Established in 1994 the Dockyard Model Shop has become the only specialist model boat shop in the south east.
The owner Robert Bright has been a modeller for over 40 years and is always keen to offer help and advice to customers whatever their experience. We also usually have a good selection of ready built models for sale and are pleased to sell customers boats on a commission basis.
Bequia -- Boat building has been a tradition on small Caribbean island for two hundred years. Further on along Front Street is the a€?originala€? model boat shop, Stewart Olivera€™s a€?Originala€? Model Boat shop. No electrical tools are in sight, and none are used, just hand saws, a machete, chicles, andA  a variety of hand planes. I asked Benson if he could help my son make a small model sail boat, one that would actually sail.
I had a short 2 by 12 plank of Maine pine on board our boat, left over from the dinghy chocks Ia€™d built over the summer. Coming ashore the next morning to work on Havanaa€™s model,A  we met Sam Hermiston a 12 year old Scot living board his familya€™s ketch in the harbor. Havanaa€™s hull, roughed in under Benson sharp machete, was then clamped in the vice and hand planes completed the job of squaring off the outline of the laminated planks.
As we continue our wanderings through the Caribbean islands, Havana is busy sanding and designing the rig and deck layout for his model boat, often taking an idea here and there from the yachts we pass or that drop anchor next to us.A  Whether his model ever makes it into the water or not is not as important as the lessons he has learned along the way.
I was so impressed with the craftsmanship and dedication to this boat racing sport that these men had during the years prior to WWII. This is a part of model boat racing history, when engineers, tool makers and machinist were part of the industrial complex.
The history of tether boats has been a passion of mine ever since, 20+ years ago I read an article in a Model Craftsmans 1934 Magazine. Ray SeaveyIn 1995,I had the pleasure of meeting Ray Seavey at his home outside of Philadelphia.
From hand-hewn, 30-foot, open whale boats to 60-foot coastal schooners boat-building was a way of life on this island. Benson, a tall strapping Bequian, has taken over the shop and adjacent workshop, which is located across from Caribbean Yacht Services, a short walk from the dinghy dock in town. A large, stand-up vice holds holding a model while the hull takes shape under the sharp edge of a hand plane. Benson makes display models, works of art that reside on wealthy boat ownersa€™ mantels, not bobby about on the bay, but he know of one model builder that had built boats that did sail .
Havana doesna€™t let me discard any short ends, knowing hea€™d find a use for them down the road.A  This was it.


Sam was fishing on the dinghy dock when we pulled up and spying the pile of wood in Havanaa€™s arms, asked if we were going to build a model boat.A  Sam had built a model sail boat himself at Bensona€™s shop, so off we went with Sam to Bensona€™s. Benson then drew a line on the hull where he figured would be the turn of the bilge, where the waterline might be. Like Sama€™s boat, it would be rudder-less, with self tending jib ands a main sheet that could be adjusted for the course and wind conditions, But, it would be some time before Havanaa€™s boat would feel the wind, as he had a lot of sanding to do. The patience it takes and the skill of hand and tool that Benson imparted and the feel for the wood .
Today, the craft of shaping wooded boats here is all but dead, the skills dying with the last of the old builders,A  But the tradition of crafting whale boats from wood is still practiced by a few of the Bequia model boat builders. Hea€™s been dragging me to boat shops and yacht yards all up and down the East Coast as we cruise south to the Caribbean on our own sail boat, Searcher, a Bowman 57 ketch. With his machete, he chopped away the excess wood creating the rough shape of the boata€™s under body. This, to be followed by 4 coats of primer, sanding between each coat, then 2 to 3 coats of top side paint, bottom paint, boot strip, then a Deck paint,A  the mast and boom needed to be shaped, then stays and shrouds and halyards rigged. Upon arriving in 1920, he received a telegram that told him that the church would not be opening and he was on his left on his own.
The running bridle had to withstand a 250 pound pull test before it was permitted for use in competition.
Benson Phillips, a strapping Bequiaina now running the Sargeant Brothers shop near Caribbean Yacht Services is one of a handful of men here who keep alive the craft of using simple tools to shape the hull, spars, oars and deck gear for a variety of model sailing boats.
Sheets of cardboard, used for shipping large appliances lined one wall, used to create boxes for shipping the models tourists and yachtsmen would purchase.
Aboard our boat, I used my electric circular saw to stripped the plank down the middle, creating four narrow planks that could be laminated, providing the required thickness. It is rigged as a sloop, with a tall mast, self-tending jib, deep, weighted keep and no rudder.
Bob worked for the post office by day, but my weekend he was the official photographer for tether boat racing. Once the boat was fired up and ready to run, it was hand launched with a person manning the center pole to hold the running line above water level until the boat was up to speed so the running line would not drag in the water. The idea of model whale boat industry began in 1996 when XXXXXA A  Sargeant began carving model whale boats from gum wood to sell you sailors and tourists visiting the harbor.. Bensona€™s showroom is crowded with finished models of all sizes, the walls lined with shelving and display cases.
Windows and doors open to the breeze off Admality Bay, well worn stools and work benches provide working space for three or four men. It would have been a hard task to saw the plank by hand back at Bensona€™s shop, as Benson has no power tools.


The model tracked straight as an arrow in the 10 knot breeze that ruffled the harbor, the model laying over in the gusts, righting itself and bobbing along in the chop. Next would be carving away the wood from stern to the stern to create the completed shape of the hull. The boat owner waited until he thought the boat was running at top speed, then he would call for time. We met Mauvin, a model boat builder with a shop on Front Street, just up the hill from the open air market.
More than 50 finished models from small whale boats to 36-inch replicas of mega-yachts, line the walls and sit on the floor.A  Benson can be found a€?out backa€? in the adjacent workshop, a small nest if wood chips, sawed plans, tools and half finished models. Half finished models in various states of completion are stacked on a table, other hung from the ceiling, paint and varnish drying. We followed it in our dinghy, theA  boys were all smiles to see the small boat flying along, all by itself, no remote controls, no battery powered motor, just the breeze and the magic of the boat buildera€™s craft to harness the wind. When completed, Havana could begin the long, tedious task of sanding the hull.A  Wea€™d have to test the hulla€™s buoyancy in sea water, for if the model sat too low in the water, Havana and I would have to carve out the hull, remove wood from inside the b\oat, then create a deck over the top. The shop had small and large scale model whale boats, some as large as two-feet, others as small as 12-inches, all meticulously carved, varnished and painted in the bright colors of Bequiaa€™s traditional long whale boats.
The long, weighted keel was another 10-inches and the mast was taller than the boat was long. Oars, harpoons and lances, line buckets, sailing rig laid out along the thwarts.A  On display were half models and replicas of some large, sleek yachts, some completed on commission over the summer waiting to be picked up by the yacht owner when they arrived later in the season. The Bequia model builders do create boats that actually sail but these boats are crude contraptions, made from half a coconut, rigged with a mast and long bowsprit and rags or sails. He laid out the dimensions the top plank, using pins to mark the various points along the sheer of the hull. An old saw blade was used as a straight end to create a smooth curve along the pins marking out the hulla€™s edge. Benson did not do the laminating until after he had roughed in the deck shape on each plank.
This he did with a machete that had lost half its width from repeated sharpening, which he did frequently while hacking away of the excess wood,A  With a skilled eye and hand, he caved away the unwanted wood, the shape of the hull coming to life in his hands.A  When the three planks were roughed in, he mixed West epoxy, then glued and clamped the three planks together.



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