by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

Deborah - a stunning Martha’s Vineyard schooner,
Alistair’s Fifies, Blow the boats down racing in
Maryland, and Tony’s 1905 barque Archibald Russell.

It is Christmas so I have included a bit of humour and some light-hearted  literary fare, many facts, an `ounce or two of truth’ and a bit of poetry for good measure as we move closer and closer to the start of a new year. This months column and lead story starts in Martha’s Vineyard located in the US State of Massachusetts, an island popular as a summer holiday destination lying off the Eastern Seaboard.

It is where Philip P Hale, Owner/President of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, one of the oldest businesses on the island situated in the very heart of a working Vineyard Haven harbor also has a passion for building and sailing model yachts that he builds himself.

Photograph by Philip Hale

Phil’s RC model schooner was designed by Nat Benjamin of Gammon & Benjamin Marine Railway at Vineyard Haven,  Deborah (named after Phil’s wife), designed after a schooner called Juno that Nat designed which was according to Phil, `the most beautiful and powerful schooner he can remember’. The two men worked together to change Juno’s lines to accommodate the geometry of a smaller vessel, the 65” model proportionally wider by 2” in scale, with 7” more draft.
Another schooner he built, (Tradition)  not shown was named after a black Alden schooner that Phil’s parents owned for awhile some years back in the Caribbean.

Photograph by Philip Hale

On display at the Woods Hole Historical Museum’s Model Boat festival on the other side of the Sound, Phil and his son sailed Deborah over six and a half miles of open water across Vineyard Sound, at one stage of the journey in building waves 8 to 12” high which to scale are excessive, the crossing taking three hours and 40 minutes. Full  credit to Phil for attempting and completing the crossing, and for creating an absolutely stunning and well constructed scale model schooner. Phil is presently very keen to make a short visit to New Zealand, and bring the schooner for a sail with Auckland’s Ancient Mariners’ schooner fleet, just perhaps at their `Schoonersail’ event in late 2010.

Alistair with his Southwold lugger

Alistair Roach who holds an MA in Archaeology and Heritage and is an Associate of the Institute for Archaeologists, has been a member of The Vintage Model Yacht Group in the UK for nearly twenty years specializing in model boats that emanate from fishing communities such as in Scotland, Cornwall and East Anglia, and in particular Fifies of which he owns several.

The only club still racing model Fifies is the Buchaness club at Peterhead which these days is the sole survivor of a networks of community based groups that in years gone by sailed model Fifies in regattas. Those contests usually turned into picnic style family gatherings, as Alistair wrote in his article on vintage model Fifies in the March issue of Marine Modelling International.

His Boy James is shown in the first two photos above. When acquired that boat he was going to change the name until he learned of the custom that it was traditional to make a model to celebrate a child’s birth. By coincidence his eldest son is James so the name was kept.

The two photos below are of another Fifie KY108 that Alistair owns, one with its streamlined keel extension.

Alistair (shown above) lives in Somerset and is now a freelance maritime artist and researcher, as well as a Watchkeeper in Exmouth, Devon for the National Coastwatch Institution, a voluntary organization similar to the coastguard that helps to protect life along the coastline.

A passionate moment - A frisky Bay Boy just astern of larger
Ohio sharpie Adrianna. Oh come on, give us a cuddle!

Bob Seiden's Mary Allyssa

Harry Mote's Skipjack gets a good start

Dave Querin's Adrianna


The 50" schooner class


Judy Bonnano, winner of the Powder Puff Race

At the US Vintage Model Yacht Group 2009 regatta jointly sponsored by the Great Schooner Model Society and Solomons Island Model Boat Club September, a majot low pressure system off New Jersey resulted in a Thursday of gusty 15-20mph winds that could well have classified the day as `blow the boats down day’.  There were plenty of `knock downs’ and South Carolina’s schooner man, Andrew Charters found himself losewr in the battle of attrition when one after another of four of his five big schooners became victims of rigging and structure damage, as well as radio failure.

Sailing his schooner Cicely which caught by a wind-change saw the Fife perform a series of circular manoevers before heading outwards from the harbor at the Calvert with a roiwboat in pursuit, then slamming into a wall on the opposite side.

In the oer 50” large schooner class it was local Maryland sailor, George Surgent who eventually took top honours with his sharpie Bay Boy. Ohio’s Dave Querin with his larger sharpie Adrianna were consistently locked in close tussles, Dave finally finishing second.

Held in waters off the Calvert Museum in Maryland, the winds later eased considerably and the 50” schooner races as well as those for the ever-popular Skipjacks were keenly contested.Rich Navigas won the skipjack event, Ed Hoffman the class for the smaller schooners.

Tom Younger of Maryland won the Vintage 36 class, Harry Mote of New Jersey the Vintage Marblehead traditional class, Herb Dreher the Vintage Marblehead High Flyer event, and the Powder Puff Race for wives was won by Judy Bonnano who also took many of the photos at the regatta.


