What’s the definition of a superyacht? And a megayacht? If a yacht has the capability to be the base for a flying machine – to launch, recover and service it – that’s pretty super; even mega. It certainly would have been in 1934.
Was the G.L. Watson designed steam yacht, Queen of Scots, the first to include an aircraft in its ‘toys’ inventory?
So many questions that we don’t have all the answers for. One thing is for sure: if your steam yacht sports a seaplane and an ‘electric gold diviner’, with Shackleton veterans Frank Worsley and Joseph Stenhouse in joint command, there’s bound to be the whiff of adventure in the air.
Queen of Scots was departing London’s West India Docks on a treasure hunting expedition to Cocos Island, off Costa Rica. As one might expect, things didn’t exactly go smoothly…
The aircraft, registration G-AACV, was an Avro 616 Avian IVM manufactured in 1928/29 by A.V. Roe & Co Ltd of Woodford, England. It may have been converted after manufacture to the floatplane for shipboard use we see here. Its ‘aviator’ was named as J.E. Martin, formerly of Marconi International Marine Co.
The steam yacht, Queen of Scots, was one of the last of G.L. Watson’s designs to be launched – by Fairfields, of Govan, Glasgow – before his premature death at the age of just 53, in 1904. She was commissioned by William A. Coats, of the Paisley threadmaking dynasty, and owned at the time of the treasure hunting expedition by Philadelphia financier, J. Anthony Drexel Jr, who, according to one newspaper report, may have shipped aboard to Cocos Island. Drexel was an aviator, and her subsequent owner/broker was another larger than life character closely associated with the pioneering days of aviation (via his brother Claude), motor racing, and superyacht charter/brokerage… Montague Grahame-White.
Like many superannuated steam yachts, Queen of Scots ended her days post WWII in the eastern Mediterranean as the Greek-owned, Panamanian-flagged ferry/cargo vessel Dolores. She was broken up in 1952.
[Update 13 November 2013: G.L. Watson & Co. Ltd. have recently acquired a collection of archive material relating to Queen of Scots, including the illustrated log of an earlier cruise to the Galapagos. Read and see more here.]
[Update 21 February 2014: The excellent, relatively new image archive web site, Britain from Above, reveals that, in 1919 – together with Francis Lewis Wills – Claude Grahame-White was co-founder of Aerofilms Ltd., the pioneering air survey company. A new exhibition, Aerofilms : Britain From Above, exploring their story and the remarkable photographic archive that resulted, opens 22nd February 2014 at Britain’s RAF Museum, at Hendon, London – appropriately, the site of the London Aerodrome, established by Grahame-White in 1911 and where Aerofilms was founded. The exhibition, curated by English Heritage, runs through 31st March 2015.
Shorter lasting, locally themed exhibitions are already under way in Scotland at:
The Lighthouse, Glasgow (14 February to 7 May 2014), and at:
The Museum of Edinburgh (1 February to 19 April 2014).]
Martin Black’s profusely illustrated biography, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, is as much a social history as a biography and technical appraisal. Watson’s eclectic client list included more than a few interesting 19th and early 20th Century international personalities. It can be purchased online here.
~ Iain McAllister ~