Written by Andy Berghauser (with Frank Romano)

The Rochester Institute of Technology and Cunard Lines have a unique work-study program. Students are trained in Rochester and then begin a multi-month stint running the ship's print shop. Cunard still uses the quality of offset printing and each of the three ships in the Cunard fleet have fully-equipped print shops. Let Andy tell you of the experience:

Having been working on the Cunard line for over two years now as a printer and Chief Printer, there is nothing that can prepare oneself for the challenges they face on a regular basis on the high seas, and sometimes being half-way around the world. Ranging from malfunctioning and broken equipment, to a lack of supplies on board, or simply being unable to print due to rough seas, it truly takes a person with strong fortitude, motivation, and creativity to pull through.

In August of 2009, I joined the Cunard fleet as a printer on board the Queen Mary 2 for 6 months. I quickly stepped from printer to Chief Printer after this term, and started as the Chief Printer on the Queen Victoria in May of 2010. From that launching point, I was given the opportunity to open and start up the printing on the newest Cunard ship, the magnificent Queen Elizabeth.

One of the typical everyday challenges a printer faces is the "listing" of the ship, or general side to side and forward and backward movement caused by the sea. It's rare, but hurricanes and winter months can be treacherous. A printer must constantly maintain a close eye on water on the press, as well as an eye on moving objects that can compromise safety. Since the ship lists, the press water trays can only be filled half of what is used as a normal amount for land, and sometimes not used at all in favor of a water bottle.
One of the more difficult challenges I have faced was on board the Queen Mary 2. Performing trans-Atlantic voyages, which means six to seven days of traversing open sea before reaching New York City or England, it's a long time to be without any parts or supplies. On one such occasion, our Heidelberg Printmaster's hydraulic tubing became unattached from its air flow system. It was day two of seven before we would have a technician replace the part. Guests still needed their daily newsletter, and the restaurants still needed the days' lunch and dinner menus.

Thinking quickly (and desperately), I was able to get the ship's electrical engineer to look at the machine, and figure out where to go next. My boss, the engineer, and I creatively fixed the problem by applying rubber cement to the tubing and valve. This made a temporary hold that could withstand a speed of 7,000 impressions per hour. Finally, a well-placed large paper clip attached to one of the "pistons," with duct tape, would allow the air to be discharged properly, without shutting off the press every 200 sheets.

Quick, creative thinking changed a disastrous situation into a constructive and positive experience. The technician that visited the ship was even surprised by how well the Printmaster was working, unbeknownst that it was held together by tape and a paper clip!

This is just one insight into some of the many challenges facing a printer at sea, and how they are worked around.

The RIT Cunard printers print daily newsletters, advisories, menus, newspapers, programs, forms, notices, and a host of other materials, usually with a window of a few hours. It is a great educational opportunity.