Monthly Archives: May 2014

Nice Steam-Sail Model

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A newly discovered opportunity has gotten me looking at my Kanrin Maru build again (more on that later). So, I was surfing the internet for some information on similar ships and I ran across this amazing model of a Russian, bark-rigged screw steamer that was built around the same time as the Kanrin Maru.

The photos are on a website that hosts a LOT of very nice, very detailed photos of the model. Naturally, I decided to download them all, just in case the site goes away. Hopefully, it will be up and running for a long time to come and these photos will stay available.

The details on the model are truly inspiring and I can only hope to achieve some level of that detail on my Kanrin Maru or my planned USS Saginaw. Anyway, you’ll see what I mean when you check it out. Look for the links to the high resolution photos:

Cannons and Carriages – Added Details

In my last post, I wrote about the cannons and carriages I purchased from The Lumberyard for use on the Colonial Schooner Independence. Since then, I’ve assembled a whole new set of carriages and added a number of details in the process. Specifically, I’ve added the carriage bolts, trunnion locks, ringbolts, eye bolts, and various other bolts, added quoins (the blocks used to hold the cannon in proper elevation, and axle pins.

The job isn’t perfect, but it was my first attempt at detailing gun carriages, and for this model, I think they’ll work out rather well.



All the additions were hand made with the exception of the handle for the quoin block, which is simply a small belaying pin – BlueJacket part number 119. I left it bright brass figuring that it will tarnish soon enough, turning a yellowish-brown.

The trunnion locks were made from brass strip, but everything else was made from steel wire or steel pins. The ringbolts were made from 24 gauge black annealed steel wire.

If you recall a few posts back, I discovered a product called Stainless Steel Black from a company called Caswell. Well, this stuff worked great on all the metal parts shown here, though I used BlueJacket’s Pewter Black metal toner for the cannon barrel, though I did then coat it with Caswell’s sealer that came with my stainless steel blackening product.

The axles were a bit tricky to drill out for the pins, but it just took some care and the using up of one of the spare carriages.

A few months back, on the recommendation of a fellow ship modeler (a VERY good one) I bought one of those cheap mini drill presses that showed up en masse on the Internet about a year ago – the green ones with the variable speed dial and imported from China that retail for under $70. Works very well, I must say, and I used this with a #73 drill to make the holes in the axles.


Anyway, it took quite a number of hours to do all the work on the cannons. It kind of surprised me at how long it took to do the work, but it shouldn’t. Lots of steps, but they came out looking pretty nice – Even more so when they’re on the deck of the ship.

Cannons and Carriages

For my Colonial Schooner model, I really didn’t like the quality of the cannon barrels provided. They’re turned brass, but they hardly resemble anything that looks real cannons. Various kit manufacturers make cannon barrels, but usually the selection is very limited and, often times, the accuracy of detail still leaves much to be desired. Luckily, there is The Lumberyard for Model Shipwrights.

The Lumberyard is best known for providing wood for ship modeling and for the timbering sets they sell for Harold Hahn style models. These are the somewhat stylized, framed, scratch-built models that are constructed inverted on a building jig. The Lumberyard’s sets include the plans, all the necessary wood in a mix of species, a laser cut building jig and a selection of important laser cut parts.

But, when it comes to cannons, The Lumberyard has a nice selection in both cast britannia pewter and CNC turned acrylic. The company also carries laser-cut gun carriages that come in sets of four on a sheet of cherry wood.



Pewter barrels blackened with Bluejacket’s Pewter Black solution

Cannons and carriages are identified by the poundage of shot and model scale. Unfortunately, the product line is limited to 3/16″ = 1′ (1:64) and 1/4″ = 1′ (1:48), and not all shot sizes are available in both scales. But, even if you’re working in other scales, you might be able to find something that will work for you.

