Christopher Rynd, who has spent 37 years at sea, is at the top of his career. He is a tall man with thinning hair, a small beard and the lean look of a greyhound.
He is the master of the Queen Mary 2, a ship he calls "quite the most magnificent ship in the world for style and elegance."
The Queen Mary 2, bound north on the Mexican Coast on Friday and heading for San Francisco on an 81-day around-the-world cruise, is part ocean liner and part living museum. Almost every passenger deck on this 1,131-foot-long ship has a display of ocean liners of the past, as if this huge new vessel, which is 3 years old and 151,000 tons, is an heir to a tradition.
Rynd seems to feel that himself, as he talks about how the Queen Mary 2 is an ocean liner, not a cruise ship.
"See that bow up forward?" he said Friday, looking down from the navigating bridge. "It was built for the North Atlantic for storms and heavy seas.
"This ship," Rynd said, "has to have speed and power to keep a schedule on the Atlantic."
It makes several trips a year from New York to Southampton and spends the rest of the time cruising.
The Queen Mary 2, Rynd said, has a thicker hull and is heavier than comparable ships built only for cruising in warm waters. This, he says, gives the ship a certain style that other new ships lack.
One can see it in the passenger list -- older men and women who like to dress for dinner and who patronize an 8,000-volume ship board library -- and appreciate it when the bands play older tunes.
But if the aura is a bit of another age, the Queen Mary 2 is also one of the most modern ships afloat. For one thing, the navigation bridge is a marvel of electronic displays that shows the ship's heading and speed, of course, plus instant information on every part of the vessel, from the engine room and crew areas to all 14 passenger decks.
"If something goes wrong," Rynd said, "we can see it immediately and take steps to fix it."
The ship's steering wheel is smaller than the steering wheel of a go-kart, and there is also a kind of joystick arrangement that lets officers move the propellers, mounted on pods that are similar to outboard engines on motor boats.
There is no rudder.
"When we go into a harbor, like the Cayman Islands where it is too deep to anchor, we can hold the ship automatically, using the engines to keep her within a few feet," Rynd said.
This is a device called automatic positioning, he said.
The ship has a combination of gas turbine and diesel electric engines that give the Queen Mary 2 a service speed of 25 knots. The vessel averaged 27 knots Friday morning, sailing up the deep blue Pacific off Puerto Vallarta.
It pitched very gently on the long swell, just enough to remind passengers that it is a ship at sea, but not enough to make them uncomfortable. The Sausalito ferry rolls more than this ship.
Rynd is a native of New Zealand. He first went to sea as a cadet on cargo ships. His first passenger ship was the old P&O liner Oronsay. He also had command of cruise ships including the Princess Cruises vessel Diamond Princess, which, at 115,000 tons, held the record for the largest passenger ship to visit San Francisco until the Queen Mary 2.
Rynd is looking forward to arrival in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon at about 3. "We have been planning this for some time," he said. "It should be a magnificent arrival. We have been in touch with the Golden Gate Bridge, and they will sound their foghorn as we go under the bridge.
"And we will sound our main whistle, which should echo off the bridge," he said.
The ship's whistle, mounted on the main funnel, first sounded in 1936 on the original liner, Queen Mary, now retired as a hotel in Long Beach.
QM2's San Francisco itinerary
Sunday, Feb. 4:
The Queen Mary 2 sails under the Golden Gate Bridge at 3 p.m.
Depending on conditions, it will take a long turn around Alcatraz, sail under the Bay Bridge or anchor off Treasure Island.
At 8 p.m., it will be docked at Pier 27.
Monday, Feb. 5:
Local dignitaries will have a tour and lunch aboard the ship.
The Queen Mary 2 sets sail at 5 p.m. for Hawaii.
Best viewing sites:
1 Fort Point
2 Crissy Field
3 The Marina Green
4 Fort Mason
5 Aquatic Park
6 Treasure Island
7 Fort Baker in Sausalito
For the ship's arrival and departure, just about any public area with a vantage of the Golden Gate, including the bridge itself and its vista points on either end.
During its one-day stay, the ship will be docked at Pier 27. Good vantage points include Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and along the Embarcadero between Broadway and Bay streets, as well as nearby piers.
Source: ESRI, TeleAtlas, USGS
E-mail Carl Nolte at firstname.lastname@example.org.