Sunday, 10 July 2016

Britannia

This morning we went to the 10am service at St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, then spent the afternoon aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.
St. Giles is the High Kirk of Scotland and the Mother Church of Presbyterianism, according to the website; it counts as a cathedral because it had a bishop during the brief period when it was run by the Episcopal church, the Scottish member of the Anglican Communion. The service reminded me somewhat of Anglican services I've attended, but had subtle differences, reflecting differences in theology and practice.  The layout of the kirk has the altar and pulpit in the centre, facing the organ pipes, with the congregation on both sides. During administration of Communion, the people formed a large circle around the altar to receive the elements instead of lining up along a rail or walking up individually. There were two-and-a-half circles before everyone was done.

Britannia is docked next to Ocean Terminal, a large shopping mall, which has a 5-story tower on one side allowing access to the five decks of the yacht.
There is no good angle, except out on the water, for getting a full view of the yacht; this is just the bow, occupied mainly by the equipment for managing the two massive anchors, and the forward sections used mainly by the crew.  There's an audio tour available in several languages; there are numbers from 1 to something like 28 on the linear path that takes you through the parts that are on display.

There's a tea room on board, occupying what used to be an open deck; we had tea and a small snack. For the kids, there's a game of "find the bears" -- see how many of these guys you can spot:
This one is in Prince Philip's bedroom.

A few things stand out in my memory. One is the cramped quarters for the crew; it doesn't sound like much fun to have served on Britannia, but I imagine the crew took their duties extremely seriously.  A second is the gleaming engine room, which is spotlessly clean and was kept that way through the entire period of service (1954-1997). Apparently when American General Schwarzkopf saw it he said, "OK, this is the museum piece, where are the real engines?"  The third is the story of Britannia taking on over a thousand refugees from the civil war in Aden in 1986.

We had dinner at the Worlds' End on the Royal Mile, so-called because it is on the site of one of he old city gates, which was the end of the world as far as the insular inhabitants were concerned at the time.

Edit: here is Margaret's blog about the same day.