by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

Into battle on HMS Belleisle, a pickle and snowflake,
rebirth of an old duckling, a skipjack stunner,
and a Rozinante worth gawking at!

 WTWB/MAY 2010

HMS Belleisle puts to sea!

“Why don’t we build a working replica of one of Nelson’s line of battle ships for the Bursledon regatta re-enactment?” someone suggested (as if the task was akin to simply baking and icing a cake), so unable to figure out `why not’ and  with HMS Belleisle decided upon, a gentleman called Ben searched through the Exeter University Library, found a set of books that described in fine detail    a French 74 Gun ship of the time and upon a fifty year old, fairly rotten GP 14 dinghy bought on E-bay, it came to pass that 20 men, give or take a few, settled down to creating a a 1/13 scale ship in just two weeks!

T’is said that dogged determination mixed with a bit of craziness can often conquer lack of time and and extreme odds, and again it came to pass that the night before the  regatta, a spanking new `sail aboard’ ship of the line was being rigged in a warehouse in Hamble, England.

Sounds like a tale from `The wizard of Oz’ or a bit of pure `fantasy thoughts’ by a group of nutty people high on something, but again it came to pass that `upon a once old and  rotten dinghy hull  a crew of men and women made` a ship of the line’ on time and put to sea (again on time) for the re-enactment of a famous battle a long way back in history,

Testing her first!

Upon a rotten old dinghy...

Give them heaps!

Stern showing the Admiral's cabin.

Water Battle in progress.

While foraging on the internet some months back, my `mouse’, Oskar de Cervantes’ discovered this wonderful story, upon which I contacted the `Admiral’, (Phillip Meakins) who gave me permission to use photos in a planned condensed tale of this happening.  Marvelous people, these Brits, all up to the task of taking part in a modern day sea adventure that many who were involved in what developed into the mother and father of all water fights will probably forever remember.  (Contrary to occasional instances where I have been known to spin a few `porkies’, this story is totally true and you can visit the website which is indeed worth browsing.)

In order to meet conditions for joining the Single European Currency, all citizens of the United Kingdom must be made aware that the phrase “spending a penny’ is no longer to be used. The correct terminology is now `Euronating!’


Kenneth Impey is a delightful Cornishman for years a personal friend of my wife and I, and those readers who have followed my column on Duckworks from the inception may remember a few previous occasions where he has been mentioned, and some of his boats shown.

Ken is a talented model maker and a few months ago he sent me a few photographs of his HMS Pickle, thetwo fore and aft shots taken in the bath, the other of the model coming downwind (not in the bath silly!).  They are worth including.

Pickle in the bath.

Pickle stern


The restored Snowflake

Then there is Snowflake in the photograph just above, which a Steve Woods brought to Ken for restoration sadly as a display model. With a hull in lines resembling a fast clipper she had once been rigged as a two-masted fore and aft schooner which a young Steve Woods in the late 1930’s when a youngster was allowed by his Uncle who had built it to sail at the local pond.  Ken restored the schooner over a period of nine months and related how he experienced such strong emotional feelings that almost possessed him as he worked on the model in his garden workshed. The ideas just flowed and he had the feeling that he had with him a crowd of invisible advisors.  From the photo it is obvious that he made a great job of restoring the schooner called Snowflake.  (I think it might have been those Cornish pixies Ken!  Remember how they raised the light bulb in my motel room in Falmouth, made me overreach to change it and put my back out?)  Mischievous little chaps they can be indeed!

Due to eyesight problems, Ken’s ship modelling  has slowed as has his windling of boats built by him in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Little boy with a little boat.


restored boat side-on

Wil Hansen (6) and Hart Hansen (3) with the restored yacht

Via a somewhat circuitous route, Penny, a lady in Auckland having written to Alex Roach of the Vintage Model yacht group in Britain whom I know, then made contact with me at his suggestion on the matter of advice as to whom she might be able to get to repair an un-named little sailing boat, a bit of an ugly duckling but a boat of great sentimental value.

