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Old Dec 04, 2013, 07:12 PM
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Cambridge, England
Joined May 2010
60 Posts
Build Log
Bluebird of 1938 - scratch build of 95' gentleman's ocean-going motor yacht


Having received great encouragement and many kind comments from you guys about the scratch-built Chris Craft 63’ motor yacht I finished and launched earlier this year http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1757132, I have been looking for some time for something to build next. My first thought was to choose another vintage Chris Craft boat but I couldn’t find anything that was a) sufficiently different from the 63’ and the 16’ Hydroplane I made before it and b) of the size I wanted ie over 3 feet. What I really wanted was something large, elegant, authentic and a bit different from a bygone era that would be interesting to build.

So, after many hours trawling the net for plans, I came across just such a project – Bluebird II, a 95’ (or 107’ depending on which description you read) gentleman’s ocean-going motor yacht designed for the then world water speed record holder Sir Malcom Campbell by G. L. Watson (still going) and built in Goole, UK in 1938. One of three yachts commissioned by Campbell in the thirties, Bluebird II has a rich history and is still with us today!
Bluebird (2 min 10 sec)

Originally intended for treasure-hunting off the Cocos Islands, she never made it to the Pacific as she was requisitioned in 1940 and went to Dunkirk as one of the famous ‘Little Ships’ 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 French car manufacturer, bought her in 1958 she was named Sterope. Over the next 25 years she was later named Janick and cruised extensively through the Mediterranean, where she could be chartered for $600 a day.

In 1973 she was sold to a Mr Colberg who based her in Long Beach, California and she was painted green (yuk!). 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 again 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 final(?) chapter is even more remarkable as Bluebird II was more recently acquired by the Getty family and underwent a multi-million dollar total refit in Palma de Mallorca including a sympathetic but stylish interior re-design by Bannenberg & Rowell. http://www.superyachttimes.com/edito...rticle/id/2184 The result of the restoration was a super-yacht of immense character re-named ‘Bluebird of 1938’ which has been cruising the Mediterranean and the Caribbean on charter since 2007, currently for a cool $70,000 a week!

Coming back down to earth, the 1:30 scale plans I found were published about 10 years ago by Traplet Publications and featured in Marine Modelling International magazine at the time. Consequently, they reflect Bluebird II as it was then rather than now, but the basics are still the same. At 1:30 scale the boat came in at 38” long, but I have enlarged the plans to 1:24 scale which will make it nearly 4 feet. Something I can get my teeth into! I also spent some time gathering reference pictures to help with detail work later on, not only of the actual vessel, but also of a brilliant static model of Bluebird made by Scottish boat builder-turned-modeller, David Spy. http://yachtmodels.co.uk/Gallery/ful...-of-blue-bird/

This build will be my most challenging to date, starting with just two sheets of plans showing only the hull shape from side and above, sectional profiles at each bulkhead frame location, and more detailed drawings of the side above the waterline and a deck plan. Unlike the Sterling plans I bought for my CC 63’, there are no parts templates, assembly instructions or construction drawings so I’m having to think ahead and plan carefully, although inevitably there will be a great deal of designing the construction ‘on the fly’.

Bluebird of 1938 now has one huge Deutz diesel motor driving twin screws which replaced the previous two Badouin diesels, but I plan to stay with two motors driving one prop each. As I was so pleased with the M.A.C.K. Products power and hardware kit I bought for my CC 63’, and as Bluebird of 1938 (as I will call it) isn’t that much bigger, I could do worse than to buy the same set-up again.

So far, I have made templates and fabricated the keel/centreboard in three sections using ¼”dense balsa and some marine ply I had lying around. The glue is still drying as I write. The next step will be to design and make card templates for each of the 14 bulkhead frames and cut them out of 4mm lite ply before fitting to the keel assembly. For anyone else out there contemplating a build from basic hull shape plans and profiles I can thoroughly recommend downloading William J Blackmore’s ‘Basic Hull Construction for Radio Controlled Ship Models’, a 20-page illustrated step-by-step guide to building an accurate wooden hull from scratch. http://www.wmunderway.8m.com/cont/hullcont/hullcont.htm

In the meantime, please don’t expect rapid progress!

