2 On The Road Blog

After 12 years of full-time rving, we've sold our truck and trailer but we're still traveling. Email us at wowpegasus@hotmail.com if you would like to contact us.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Scotland - Edinburgh - Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now berthed in Leith, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

The ship was designed with three masts: a 133-foot foremast, a 139-foot mainmast, and a 118-foot mizzenmast. The top aerial on the foremast and the top 20 feet of the mainmast were hinged to allow the ship to pass under bridges.

During her career as Royal Yacht, Britannia conveyed the Queen, other members of the Royal Family and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters. In this time, Britannia steamed 1,087,623 nautical miles.

Britannia was the only ship in the world to be captained by an admiral – she was helmed by a total of nine admirals and one commodore over the years. The full crew included 220 yachtsmen (known as the Yotties), 20 officers, three season officers and, on royal tours, a Royal Marines Band of 26 men.

The crew of Royal Yachtsmen were volunteers from the general service of the Royal Navy.  Officers were appointed for up to two years, while the "yachtsmen" were volunteers and after 365 days' service could be admitted to "The Permanent Royal Yacht Service" as Royal Yachtsmen and served until they chose to leave the Royal Yacht Service or were dismissed for medical or disciplinary reasons. As a result, some served for 20 years or more. The ship also carried a troop of Royal Marines when members of the Royal Family were on board.

Go to the official website; http://www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk/ for a great photo of the ship.

Access to the ship included an audioguide and the first stop was the bridge.  This tiny area was the central control point of the yacht – it was here that the officers navigated, log books were recorded and orders issued. The only chair in the room was for the exclusive use of the admiral – the captain of Britannia, who was ultimately responsible for the safety of the Queen, the yacht, and the crew. Everyone else was expected to be upstanding and on high alert at all times.

Britannia's set of signal flags.  These flags can be used as signals with each flag representing a letter but individual flags have specific and standard meanings.

Britannia was updated with satellite navigation technology during its duties.

The captain of Britannia actually held the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy.  This reflected the significance of his command.  Britannia was the only ship in the world to be captained by an admiral – she was helmed by a total of nine admirals and one commodore over the years.  His quarters were among the most spacious on the yacht including a bedroom, bathroom and day cabin, which function as his office and conference room.

The Royal Family purchased this racer, Bloodhound, in 1962.  The Bloodhound accompanied the Britannia on the family's holidays in the Western Isles where the young royals learned to sail.  In 1969 Bloodhound was sold by the royal family. Over time the boat gradually fell into considerable disrepair and very nearly became beyond salvage. A yacht surveyor and classic yacht restorer bought her in 2003. Over the next 3½ years she underwent a major internal and external refit to bring her back to her original condition.  In January 2010 Bloodhound was purchased by The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust and is now berthed alongside The Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Wardroom Anteroom was where the officers came to relax when not on duty.  This club-like room had its own bar as well as considerable space to sit or engage in various games and sporting events invented to relieve tension. As on many ships, the commanding officer was not a member of the Wardroom and so did not dine with the other officers.  However, he could invite others to join him in his cabin.

The officers dined together in the Wardroom.  This could be a quite formal affair with rituals and tradition.

The Wardroom contains a number of valuable objects.  In addition to a collection of 19th and 20th century silver, there is a button from the uniform of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, the victor of the Battle of Trafalgar.

There was a special china pantry...

and a silver pantry

Lavish dinners took place in the State Dining Room, Britannia's grandest room. Banquets were a serious affair where absolute attention to detail was required by the crew: it took three hours to set the 56 places for a state banquet. Not surprising really, considering the position of every knife, fork and spoon was meticulously measured with a ruler. Menus, which were printed in French before Britannia set sail, were given to guests as a souvenir. Whenever the royal family was on board chefs were flown out from Buckingham Palace to prepare their food.

Many political leaders stepped aboard the impressive vessel to dine with the Queen, including Sir Winston Churchill, Rajiv Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

 Displayed on the walls were various items collected by the Royal Family on their journeys. 

The Queen's sitting room was where she'd meet with her private and press secretaries to discuss the details of her royal visits. She'd usually spend several hours a day in this room attending to state business – documents would be flown out to her at sea. When she was on a state visit, 45 extra staff from the royal household were brought on board. Plus, an impressive five tons of extra luggage was also required for such trips.
The state drawing room was used for official entertaining as well as for family gatherings.  Its entertainment facilities include a baby grand piano, reportedly played by Noel Coward and by Princess Diana, as well as a television hidden in one of the cabinets.

Looks like the royals might have enjoyed puzzles like my family.  One of the most amazing things to me was that the Queen's bedroom only had a twin bed.  Same with Prince Phillip's bedroom.  There was only one bedroom in the royal's sleeping area that contained a double bed.

 The royal apartments weren't luxurious but forward of the funnel Britannia was a functional Royal Navy vessel. The crew and operational equipment were located in rather cramped conditions. Onboard protocol forbid shouting – orders were given by hand signal and white plimsolls worn to preserve the peace. Any work undertaken near the royal quarters had to be completed by 8am and if a yachtsman met a member of the royal family he had to stand still and look straight ahead until they had gone.The full crew included 220 yachtsmen (known as the Yotties), 20 officers, three season officers and, on royal tours, a Royal Marines Band of 26 men. Officers had comfortable quarters but the crew's were pretty cramped – up until 1973 Britannia was the last ship in the Navy where sailors slept in hammocks.

Britannia was also designed to convert to a hospital ship in case of war. On board is an operating theater, X-Ray room, dental surgery, and laboratory. Up to 200 patients could be accommodated in the royal apartments if necessary.

With official ceremonies requiring numerous changes of clothing daily by the Royal Family, the Royal Household staff and the uniformed personnel, Britannia had to have a large laundry.  But since temperatures in the laundry could reach 120 degrees (F), working there was not easy duty. 

The tender used to transport the royals to the yacht.

The yacht’s engine room has barely changed since it was first built in the 1950s. Virtually all of its machinery and gadgets operated faultlessly until it was decommissioned in 1997. The extremely powerful steam engines were capable of developing a total of 12,000 horse power and drove the yacht at 21 knots. There were 80 engineers among the yacht’s crew with around eight men on duty in the engine, boiler and machinery rooms at any one time.

We had lunch on the yacht and I had to try Irn Bru, Scottish soft drink.

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