I knew of one man (my friend Ron Rule of our Ancient Mariners sailing group) whose kindness and ability to handle the task at hand was worth contacting. A couple of weeks later, the existing `remains’ seen by him and delivered to Ron emerged transformed after sixty hours of sanding, filling, treating damage inflicted by borer worms, sanding several times more and painting, as well as making new sails and a new mast, spars and a bowsprit the little sailboat was again presentable and joyfully welcomed back by Penny who collected it at our sailing venue. What’s more (since every boat should have a name and not have to be referred to as `it’) the little boat (as Achilles) now refitted is set to please the hearts of other little ones in the family in the future.

I was then to learn the reasons for the attached sentimentality. The little lad, Wilfrid Hansen holding the bowsprit of the yacht in the photograph taken in 1981 had sadly died in an accident at age 18 in 1995.  May the little sailboat bring back many fond memories.

I never thought I’d be writing about a humble  pain killer - that was until someone sent me an e-mail extolling it’s virtues.  Well, true  it is white which means that I can see it better (and with my eyesight am still able to read what it is!), and the even bigger plus is that it WORKS!  Now don’t risk telling me that is a racist statement, please!  There are some still guilt-tripping around the world!  (Ooops! Be careful fella!! Watch your step! It is a bit slippery on that circle!)

Mary Allyssa the skipjack.

The American Skipjacks are a type of sailboat designed on the Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging. In the late 1800- early 1900’s they were a familiar sight there. Today there are still quite a few around and it is noted that there are many for sale and others being restored and used for people to experience a cruise aboard. In the Maryland area there is considerable interest in sailing models of skipjacks and this is most noticeable at Solomons Island Model Boat Club where several are built and where they are raced at regattas

Bob Seiden of Kings Point Model Yacht Club (see last month’s column) keeps perhaps the most beautiful of RC sailing scale skipjacks in his home in New Jersey, USA where, fully rigged it holds pride of place on the top of the( large and strong) piano and gets sailing outings at skipjack events at Solomons Island  MBC and at one or two other regattas. The model is 67.5 inches long and weighs 27.5 lbs

He built the boat from plans bought in 1996 from the model shop at the Calvert Museum and took photos of a full size skipjack Rosie Parks owned by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in Maryland, taking his time before launching the model in June 2001. Named Mary Alyssa after both wife and daughter, he had someone carve nameboards,  trailboards and the impressive eagle head below the bowsprit for him, finishing them of and painting them himself.

Builder, Murray Barber with Rozinante model

Murray Barber in Vancouver, Canada has been a model yacht builder of radio control boats, half models and purely display model yachts for over 25 years, In addition he is a creator of free-standing or self-contained sculptural lighting units called `Arcs’ and added to those he produces jewellery, carvings and objects of art.

Sweet boat on the water

Side on hull view

A lovely sail

Nice work aboard

It is however his model yachts I’d like to tell you about, and in particular his model of the L Francis Herreshoff designed canoe yawl Rozinante, seen above, a 76” long model with a hull beautifully made of Red Cedar. It is an absolutely stunning model shown in the first photograph above with it’s builder, Murray Barber.

Sold eventually to a client in Hong Kong, it is fitted with fully functioning RC, the sails made by Canadian molde yachting guru, Bob Sterne.


Dragon sculpture

Murray’s trading name company is Dragonworks which leads me to add that he has also created wonderful dragons for people from time to time.

Murray has restored pond yachts for people and built several other model sailing boats over the years. I found his website  an interesting one

A schooner called SKY

I absolutely adore this photograph of Boston MA builder and sailor, John Storrow’s  light blue-hulled schooner Sky with her tidy lines,  well set sails and the boat absolutely barreling along. I like it so much that I have used it before. As a boy he had a book, Model Sailing Boats by E.W Hobbs and in it was a small line drawing.  The end result was that John built this 40” on deck much later on in his life . It is a lovely image that evokes the thoughts of summer sailing, don’t you think?  It is also  a pretty nice one with which to end this months column.


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