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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

07 January 2015

❖ YACHT BLUE PETER ❖ WAS McCURDY'S JOY

Yacht BLUE PETER
ON 227646
Built 1928 at Lake Union Dry Dock & Machine Works, Seattle.
for John Graham, Sr., for $58,000.
Master carpenter was L. J. Benson.
Photo: Lopez Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA. Undated.
Master Carpenter's Certificate on file. S.P.H.S.
The love that is given to ships is profoundly different from the love men feel for any other work of their hands.


"The words are those of Joseph Conrad but they express the deep feelings of Seattle yachtsman Horace W. McCurdy. The object of his special affections is the 96-ft BLUE PETER, one of the best known power yachts in Northwest waters.
      Designed by Ted Geary and built by Lake Union Drydock, BLUE PETER represents the finest craftsmanship of both.
      She was meticulously refurbished after McCurdy rescued the boat from an Army surplus boneyard in 1948 after service in WW II and since 1948, has been lavishly equipped and painstakingly maintained.
      But BLUE PETER is much more than that to McCurdy, veteran ship builder, civic leader and the senior ex-commodore of Seattle YC.
      'To me, a boat is the only thing man ever made that has a personality,' he explained. 'Automobiles don't have personalities. Neither do airplanes. But a boat does. They come damn near having a soul.'
      What of BLUE PETER'S personality? 'If you treat her rough she bucks you to beat the band. If you treat her nice, she treats you nice. People think you're crazy if you say that but that's true.'
      McCurdy's romance with BLUE PETER, started long before he owned the boat. He admired the craft when it was being built for John Graham Sr., in 1928, recalling: 'I used to take my oldest son, Jim, down there and say now  if I ever can, I'm going to own a boat just like that.'
      A few years later BLUE PETER had a new owner, a California oilman who kept her at Newport Beach. 'I used to see her down there and I loved to look at her.' McCurdy said. 'She was always just what I wanted.'
      After WW II, McCurdy got a telephone call from a brother-in-law living in the San Francisco area about a surplus boat he thought McCurdy might like. But there was no name, only a number. After putting off the relative for several months, McCurdy finally sent his son down to 'satisfy your uncle and get him off my back.'
      'Jim called back and said 'Dad, it's the BLUE PETER.' I told him 'Go get her boy, that's my boat.' Buying the boat on a closed bid sale, McCurdy dispatched a mechanic, tugboat skipper and crew to bring the boat back to Seattle. Despite storm warnings on the coast, they headed north and a couple of nights later the skipper called from Neah Bay. The next night about 2 AM, I heard a whistle coming down Lake Washington and I went out and turned on the lights on my dock, and it was foggy as hell, McCurdy recalls. 'She looked like the Queen Mary to me.'
      In the refurbishing, which went on for five years, McCurdy bought an old windjammer, the HOMEWARD BOUND, and tore her cabins out to match the aged teak with that on BLUE PETER.
      The hull, of Port Orford cedar, is the original. The deck is double teak over cedar. The only thing replaced was a small piece of bulwark around the stern. BLUE PETER's accommodations include McCurdy's stateroom off the pilothouse topside, a spacious day cabin which includes a Franklin stove, ideal for taking the chill off a cold morning without cranking up the hot water heating system, a dining salon, galley, staterooms and crew's quarters below.
      Measuring 96-ft x 19-ft x 9-ft, BLUE PETER was repowered with new twin Diesels in 1973. She cruises at 12-knots and has a fuel capacity of 3,000 gallons and carries 2,000 gallons of water.
      McCurdy's wife ('We met when I was 16 and she was 15') is an ardent angler. She can use either a Monk-designed cedar inboard 16-footer or a Boston Whaler, both of which are carried astern of the stack.
       The boat's name comes from the international code flag for the letter 'p' which is called Blue Peter and is flown by all commercial vessels 24 hours before a ship is scheduled to sail. That flag has been adapted, with the addition of an 'M' on the center, as the McCurdy house flag and it's painted on the stacks of the boat. Because of the 'M' in the houseflag, the boat often is mistaken for a Matson Lines vessel.
      As a Seafair VIP boat for nine years and the SYC Opening Day guest yacht, BLUE PETER has played host to numerous well-known people.
      The boat is teeming with McCurdy memorablia––Cape Horn bell he salvaged from a ship being wrecked in Port Townsend; a golden eagle which came from a tug; a ship's clock he bought as a youngster in Vancouver, B. C. ; a pilothouse stool that had one leg replaced; a brass plaque, 'Flag Country' cast from German shells collected at the Battle of the Bulge in WW II; a grate under the wheel which was cut from a section McCurdy stood on when he was 17, standing a throttle watch as a trans-Atlantic troop ship during WW I.
      BLUE PETER's crew apparently feels the same way about the ship as her master, Otto Heineman was the cook for 20 years before he died two years ago. Pat O'Leary, his skipper, originally was hired for a 10-day trip and has been aboard for 25 years.
      She's that kind of a ship."
Text by Bill Knight; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 1975.

❖❖❖ In 1963 Horace W. McCurdy funded a project through the Seattle Historical Society to write a definitive maritime history of the area. Some important maritime historians in this country and Canada agreed to serve on the editorial board, chaired by Keith Fisken, who was retired by that time. Captain Adrian Raynaud was a member of that board. The H. W, McCurdy Marine History of the Northwest, 1895-1965, over 700 pages in length was published in 1966. A second volume, covering 1966-1976, was published in 1977. These books, edited by author Gordon Newell, have been out of print for years;  are prized by collectors and historians who do research to help others.


2 comments:

  1. That was a wonderful beautiful yacht as I got to admire it as a neighbor of Horace McCurdy for 25 years on Mercer Island. The elegance of seeing the boat leave the slip and motor off to the locks was very refreshing

    ReplyDelete
  2. Indigo––Thanks for reading the Log and taking time to share your memories.

    ReplyDelete

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