Queen drew a crowd to lakefront

Port residents flocked to the water in 1959 to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II’s royal yacht as it steamed past city on Great Lakes tour

A FULL-PAGE LAYOUT published in the July 16, 1959, edition of Ozaukee Press included a photo taken by Vern Arendt of the royal yacht Britannia as it steamed past Port Washington on July 7 of that year with Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip aboard. Arendt was aboard the rescue boat, whose crew had a difficult time spotting Britannia, then couldn’t get within more than a couple of miles of the fast-moving boat. In the middle photo, Les Olsen and Chet Schumacher scanned the horizon with binoculars while Ozaukee County Sheriff Roland Schaefer relaxed with a newspaper (lower left photo).
Ozaukee Press staff

Keith Schmitz was just shy of his ninth birthday when his father Wally loaded him and his two younger brothers in the car and drove to the Port Washington lakefront, where, it seemed, the rest of the city’s residents were gathered, their gazes fixed to the east.

“Somehow word got out and there were a lot of people who pulled right up to the water where the marina is now to get a glimpse of the queen, or at least her yacht,” Schmitz, who grew up in Port and now lives in Milwaukee, said.

Schmitz was referring to Queen Elizabeth II,  who was aboard the royal yacht Britannia as it steamed past Port Washington heading north on July 7, 1959.

“You could see her yacht, which was pretty big, but it was a long way off shore,” Schmitz said.

Ozaukee Press photographer Vern Arendt was part of a contingent aboard the rescue boat that ventured off shore to get a closer look at the royal yacht. The headline that ran with a full-page spread of his photos in the paper, “Goodbye Queen!,” was a reference to her fleeting brush with Port Washington but could apply today to the British monarch who died last week at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96.

The queen and her husband, Prince  Philip, were on a 45-day tour of the British Empire, which included Canadian providences along the Great Lakes, according to the Wisconsin Maritime Historical Society.

The Great Lakes portion of the tour began in Chicago after days of festivities and took the royal contingent past Milwaukee and Port within sight of land.

But while Port Washington residents could say they saw the royal yacht, they didn’t spy the queen. In fact, even those who ventured off shore had a hard time catching up to the fast-moving Britannia.

“The rescue boat waited three hours to see Britannia but when the royal ship finally appeared, she was too far out and going too fast for the hapless rescue boat,” Ozaukee Press reported at the time. “The rescue boat never got closer than two miles.”

The queen at the time was 33 and entering the seventh year of what would become her more than 70-year reign, the longest of any British monarch.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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