Willy, the prehistoric wood termite that lives year-round in a partially submerged log of wood at a weedy New Zealand rural area pond, reports that a few members of a small group sail their yachts there one morning every two weeks. They refer to themselves as the Dinosaur Sailors, each member’s admittance governed by advanced age, the need to be a mite forgetful and to be not so nimble on the feet.

One has also got to fall into the pond at least once, otherwise fork out a rather hefty membership fee. Their big day features a `Tea bag and biscuit under the fountain cruise’  where bag and biscuit must make safe passage across the pond and under the spray on a towed tiny model dinghy and still be usable and consumed without signs of grimace !

Their spokesman,  Jonty ('Beloshe') Joshi pictured (above left) who is originally from the Ukraine said, “Having zee funz vile zee zailin’ ees `appen-eeng ees himportant,” to which Wodney Wobble Snr (another member a bit unsteady on his `pins’) nodded his head vigourously and gave a thumbs up,

From the writer's 'just an ounce of truth' file

HEY!  I feel a `poo-um’ coming on!  this one by the Antipodean/Eskimo expat `poo-et  Valter Zymotic, his surname chosen only because it is the very last word listed in my ever handy New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary which is as good a reason as any.

Tobago Quickie

Sudden as an errant bug, wanderlust it gripped me
and as I watched my life flow by,
like a fish temptation nipped me

my hull was clothed in barnacles,
auxiliary engine old and tired,
decking worn, sails all torn
and I,  so long retired.

So it would seem I could only dream,
put away the travel cases,
leave the seas to other dreamers
similiarly urged by distant places.

Then I heard the call of the pond
“those islands aint so far!”
batteries are charged the sun is out
and the schooner is in the car.

Out on the water the fun kicked in,
we shot down a wave and were flying,
but when I got home
yelled “Been to Tobago!”
the wife instantly knew I was lying!

Mark Steele

Lobster bits teeth pickin’

After a near mutiny at sea, the arrogant and overbearing Captain of a large sailing boat, was forced by the owners to see a psychiatrist. As soon as the Captain was comfortable in the couch the psychiatrist began by saying to him, “Why don’t you start at the beginning ?” to which the Captain replied: “Okay, in the beginning I created heaven and earth …”

I call it `the Avocado boat’, this Dragon design from Graham McAllister (top left) whose Footy blog you can find HERE. It may be off-putting to some of you if you absolutely hate avocado, but I think it is worth including, and it’s certainly different! Fortunately I love avocados and I think the hull paint job looks pretty damn good!

Then there’s this rather nice Thames Sailing Barge with builder and owner, Bernie Hooker which won the 2007 Staysail Class Championship in 2007 in Britain (sent to me by John Trimmer of Poole, UK.)

Finally, a model lugger based on a 1920’s design sailed at Southwold in Suffolk,owned by Alistair Roach.

Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

From the writer’s I do believe but I’m not entirely sure file are the two photos above. The one on the left I think is of a schooner called Ajax that is used a  club boat at the Fleetwood Model Yacht and Power Boat Club in Britain, its hull starting life as Marblehead racing yacht. The  most impressive looking fullsize junk on the right I think operates out of Hong Kong and is probably used in the tourist business. They are both quite impressive I think you’ll agree.

The French yacht Groupe Bell skippered by Kito De Pavant, first around the Giraglia Rock, seventh across the line in the Giraglia Race from St Tropez in France to the finish outside the port of Genoa in Italy is seen in the photograph for Rolex by Carlo Borlenghi, line honours taken by the UK yacht Alegre of Andres Soriana, a Mills 68 Mini Maxi,

Tony Searle of Poole in, Britain  and I have been friends for a great many years and when my wife and I were last there,  thanks to him and his wife Buddy, we spent several days having a good look at attractions in and around beautiful Dorset and visited their home. He was also into model aircraft but had built an RC Thames Sailing barge, several square-rigged Man O War `ships of the line which he was almost passionate about, and a New Zealand scow, as well as a Bristol Pilot Cutter called April.

For a few years now he has been building an RC model of the four-masted 1905- built barque,  Archibald Russell, the last steel square-rigged sailing ship to be built in the UK, the modelshown in `almost complete’ state in two photographs in this column in September

Now she is finally on the water and has been sailed a few times with the Poole club, two photos (above) showing the model.  The number of square-rigger RC models appears to be  growing quite rapidly.

A message came through from the sloop Maureen JOY  in the  Bay of Biscay one stormy night:  “WE ARE SINKING!  WE ARE SINKING!”   “OH THAT’S  GOOOT,  TO SINK IS VELLY GOOOT “ (the Radio operator of the German cruise ship replied) “Unt what are you sinking about - bier, vild parties… or sexy womans  maybe - Ya?”

I wish you a happy festive season or what’s left of it, anyway. Now relax and loosen up those face muscles – give someone a Christmas smile, go on, be a sport, do it. and start your New Year with a nice visit to your pond or lake for a nice leisurely windle of your model yacht!


Click Here for a List of Articles and Columns by Mark Steele

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