By Merijn de Waard, photos by David Churchill & Bannenberg
In the spring of 2007 Astilleros de Mallorca completed the restoration of M/Y Blue Bird, a classic gentleman’s yacht built in 1938 for Sir Malcolm Campbell. The story of the restoration of Blue Bird started a few years earlier, in the spring of 2004 to be precise.
A British gentleman had been looking at numerous classic yachts together with his broker, Nick Edmiston, but none of these yachts matched what he was looking for. It was William Collier, who had just taken over the legendary G.L. Watson design studio, who told them about M/Y Blue Bird.
Blue Bird was lying in Elburg at Scheepswerf Balk, and soon as they had found out about the yacht the owner, Edmiston and Collier went to Elburg. The yacht was owned by a former Dutch deep-sea captain, who had used the yacht for daytrips around Rotterdam for almost a decade. The Dutch owner was represented by Daan Balk, and by the end of the day both parties shook hands and Blue Bird was sold!
History of M/Y Blue Bird
In 1938 the yacht was launched from the Goole Shipyard as Blue Bird IV for Sir Malcolm Campbell. Designed by Scottish naval architects G.L. Watson she was to be an ocean going yacht as Sir Malcolm was planning to go treasure hunting in the Cocos Islands in the Pacific. She never made it to the Pacific as she was requisitioned in 1940 and went to Dunkirk to assist in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force.
In 1941 she patrolled off Liverpool, where she was almost blown up by a bomb, and later that same year she left for Northern Ireland, where she was to patrol the coast off Ulster and Eire.
After the war she was decommissioned, but by then Sir Malcolm Campbell was too old to undertake long voyages. He died in 1948 and five years later the yacht was sold. When Jean-Louis Renault, of the famous France car manufacturer, bought her in 1958 she was named Sterope. Over the next 25 years she was named Janick and cruised extensively through the Mediterranean, where she could be chartered for $600 a day.
In 1973 she was sold to Mr Colberg who based her in Long Beach, California and she was painted green. When Bob Harvey-George bought her in 1986, he sailed her back to the United Kingdom. Major modifications were made that returned the yacht close to her original profile. After nine years of charters in British waters she was sold to a Dutch former deep-sea captain in 1995. She was based in Rotterdam from where she undertook daytrips, as well as cruises to the Baltic and the South Coast of England during the summer.
The Restoration of M/Y Blue Bird
G.L. Watson, her original designers, would oversee the restoration and Bannenberg Designs was appointed as interior designers. A logical choice as the late Jon Bannenberg was responsible for the restyling of the family yacht, the 82m Talitha G.
The refit contract was awarded to refit specialists, Astilleros de Mallorca. Much of her steel hull was still intact, but due to stability problems caused by her heavy superstructure, it was decided to rebuild the entire superstructure. While Astilleros de Mallorca was cutting steel, Bannenberg and the Client were discussing her new general arrangement.
To reduce noise and vibration Van Capellen Consultancy was appointed. The interior was contracted to Ruiter Quality Interiors, who had worked on other yachts together with Astilleros de Mallorca.
Blue Bird is back!
We start our walk-through of Blue Bird on her aft deck, a small cozy deck with a table for six and a small built-in seating area in the bulwarks of her canoe stern. Double doors give access to the main deckhouse. Aft are a pair of dining tables, one at port and one at starboard side, which can be joined to form one larger table, with banquette seating. Stairs, leading to the VIP cabin, separate this dining area from the comfortable salon, built around a working fireplace.
A lobby, with on the left the galley, leads from the salon to the full beam owner’s cabin. A queen size bed dominates the room with a sofa on starboard and a spacious bathroom, with bathtub, on port side.
Below the owner’s cabin are a twin cabin with en suite bathroom, and a small single cabin, which can be used for guests or staff. Forward on the lower deck are two twin crew cabins, a captain’s cabin and the crew mess. The crew area is accessed via a traditional companionway on the fore deck.
Two more guest cabins are located aft on the lower deck, aft of the engine room; a full beam VIP cabin, similar in size to the owner’s cabin, and a twin cabin in the stern. Both have their own bathrooms.
The upper deck houses the wheelhouse and a pantry, from which the alfresco dining area is served. Behind the deckhouse, on portside is space for sun loungers and the starboard side houses the elegant sailing tender, Chouette. Further aft is a large dining table, easily seating eight, and full beam sofa.
In May 2007 Blue Bird was completed and left Palma. The summer of 2007 she spend cruising the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, while this winter she cruised the Caribbean.
G.L. Watson & Co. Ltd
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Edmiston & Company
London, United kingdom
Astilleros de Mallorca S.A.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Bannenberg & Rowell Design
London, United Kingdom