I haven’t purchased the acrylic cannon barrels, but I have ordered several of the pewter ones and they’re pretty nice. The trunnions are cast below the centerline, which is very nice. The barrels come slightly blackened, looking somewhat grayish. I used a product called Pewter Black that BlueJacket sells and that made them black black. The trunnions themselves are long, allowing you to file them down to fit whatever carriages you’re using. The casting detail is good, but I wish that whoever is doing the actual casting was able to not compress the molds so much as the barrels you get are sometimes noticeably flattened. With some castings, this is more apparent than others, and the first set of 1/4″ scale 1/2-pounder swivel guns I bought looked like “road kill”, but ones I’ve gotten since are considerably better looking. Anyway, given The Lumberyard’s customer support, I think they’d happily replace them if you have a problem with them.

As for the gun carriages, which are sold separately, these are very nice. The main problem with them is that the builder is apparently expected to provide his or own set of construction plans as none are included with the carriage sets. But, all gun carriages are pretty much the same, so once you’ve built one, you’ll have it figured out for the next time.

I’m not sure about what period these carriages are supposed to represent or what nationality, but the 6-pounder carriages I bought for my Colonial Schooner seemed a bit on the large size for the barrels. Still, compared to what was in the kit and to available alternatives, they look pretty darned good.


The Lumberyard’s cannon carriages come 4 to a sheet.

 Overall, I think The Lumberyard is a good source for your naval artillery needs. Just be patient with the shipping. I don’t know if they have a supply of them in-house or if they make them as they’re needed or if another company makes the barrels for them, but it can take a couple weeks to get an oder shipped from The Lumberyard, so you just have to be a little patient and order in advance of your needs.

The Kaiwo Maru Comes to San Francisco

On Friday, May 2nd, passing beneath a fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, the Japanese sail training vessel Kaiwo Maru arrived at San Francisco. The steel hulled giant began her journey at Tokyo on the fourth of April and she spent nearly a month at sea under only sail power as the winds carried her across the Northern Pacific.

On Sunday, May 4th, the ship had scheduled an open house and the public was invited to see the ship and walk her decks and I made sure not to pass up the opportunity. This was the first real sail training ship I’d visited. She’s a four-masted, steel-hulled bark, and it didn’t really dawn on me just how big the ship was until some time after I looked at the many photos I took.

At just over 360 ft length over all (including bowsprit), she’s massive for a sailing ship. She’s about 60 feet longer than the Balclutha at Hyde Street Pier, and 80’ longer than the Star of India in San Diego. She is powered by a pair of diesel engines with a combined output of 3,000 horsepower that can drive her along at just over 16 knots, but their primary purpose is to get her in and out of port. Traveling across the ocean, her main source of propulsion is her 30,000 square feet of sails, which she used for about 90% of this journey.

The Kaiwo Maru is one of the more modern sail training vessels, having been built by Sumitomo Heavy Industries in Japan in 1989. She is the second of two vessel of the same class, the first being the sail training ship Nippon Maru II built in 1984. The two vessels are operated by the National Institute for Sea Training, which is a Japanese governmental institution begun in 1943 to train future maritime officers and engineers.


The ships are technically the Shin Kaiwo Maru (New Kaiwo Maru) and Shin Nippon Maru (New Nippon Maru) or the Kaiwo Maru II and Nippon Maru II, replacing the training ships of the same name that were built in 1930.


My own connection with this ship was purely by chance. I had been in email contact with a Japanese professor, Yutaka Masuyama, regarding research for my Edo Period Higaki Kaisen model, and found out he was going to be coming to San Francisco, and I’d have a chance to meet him in person. It turned out he was to be a passenger aboard the Kaiwo Maru and would be recording her sailing performance on the journey.



Visiting the Kaiwo Maru

After the ship arrived, I went to visit the Kaiwo Maru at the open house and I had a great visit. In addition to her officers, the ship carried 160 cadets, all young Japanese men and a few women too that must have been all in their very early 20s, and they were stationed all over the ship to answer questions and to just be as helpful as possible.

