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by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

Dan Lewandowski’s Brig Syren, Phillip Artweger’s
amazing USN Somers, Mystic windjammin
and Blossom, the Ghobadi trader remembered

Yes let us Beguine the Begin (with apologies to Cole Porter) a slip of the anchor to get this months column out into the stream. She would pass for a genuine old barque, the subject of my photo taken some twenty six years ago at Waitangi, Northland, New Zealand. She would pass thanks to the re-rigging and remake by Ian Barrett who transformed the hull of what was an old sugar lighter called Tui that was in a pretty rough state .  Kelly Tarlton (who has now himself slipped anchor) was the owner who had bought masts and rigging off the three-masted  barque Endeavor II caught in a gale in 1971 off New Zealand’s North Cape. And the make-believe Tui became Tarlton’s museum of treasure and other items salvaged from the sea as she floated silently near the bridge, the tide lapping on her moored hull.

A 1797 Brig of War

The brig at nightfall

Bringing in the boat after battle

The model of Syren `off Tripoli'

Owner Dan centre of photograph
With supporters

Steady at the helm

Wars of any kind are not pleasant events for loss of lives and resulting widespread destruction are always the products of such major confrontations, land wars, air bombardments and wars at sea it makes no difference, death and destruction follow. What does however usually result is an ongoing thirst for facts and accurate details under the heading of `history’. Books are written, films are created, documentaries are produced and often fine models are built to scale.

Such is the case surrounding the US Navy’s 18 gun brig of war of 1797 Syren (changed to Siren in 1810)  I won’t in this column go into the war history of this vessel for being a model sailboat column I prefer to hone in on the fine seven foot long RC model built by Dan Lewandowski of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the USA.

Starting with a fibreglassed hull kit from Steel, Chapman and Hutchinson Ltd, Dan commenced building of the model in January 2007 and she was completed and launched in June that same year which speaks loudly for the dedicated enthusiasm and drive of the builder, and I’d have to say, the quality of content of the kit by S C and H who obviously `know what they are about !’  Dan’s input over the three years that followed in the way of innovations and details all arrived at by exhaustive research and painstaking skill and patience resulted in the model that the brig Syren the cracker of a 1:25 scale model is today.

Dan Lewendowski is obviously a perfectionist in his model building and it is interesting to throw into the `detail pot’ at this stage, that nine of the eighteen guns fire live powder charges simulating a broadside, just one of a great many `innovations of realism’.  The figures on board have been researched in the way they were attired and made and painted accordingly just two aspects of what I am talking about.

Syren (above left) fires at enemy boat Surprise then gathers speed

(A Somers evening)

USN Somers

Cruising looking for slavers

No slaves on board that one!

USN Somers scurrying along

Phillip Artweger is a pilot/aircraft technician of Pink Aviation Services flying Short Brothers SC7 Skyvan STOL aircraft used by skyjumpers. Resident in Klatovy in the Czech Republic he has done model aircraft modeling and flying as well as RC model helicopters, moving about a year and a half ago into RC square-rigged ships.

His model of the 1842 USN Somers built in 1:51 scale with an overall length of 950mm (3’2”) was entirely scratchbuilt from drawings in Howard Chapelle’s book History of American Sailing Ships and is without hesitation, a really beautiful little boat. 

Phillip Artweger and USN Somers

The original was one of two  naval brigs of war (the other bring the Bainbridge) built specifically for the suppression of the slave trade. With fine lines she was considered over-canvassed and she became famous by being the only American warship to have a mutiny on board. Now have a look at Phillip’s grand little video of his model’s19th Cruise, and before scrolling down, have a further look at the selection of still photographs that I have chosen shown above.


A really comprehensive excellent website for those interested in models of every kind including boats is    Free to join (you need to register and include your name and a selected password and then log on and log off each time, you can access a range of modelers and models via `threads’ that follow their building of models virtually step by step.  It is on that website that I have `met’ and made contact, and now communicate with Dan, Lewandowski, Phillip Artweger and Brooks Martin, a few models of whom I featured in the November issue of this column. Phillip and I communicate regularly by email as well as on the Forum pages of this website.

Judy Bonnano took this lovely photograph showing Westward nearest the camera, Harry Mote's new schooner further inwards and Andrew Charter’s Columbia and a fourth schooner extreme right

Vintage 36 class boats grapple
for supremacy

Columbia  ahead of Westward

Photo by Pat Butterworth shows Al Suydam's schooner Brilliant

A few classic schooner models owned by members of the Great Schooner Model Society and the American Model Yachting Association were out  on the waters of Mystic River, Mystic Seaport, Conn July 22 to 25th in the 2010 National Vintage Model Yachting Day Regatta.

Vintage Marbleheads, V36 boats, Skipjacks and up to 50” and 50 + schooners were among the classes paraded as well as raced on the river off the North Lawn area of the famous museum

Pat Butterworth was there with his camera as was Judy Bonnano and a small selection of photographs,is shown above and below and Judy  took a few nice ones of Kenneth Hall’s new Herreshoff design schooner Westward before its jib winch started throwing its turns because the loop tension was not set up properly and that fried his circuits leading  to eventual retirement. I’m told that the schooner absolutely flew on starboard tack.There was a grand parade of boats and of course  a competitive element with class races, alas I never got the results so I can neither pass them on to you or comment about them.

