Morning Bird

Launched 1984 at Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (date of
contract 8/12/83)
Owner John McCormack
Purchased August 2005
Configuration Cruising
Colour White
Berthed Salt Pan Cove. Pittwater NSW
Sail Number 3824
Australian Registration
State Registration JC375N
Call Sign
Builder Swarbrick Bros
Hull Number 118
Fit Out Neil De Cean
Previous Owners Neil De Cean
Previous Names Nil

The Yacht’s Story

(from John McCormack 2008):

Mr Neil De Cean ordered an S&S 34  from Swarbrick Bros Yachts in December 1983 and Morning Bird was launched about May 1984. Neil fitted her out at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and raced her successfully at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Pittwater until about 2001. Unfortunately, Neil then experienced a severe illness which caused Morning Bird to be left idle. Since buying Morning Bird I have been fortunate to get to know Neil quite well and he has been able to advise me about many details of the boat. As far as I can deduce she only left Pittwater once, to go to Sydney for a weekend, although Neils memory is not clear and she may have never ventured to sea until I bought her.

Neil has given me all his correspondence with Swarbricks on the build and all the maintenance history during his ownership. He has also given me numerous spares, sails and lots of  valuable bits and pieces. Tim Dallas advises in the Discussion Forum (Miscellaneous) that Mrs Swarbrick has records that indicate Morning Bird was hull number 119 and the last complete boat built by Swarbrick Bros before the moulds went to Maybrook.

When I acquired Morning Bird in August 2005 she had been left at the mooring for about 5 years. She was in poor condition overall but a sound boat, as to be expected with such light use and recent neglect. The engine hadnt turned over for years but had had minimal usage and I thought (hoped) was OK.

She was a basic boat, no deckhead lining and only a main, Nos 1, 2 and 3 headsails.  However, the sails were in good condition and she has 300 litres of water in three tanks (hot and cold with pressure), 80 litre fuel tank, excellent interior and a galley that was like new with a huge compressed natural gas cylinder for the stove (excellent cooking and completely safe but a bit of a nuisance for refilling so I have acquired and fitted a second cylinder). Morning Bird is now in very good condition. The engine only had a couple of hundred hours so I took it home and completed a top end overhaul and rebuilt starter, alternator, water pump, fresh water system, cooling water system, oil seals and new mounts.

All the standing and most running rigging have been replaced, a job that revealed a dangerously installed compression post which has now been fixed securely. There have been new deck clutches, tiller pilot, chartplotter, hand held VHF, EPIRB, repaired bilge pumps, jackstays, an inflatable dinghy and outboard and I am acquiring a life raft. I am currently fitting a Fleming 401 vane (brought from Wayne Fletcher off his S&S34 Miss Cath after her circumnavigation) and I am looking at fitting the radar Wayne also gave me. I installed a large dodger, not the most attractive but it is most practical providing excellent shelter from the elements. The deckhead lining is still to be done (Sep 08).

Like all S&S 34s she sails beautifully, fast and balanced and is a real pleasure to helm. An outstanding sailing yacht!

About the Owners (John McCormack)

I started sailing in dinghies after I joined the Navy in 1972. It was only a couple of times but I must have enjoyed it and, while training with the RAAF in 1972/73, I crewed on an Endeavour 26 with my then girlfriends father at his sail training school at Metung on the
Gippsland Lakes. I spent most of the 70s and early 80s at sea flying Grumman Trackers from HMAS Melbourne and then in helicopters from frigates. From the comfort (???) of these ships and aircraft I experienced Bass Strait and the Bight in 70 knot winds and mountainous seas, went through the tail of a cyclone off Fiji and experienced various other storms, fogs and glassy calms. I also completed my Seaman officer pilotage and ocean astro nav training, but didn’t gain a full Officer of the Watch qualification.

My interest in sailing was renewed in the late 1990s when I bought a Duncanson 26. I day sailed her around Sydney and had an occasional trip to Broken Bay. I also did more serious sailing in Swarbrick S111s at RANSA, in the Pittwater – Coffs series and also completed a Competent Crew and an Inshore Skipper qualification on the Swarbricks. I then did longer trips in the S111s as mate and skipper from Mackay to Brisbane  via Bundaberg.

The little Duncanson is best described as hyperactive and too tender to go offshore. She was sold and I continued to sail the Swarbricks and crewed on a Clansman 30, Cavalier 32s and an X-41 in twilights. In mid 2005 I navigated Yendys, a 52ft race yacht, on a return trip from Southport to Sydney.

Matt Young, an ex Navy colleague, got me going when he told me of his cruising plans in his S&S34 Eucalypt. A casual word to my sister that I might look at buying an S&S34 and she told me of an S&S34 moored near her Compass 29 in Pittwater that might fit the bill, except it wasn’t for sale. I had a sticky beak and she did look ideal, sound but obviously not used for some time. The yacht was Morning Bird and, lo and behold, a few weeks later she came up for sale. After some hard negotiation I acquired her for a very good price because of the risk the engine was scrap.

As noted above I bought her off the original owner, Neil De Cean, and have all her  original documentation. As can be seen in the Discussion forum it is quite likely she was the last S&S34 built by Swarbricks, a possibility confirmed by Glenn Swarbrick in discussions I had with him in Aug 08 while at his factory looking at a new S&s34 being built for Simon Torvaldsen. Since buying Morning Bird I have also sailed two handed to Coffs in a friends boat (I enjoy shorthanded sailing), helped deliver my sisters Valiant 40 from Bundaberg and now I help crew, when I can, with a charity called Sailors with Disabilities.

We  have been cruising Morning Bird around Pittwater/Broken Bay/Sydney and offshore
in various weather conditions up to 35 knots. I know her idiosyncrasies pretty well now and am ready to do some more serious sea miles. Once my work gives me the freedom I want to venture up and down the NSW/QLD coast and go to Lord Howe Island, probably next year (2009). If there are other 34s interested we may be able to organise a sail away.

Photos (click on photo to enlarge)

8 thoughts on “Morning Bird

  1. Pingback: Morning Bird for sale – seriously well equipped for offshore sailing | S&S 34 Association

  2. Hi John,
    Is Morning Bird still for sale? If so can you give me a ring or leave your ph details and I will call you.
    Maurice Contessi
    +64 27 877 8917

  3. I must admit it is on my mind. I had her slipped yesterday and picked her up this morning with a clean bum.
    I didn’t get to Lord Howe this year which has disappointed me more than I expected. Unfortunately I may not get there next year either so can’t justify keeping her.
    Email me on
    Cheers John

  4. Hi,
    You might update my story above that Morning Bird took part in the 2014, 15 and 16 Lord Howe Island BBQ Rallies. I intend to go again this year, solo or short handed.

  5. Hi John
    I read in a Seabreeze blog that you might be interested in selling Morning Bird, then went to the S&S association website and found Morning Bird’s story.
    If you are thinking of selling please let me know! If not please excuse me.
    Mark Ayto

  6. Hi John.
    I found your “The Yachts Story” very interesting. as I have had an interest in S&S34’s for many years and believe I have admired “Morning Bird” in Pittwater and the surrounding waters in past years.
    John are you still sailing her or have you let her go to a new owner. If not I may be interested in giving her a new home.
    My contact is or you can call me on 0477711787.
    I would be very interested in talking with you even if you no longer own “Morning Bird”
    Thanks Howard Fricker

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