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Old Dec 04, 2013, 07:18 PM
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Monterey Bay California
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Looks like it will be a handsome yacht! Looking forward to your build!
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Old Dec 04, 2013, 07:42 PM
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Going to be a great project
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Old Dec 04, 2013, 07:47 PM
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Old Dec 04, 2013, 08:01 PM
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Excellent !

Just what we needed too !

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Old Dec 04, 2013, 10:15 PM
Crackin' Claws
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Old Dec 04, 2013, 11:10 PM
Submarine or Target?
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United States, SC, Piedmont
Joined Jul 2013
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Like everybody else said -

Wouldn't it be great to have the real thing? That video makes you dream.
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Old Dec 05, 2013, 12:01 AM
Spreckels Lake, GGP, SF, CA
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I'M IN!!
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Old Dec 05, 2013, 12:35 AM
Shanghai'd Expat
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Now that's a lovely subject! I'll be following this one.
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Old Dec 05, 2013, 01:31 AM
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Perfect subject! I'm in too!

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Old Dec 05, 2013, 01:58 AM
Taking care of the pond.
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Me to!
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Old Dec 06, 2013, 03:51 PM
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Cambridge, England
Joined May 2010
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Thanks for your interest!

Wow! I wasn't expecting so many to be watching this but thanks for your supportive comments. I'm sure I'll need to throw a lot of questions out there once I get into the build more so your help will be greatly valued.

Meantime, here's a couple of things on which I'd appreciate any comments/suggestions:

i) The single rudder on this boat is large and needs to conform to the shape of the rear of the keel (see pic) so fitting an off-the-shelf steel or brass rudder isn't going to look right. Any suggestions on the best materials, methods etc to fabricate a rudder like this?

ii) The propeller shafts on the actual boat and on my plans are dead horizontal and therefore, when inside the hull,will be way below the waterline, and also probably to low down in the hull for a straight connection to the motors. Two questions: a) Which type/make of stuffing box/shaft assemblies are truly waterproof (ie will not allow ingress of water inside the boat) and b) what is the maximum permissible angle at which a double universal joint would work if I had to locate the motors at angle higher up in the hull, maybe connjecting via another short length of shaft? My CC 63' seems quite happy with a 10% angle at the UV's but not sure how far I could push it.

There will be more!

Thanks in anticipation of any guidance you can offer.

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Old Dec 06, 2013, 04:14 PM
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Raleigh NC
Joined Jul 2008
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the "normal" shaft tubes with a bushing or bronze bearing on each end filled with lube through a grease tube should be just fine for your needs, (see my USRC hudson thread for a recent pic of a small version of this) for a rudder I tend to over build but a brass plate cut to the shape of the rudder blade plus tabs that will mate with holes drilled into a brass rod the proper size for your rudder post has never failed me yet(soldered together).. the blade can be drilled so filler, (bondo,filled epoxy) can be added to flesh-out the rudder and give a relistic thickness and taper.. there should plenty of room in your hull to mount the motors without much coupler deflection.. while still in the framing stage lots of this can be worked out so things will work out better later..
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Last edited by tghsmith; Dec 06, 2013 at 06:56 PM.
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Old Dec 06, 2013, 04:49 PM
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Nice project , i 'll be watching .
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Old Dec 06, 2013, 05:02 PM
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Monterey Bay California
Joined Feb 2004
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Re: prop shaft angle/issue, an alternative to UJ's could be belt drives- this would allow you to install the motors a little higher in the bilge (motor output shaft above prop shaft- linked with belt/pulley). Given the size of your model, a belt drive system could be good, giving you a gear reduction to turn larger props. Also, given the scale, it is possible that you would have enough room to mount the motors in line with the prop shafts.

Re: Rudder, it is very unlikely that you would find something suitable off the shelf. tgsmith offers good advice- I've also built rudders out of wood and a layer of glass- A brass rod works well for a shaft. (bonded to wood rudder with epoxy)
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