In search of the planet’s smallest schooner model

Entries closed on 15th November and whereas the winners have been already notified in confidence, it is still `secret’ stuff and those interested will have to wait to read the story first in the February 2011 issue of Marine Modelling International.  I’m saying nothing more until then.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with model yachting, and we all tend at times to border on loathing the super rich, but let us face facts, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates must be admired for their philanthropic deeds and the sharing of their wealth to help fight disease in the developing world. True they have already got more wealth than they could possibly ever use, but they could well  have alternatively chosen to ignore the plight of the rest of the world and buy more properties, invest in more companies to earn even more money, buy more swanky cars, bigger and bigger super yachts, islands here, there and everywhere, personal spaceships perhaps why even a pad on the moon or  buy outright a couple of small entire countries Think about it, they could have, couldn’t they?

Instead the Microsoft founder and the investment guru are putting the bulk of their fortunes estimated at a hundred billion US dollars towards helping the starving and under-priveleged of the world through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Is that not worthy of both mention and admiration?

Here’s to my pals-never-met Bill and Warren!  As we say here in New Zealand…Good on ya!

A scribbler's old struggle-along!  

The builder-donor Warren out `oaring'  

Most of us when we part with a model sailboat, whether it is sold, or given away, usually years after (particularly if we move to another part of the country or alternatively if the new owner does so) there is a natural tendency from time  to time to cast ones mind back in fond recall of good times spent sailing that model.

It began on a drizzly Thursday when old Warren Hastings turned up at our Auckland sailing venue and called me over to his car, showed me a sloop on the back seat which he took out and laid in my outstretched arms for me  to have a look at. I did that and ten or so minutes later I was still standing with it waiting for Warren to take it from me. “Hey, very unusual ! ( I said ) but where do you want me to put it  (to which he replied) “It’s yours! Put it in your car!”

Blossom gathers momentum preparing to come about

New owner Bob adjusts deck cargo
And wakes sleeping deck hand
Entrance to Ghobadi Bhaba
island harbour

Ghobadi approach croc 'Big Salty'

Kind of heavy and roughly painted it had the hallmarks of a `Warren build’ – stuck together with Blue Tack a bit of `any sort of’ glue; and bits of slivers of wood stuck here and there, a large spade rudder, old jib and mainsail and a not too straight bowsprit! to which was attached an old and yellowing sail. Old Warren had style alright!

Well home she went and by the time we got there she had a name Blossom of Bequia for the shape of her hull and her beamy deck were rather like the fishing schooners and sloops that used to be built on the island of Bequia in the windward chain of Caribbean islands often referred to as the `Grenadines’.

Nonetheless, since I had no room in my little work and boat shed she went straight in the back of the garage on top of a tall shelf – maybe with luck, someone would visit the garage and steal her.  I never touched her for weeks then one weekend while filled with enthusiasm I started creating in an oven fired modeling clay a West Indian captain and a crewman for her (oh yes and a sleeping dog!), carved out her name for her stern, added a lifeboat mounted on the  starboard rail and built specimens of `cargo’ after all she was going to be an island trader. With a servo fitted for steering, old Blossom was ready for cruising between the ‘islands’.

Without a sail servo she was a boat that just lumbered along but in a  reasonable and realistic in speed manner style and in time I learned to get her to come about into the wind, the knack being to keep her running then choose the moment carefully and whip the rudder over whereby she would `round’ and her big sail would come over and go out and she would head downwind.

I started enjoying the occasional morning sails of the boat and when some clever smart ass walking with me wanted to know `what islands’ she cruised to I invented the mystical island of Ghobadi Bhaba five days sailing from Auckland where she picked up cargo in the form of huge  bright yellow bananas! He seemed impressed and came back a few times with friends, took endless photographs of her and seemed to enjoy telling his friends about the `mystery’ island while they looked at me as if I was some sort of lunatic!

One day a few weeks later when sailing  Blossom, another chap walking the footpath said to me “isn’t she a bit low on the water mate?” to which with some `knowledge’ of ones own boat I said “No, she always sails low on the water! – quickly followed by “OH HELL! YOU’RE RIGHT …SHE’S SINKING!” and sink she did, right down to her deck in a matter of less than a minute, water even pouring over her high bulwarks but conveniently right near to the wall allowing the two of us to lay on our stomachs and retrieve her by grabbing bow and stern!

Back at Onepoto with fruit from island

Back at home I dried her out through the large hatch, plugged up a hole that had had allowed water to come in between the keel and the hull and sailed her a few times after.  When we were moving house, old Blossom became surplus to needs and I gave her to my mate Bob who some months later fitted sail control and his wife Pam created little trays with all sorts of fruit which he placed on her cabin top for when she arrived in port. Whenever he sailed the boat passers-by would stop and enjoy looking at the boat and asking questions.

Bob died about seven or eight months after and I don’t know for sure where the `Ghobadi Bhaba flyer’ ended up, or where she is now?  I don’t want to know either frankly, I’d prefer she remain a `sloop of pleasant memories’ lest somebody turns up one day wanting to give her back to me!

Stay close to model yachting

It is almost year-end and time to wish all readers a very happy New Year. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that the year ahead will be one of health and happiness for all of you and your families. Good sailing in 2011. I hope that some of you derived some pleasure from my ramblings!


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