led to the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Mary 2 disaster.


In the days following the Queen Mary 2 disaster, my R/C enthusiasm was wayward. The America was completed and sailed. However, within a week, I was yearning for something grander. I wanted big, but I didn't want capsizing, so I built the "Sovereign of the Seas". She ended up being about 5 and a half feet long, and used the same radio-shack motor, single channel radio system as in the America and Bremen. I still was weary of radio-control equipment. There will be more on the Sovereign when I complete her page. Technically, I don't consider her finished yet.

To the point, after the Sovereign was built, I still needed something to replace the Queen Mary 2, without BEING the QM2. I began researching contemperary cruise ships. I was surprised how hard it was to find something I could get interested in. For a time, it looked like it would be the Cunard Vista-class proposal for the "Queen Victoria". That would have been a good 8-footer. This is when I became familiar with the Vista-class ship "ZUIDERDAM".

Then the Queen Victoria got cancelled and I had to start again. Nothing looked good.

Then, one day, while I was driving to get lunch, the inspiration hit me for the stupidist reason.

I saw a banner on the side of an apartment building that offered a chance to win a cruise if you rent from them. The cruise ship was a Carnival "Ecstasy" class ship.

The idea germinated in my mind over the next few days. If I had just waited a couple of weeks, I may have changed my mind. I never liked Carnival ships particularly. I can't explain even now why I was so obsessed.


Very quickly, her hull was cut of cardboard starting on August 28, 2004. Before I could think twice, she was fiberglassed, sanded, and painted. Either I was going to finish her, or I was going to have an 8-foot white elephant sitting around 'till it got thrown away.

That very nearly happened. Within a couple of weeks after fiberglassing, enthusiasm ran out. A work stoppage.

For nearly a year, the ship sat on the shelf, literally collecting dust. I would often muse about other boat projects, even starting to build the Zuiderdam. All the while, I felt this akwardness for the big white ship. The stoppage lasted so long, I began to think about giving up and actually throwing her hull away.

I don't remember the concious decision to start up the Ecstasy again, but it definately happened!

In early August, 2005, I got back to work. And how! In about 3 weeks that passed like a blur, the ship went from empty white shell to glittering floating palace. The motor trials occurred at Chapparal Lake on the afternoon of Monday, August 15th. She had had 2 false starts because I was trying to use rubber fuel line to connect the motor to the prop shaft!

She went out into the lake and promptly got stranded! I waited nearly an hour for her to drift to the other side with practically no wind!

But I did make a motor coupler and she did achieve reliable performance.

Following the motor trials, work progressed rapidly, but there was so much to do. So many things required new techniques for me. The funnel especially. I am kinda proud of the way I pulled it off with card paper and the paint job. Originally, there was thought of putting the CD speaker in the funnel, but this might have spoiled the look of the funnel.

Problems were cleverly solved and by the first of September, she was ready for her builder's trials.

The builder's trials began at midnight on Saturday, September 3rd. Due to unsatisfactory charging of the 1500 mAh battery, the trials were brief. But, she worked.

Final details were completed, and by the end of the day, she was pronounced complete! The heir to the throne.


When I conceived the Ecstasy, 3 things were clear from the start: she would be 8 feet long, have a CD player, and battery-opperated lights. All of this was achieved. The CD player is deep in the hull beneath the forward superstructure (which is removeable). The speakers are located inside the open superstructure beneath the main bridge. In some pictures you may even be able to see them.

The window in the forward superstructure are covered with blue tissue paper, and a batter-opperated light ensures they can be seen from across the lake at night.

Beneath the funnel, the deck is made of plexiglass. Beneath that, are 2 more batter-opperated lights. The funnel is well lit at night!

Additionally, I required her to have 2 channels, with a more powerful Traxxis Titan motor (the same as the QM2) and speed controller. No more of that half-assed Radio Shack garbage.


The maiden voyage occurred on the morning of Sunday, September 4, 2005. My best friend Nathan met me and we floated her on a perfectly serene, gorgeous late-summer morning.

She began her official life on the very same lake as the Queen Mary 2 (McCormick Lake). Kind of a tradition. Elvis was played on the CD player, but the first song was "Ilia's Theme" from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I think of it as the Ecstasy's theme song.

The early voyages were marked with some setbacks. The maiden voyage had to be cut short because the rudder broke! On a subsequent voyage, the rudder got mangled while the ship was running astern. I think I had problems with the rudder at least once more.

Eventually, the problems were worked out, and I am happy to say that the Ecstasy is a reliable flagship now. One of her sailings had her on "Lake America" over the very same water where the Queen Mary 2 sank. A good example of beating that which beat you.

I do intend to be much more careful with the Ecstasy in light of the ghost of the QM2, but some of that care is taken by the Ecstasy herself. She is a much better and more stable ship than her late predecessor. She has indeed sailed in wind GREATER than that which destroyed the QM2.

With her careful design innovations and my careful command, I am hopeful that the "Big E" will be with me for many many years to come.

She is the worthy successor to the Queen Mary 2 legacy.