The Royal Yacht with The Queen off St Kilda, Western Isles, August 1971

Miscellaneous. Oil on board; signed Richard Cosby and dated '11. It was blowing a full gale from the NW and discreetly on the horizon, but in close support, was the Royal Escort, a County Class destroyer.

Royal Yacht with The Queen off St Kilda, Western Isles, August 1971

14 x 9 ins (35.5 x 23 cms) approx

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For a Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth as busy as The Queen must necessarily be, the annual Western Isles Cruise that HM and other members of the Royal family embarked upon each August aboard HM Yacht BRITANNIA must have been a hugely welcome break.

The Royal Yacht would have spent the previous ten days lying off Cowes wearing HRH The Prince Philip's Standard as he carried out his engagements there mixed in with a spot of racing on the Solent too.  When not out on the water he would be found ashore in The Castle, headquarters of the Royal Yacht Squadron where he was (and still is in 2017) Admiral, with old sailing friends in the Commodore's House (unofficial headquarters of the Imperial Poona Yacht Club!) and in the other yacht clubs in and around Cowes in which he was so closely involved.  On completion of Cowes Week BRITANNIA would slip from her buoy and return to the mainland where The Queen and other members of the Royal family would embark - usually in Portsmouth or Southampton - before the Yacht sailed westwards into the night...

Scotland's Western Isles were BRITANNIA's ultimate destination and she would wend her way at comfortable speed down towards the Western Approaches, around Land's End and then up the Irish Sea and onwards to those magical islands which lie off Scotland's western seaboard.  Hourly shipping forecasts, tidal information and form and lessons from previous Western Isles forays were critical to The Flag Officers Royal Yacht's staff officers as they carefully planned each day's programme, the ideal being to be able to put The Queen and her party ashore, dry shod on a beach at about 1100 each morning in as calm and pleasant conditions as was possible.  The Royal family are well used to the rigours of boating and Scottish biting midges, tricky beach landings, getting wet in squally conditions and rain showers and all the other hazards associated with messing about in small boats. But it was a point of honour with the Royal Yachtsmen, of course,  to minimise these and although all prudent precautions were taken, the odd flick of spray across the boat, the occasional wave curling round and catching everyone in the boat by surprise was invariably greeted with a large smile or a chuckle from the Ruler of the Queen's Navee!  

It is to be hoped that "Western Isles" with its beach barbequeues and picnics, its fishing trips, lobster pot hauling, informal meals in the Royal apartments onboard BRITANNIA, "bad weather dodging", relaxed suppers followed by Royal Marine orchestra ceilidhs,  brief Sunday church services onboard and visits around the Yacht and through the messes by members of the Royal family was indeed enjoyed by The Queen and her family although the former was seldom out of touch with Buckingham Palace and its workload.  The Western Isles fortnight certainly was by Yacht Officers and Yachtsmen: hard work but immensely satisfying!