BLUE BIRD OF 1938
Type: Motor Yacht
Draft: 9ft 10ins
Displacement: 175 tons
Engine: 2 x Baudoin DP12 400hp Diesels
Builder: Goole Shipbuilding Co Ltd
The last of the three yachts owned by Sir Malcolm Campbell, holder of the world land and water speed records before the war, was Blue Bird II. His previous two boats, also called Blue Bird, - as were his record breaking cars and power-boats - were the 29-tonner, now called CHICO and the 16-tonner Bluebird of Chelsea, both on this website. All three, as it happened, went to Dunkirk in 1940.
Built by the Goole Shipbuilding and Repairing Company, and designed by G.L. Watsons, the Scottish Naval Architects, it was to be an ocean-going yacht, capable of crossing the Atlantic to fulfil his dream to go treasure hunting in the Cocos Islands in the Pacific, - Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Islands. But, only a year after he took delivery of his splendid yacht, with its five cabins, its dining saloon panelled in English oak and walnut-panelled smoking room, war broke out and Blue Bird, was requisitioned. Although her participation at Dunkirk is recorded in A.D. Divine's book, no more details survive. A Royal Navy telegraphist has left an interesting first-hand account of some of her crew and her activities. At that time, she was engaged in the H.M. Customs Examination Service with a complement of two RNR officers and 16 crew.
It was spring 1941 and Blue Bird's Examination Station was west of the Bar Light Vessel, observing the approaches to the Mersey Main Channel off Liverpool. They spent three days at a time at sea, during which the Examination Officer, assisted by the deck crew, checked on all traffic into the port of Liverpool. There were frequent air raids on Liverpool docks and the Birkenhead shipyards. As soon as the alert was sounded, Blue Bird would cast off from the river pontoon and take up station in mid-stream to look out for enemy mines dropped from the air, and for ships approaching by sea. Once she narrowly missed being blown up by a bomb which, had it not failed to explode, would have blown them sky-high.
In September 1941 Blue Bird was posted to Londonderry, N. Ireland to patrol the coast of Ulster and Eire to intercept 'neutral' cargo vessels and to identify coasters in the channel approaches. This left a fair time for fishing. Bob McKenzie, the coxswain, was a trawlerman in peacetime and many of the lower ranks had been fishermen too. They soon rigged up an improvised trawl, a longline with l00 hooks at a time and hand lines to catch mackerel - all of which provided useful income, or currency for barter with the good people of Eire, when they passed in and out of Lough Foyle. A break in their routine was provided by their periodic visits to Belfast Lough for 'de-gaussing' - a process for making the ship less susceptible to magnetic mines. After the war, Blue Bird was de-commissioned, but by then Sir Malcolm Campbell was too ill to realise his dream of going treasure hunting in her. In 1948 he died and five years later, Blue Bird was sold to Jean Louis Renault, the French car maker, who owned her for 25 years, changed her name to Janick and added crew's quarters on the foredeck. She cruised extensively in the Mediterranean and was eventually sold to Mr. E. Colberg, who kept her at Long Beach, California.
This is where Bob Harvey-George and his wife Sheila heard she was for sale. They succeeded in buying her and sailed back to Cornwall, where they arrived in June 1986 after a five-week voyage, proving her seaworthiness whilst avoiding the first hurricane of the year in the Pacific. Since then, the ship has completed a major process of restoration. She has gone back to her old name: Blue Bird, and closer to her original design. Large areas of her deck have been covered with teak planking recovered from a ship which sank in the Bristol Channel in 1917. Her rigging, panelling and paintwork have all been restored and modern technology and comforts have been introduced discreetly without spoiling the charm of a more leisurely and elegant age.
In 1995 Blue Bird was bought by a Dutch Deep-sea Captain who took her to Holland. There, he and his wife Susan brought Blue Bird back to immaculate condition working seven days a week for four years. In the condition she is now she will survive well into the 21st century!
Until 2004 Blue Bird was a passenger charter yacht kept in the Port of Rotterdam. Known to cruise the Baltic and the South Coast of England.
She was bought by her present owner in 2004 and underwent a 3 year full restoration in Palma de Mallorca to her current condition using G.L.Watson her original naval architects and Bannenberg Designs for the interior. In 2008 she won the World Superyacht Award for ‘Best Refit’. Blue Bird was originally built by Sir Malcom Campbell to go treasure hunting in the Pacific Ocean on the Costa Rican island of Cocos which didn’t happen because of WWII, the current owner with his family navigated her there in 2015 to full fill this goal for the first time in her life.
Blue Bird is currently sailing in the Mediterranean Sea being mothership to a classic 1937 S&S yawl.
Updated: March 2020