About Chico

Built in 1932 at Miller’s yard in St Monans, Fife, to a G L Watson design for Frank Robinson Beavan of Newcastle who named her Frebelle III. She was sold in 1933 to land and water speed record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell, the third of four yachts that he was to own, each in turn named Blue Bird. Sold again in 1935 to the Countess of Onslow, she was then requisitioned by the Navy in December 1939. She was fitted out with Lewis guns and echo sounding gear and commissioned as Chico in March 1940, to be based at Dover on minesweeping duty. At the end of May she was ordered to Dunkirk to assist in the evacuation, ferrying troops off the beaches to the ships waiting offshore and then returning twice to bring exhausted men back to Dover. She saw further action with enemy aircraft in the Channel and was finally paid off back into civilian ownership in 1946 after distinguished war service.

Chico Dunkirk's Plaque
Chico Dunkirk’s Plaque

More details on Chico’s war years can be found at The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.

She was subsequently fitted with a deck saloon to improve the day accommodation and has since been used as a private yacht and a charter yacht. In the 1970s, she sailed to Europe and Russia as a research and demonstration vessel for Marconi. Returning to the South Coast from the Mediterranean in 1990 she was re-engined and refitted to provide comfortable accommodation for ten.

Chico’s Statistics

Length:73 feet
Beam:16 feet
Draught:7 feet
Displacement:80 tonnes
Construction:Carvel planked in pitch pine on oak frames, copper sheathed hull.
Engines:2 x Gardner 6LXB
Max speed:11 knots

Photograph of a winter dawn on the Lower Thames
Winter dawn on the Lower Thames

Photograph of Chico just after she was built in t 1932
Chico circa 1932
Photograph Chico's wartime crew, with Lewis gun in background
Wartime crew, with Lewis gun in background
Photograph of wartime saloon, complete with aircraft recognition charts
Wartime saloon, complete with aircraft recognition charts
Photograph of a moored wartime Chico