Piper Boat Owners' Club

A club open to anyone who owns a Piper-built boat

The Royal Yacht Britannia       First Published in Pipeline - Autumn 2008

Four members of the club joined the T & M Society’s trip to Scotland in May. The primary purpose of the trip was to visit the Falkirk Wheel, but other activities were also included. A highlight was the visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia which is moored at Leith. The tour of the ship includes a taped commentary accessed by means of a personal hand-set. It was interesting to note that the Queen’s rooms were furnished in a comfortable country house style, at her request. The officers had enjoyed their own bar and lounge, but the quarters for the ordinary crew were fairly cramped and basic. Everything about the ship was polished and clean, including an immaculate engine room.

This visit has prompted your editors to re-print a somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’ article which was originally published in Pipeline in 1998 to coincide with the decommissioning of the Royal YachtBritannia.:-

Reduced Circumstances       by Patrick Marks

Following the sad demise of the Royal Yacht ‘Britannia’, I am pleased to present this exclusive account of a new commission at our favourite yard.

“Ay name this ship” said Philip, “Little Sh-”,. “No-stop!” interrupted Her Majesty. “Let me do it, you’re muddling up your words again.”

“One names this boat Little Brit ! May all who steer her keep dry!” And with that she swung a miniature Creme de Menthe against the hull with such force that Howard (the Weld) and Andrew (the Paint) both winced. There was a great cheer as David started the winch and the new Royal Boat slid gracefully into the waters of the T & M Hall Green Branch, to be deftly caught by Captain Curry and his tug Fiddly Thing. A Night Hood is offered for a photo of the new vessel alongside the old one in Leith in time for the next issue of Pipeline.

Of course, there isn’t as much room in Little Brit, but HM is said to be delighted with the cosiness of the ‘fixed double’ and the way in which the front saloon can be converted for guests. The hull is finished in dark blue, with the top strake picked out in gold leaf, (you might spot the odd fleck in lock chambers and bridge holes, buy you are strongly advised not to search the walls of Harecastle tunnel lest you cause delays and they think that your engine has stopped...

The table in the saloon can be folded out for State banquets and the posh cutlery is stored under one of the seats, for security. (Please don’t discuss this with people on the towpath.)

In line with reducing costs, the fenders are made from obsolete truncheons and clearly marked with a crown, so if you find one it could lead to a handy introduction. An old Busby has been stuffed for use as the tipcat fender and they are hoping to put one of Dorothy’s lovely buttons on the front. Attention to detail is illustrated by a white line painted along the propshaft. This enables the chromium plated propeller to be correctly positioned with one blade up, two down, when VIPs are to be impressed. The weed hatch is made of cut perspex for this reason too.

As there will not be room for the Regimental Band of the Royal Marines anymore, they have made a video of “Beating the Retreat” which can be played on TV screens hung outside the windows, or, if wet, placed under the cratch cover. This, of course, will be the signal for guests to leave, taking care of which side the boat is moored.

Later it is intended to build a butty for those really big state occasions. It will be equipped with folding chairs etc., so that the floor can be opened up for dancing or deck polo (it’s played with windlasses), and there will be a short Silver Sword available to reward boaters who conceded locks during the day. When breasted up it will be possible for hot food to be passed from the main kitchen through adjacent windows.

Although Philip has insisted upon ‘green’ fluid being used in the Royal Loo, She (who must be obeyed) has put her foot down and declared that “..only Royal Blue will do in one’s loo”.

Well, the launch ceremony went off very well, with Dot in a lovely purple hat, towered over by David, doffing his topper to all and sundry (as he does). Simon was convinced he had seen these outfits before somewhere, but his memory was a bit foggy and anyway, Dorothy kept insisting that he hadn’t. Bernard had made a fine wooden screen with intricate panelling to show the quality of workmanship in the new boat and also to hide the other yacht-like boat in the yard, and thereby reduce press confusion.

As Little Brit was secured to the decorated diesel pump, some Creme de Menthe oozed slowly towards the waterline. A few days later BW put up signs around the basin warning of Green-Blue Algae, although connoisseurs of the local ‘air’ have since reported a distinct mistiness...

When HM came aboard for the official handover (and to check the inventory), David and the Piper boys stood in line by the gangplank, and with thumbs on noses and fingers wiggling in the air, whistled a very short high pitched tune, almost in unison, which drew an enormous salute from Philip. (The notes are the same in Swedish, but the rhythm is slightly different).

So if you should see a short lady in a headscarf, carrying a small polished brass windlass and waving at a tall gent’ in a Commander’s hat, alternately wrestling with the tiller and engine lever, then it might be tactful to ignore the colourful language as the breeze catches the fore end yet again and simply say, “You’re welcome, Maam”.

By Patrick Marks, photo by Michael Minifie.

(NB Chouette, soon to be moored at the Tower),


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