I tried to spend a few minutes talking with several of them, asking mostly about their lives aboard the ship. These cadets are required to take part in several cruises over the course of their training. They are divided into two groups: Engineering and Navigation. The Navigation group handles the sails, while the Engineering cadets operate and maintain the engines, generators and pumps.


The cadets live 5 to a cabin and they have to get accustomed to having very little freedom or privacy. Fresh water is scarce, so their use of it is rationed. Discipline is stressed, but they all know what they need to do and I was told by my new acquaintance, Professor Masuyama, that the cadets know what they need to do and need little prompting to do it.


The cadets told me that one thing that is very good aboard the ship is the food. They have a Japanese chef and they eat well. They even catch the occasional Tuna or other fish and have very fresh sashimi.

But, traveling across the Pacific from Japan, the shortest route took them up to the Northern Pacific and the seas were very stormy. According to Professor Masuyama, the winds were up to 50 knot and the ship could heel as much as 30 degree. But as a sailing ship, she was in her element and reached speeds of 18 knots.


She is, in fact, one of the fastest sail training ships in th world, having won the Boston Teapot Trophy on several occasions. That annual award goes to the sail training ship that records the furthest distance travelled in any 124-hour period. The Kaiwo Maru not only won the award four times, but also maintains the highest average speed recorded for the trophy.

I’m not sure how much of a consolation that was for the cadets who had to climb the ratlines under the conditions they did. I asked if they had safety lines, and one cadet explained that they did, except on the ratlines, which required them to simply hang on tight. He laughed it off, but admitted it was pretty scary.

For some cadets, this was their fifth or later cruise, for some, it was their first. One cadet admitted to feeling a bit homesick. But, they all seemed to enjoy their visit to San Francisco, and everyone got to visit the city. Most all of them went down to Fisherman’s Wharf and some trekked across the Golden Gate, visited Muir Woods or just saw the city sights.


The cadets I spoke to were from Hokkaido, Kobe, Tokyo, Aomori, Osaka… all parts of Japan. One told me he was from Miyagi Prefecture, which was hit hard the by earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, but he assured me that his town was spared the damage that devastated other parts of the region.


Saying Goodbye


After the visit, I thought that was end of my time with the Kaiwo Maru. But, as it turned out, I hadn’t had a chance to actually meet my contact, Professor Masuyama, so we arranged to meet at the pier to see off the Kaiwo Maru.

At just before 10am on Tuesday, May 5th, the cadets loosed the mooring lines and lined the decks in a very ceremonious departure. At the dockside, a couple dozen people came to see them off. The sounds of the bosun’s whistle called the cadets to action and they quickly climbed the ratlines, hand over hand. Some lined the lower yards, some went out on the topsail yards, some on the t’gallant yards or mast tops.


To the calls of some Japanese commands sung out over the loudspeaker, they took their stances. White overalls, yellow hats, bare feet. A shout from a cadet riding the end of the bowsprit brought about a call from all the masts above and was repeated several times, hats in hand held over their hearts and then extended out with the cheers. I didn’t understand the words, but I was told by someone that it was a cheer of thanks to their hosts.




Another call sung out in long tones over the loudspeaker and the cadets sharply turned “eyes right”. Another call and the their heads snapped forward, another salute. A final call and they all quickly took to the ratlines and were back down on the deck in short order.

By now, the ship had slowly been pulled away from the dock and the tugs were pushing her into the harbor as the small crowd on the dock waved goodbye. Soon, the ship was under her own power and heading back out under the Bay Bridge, giving a last blast of her horn.





I’ve never actually witnessed a ship’s departure like this, and I have to say it was strangely very moving. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend. But, it wasn’t just the crew, it was the whole ship. It was like a living, breathing thing in and of itself – a big white creature swimming slowly out to sea. I couldn’t help but wish it a safe journey home, with the hope that it would come back to see us again soon. Ω


Kaiwo Maru in San Francisco – An Update


I’ve been asking around about the Kaiwo Maru’s arrival at San Francisco and I did a quick Internet search and found out that the ship will be open to the public during specific times on Sunday, May 4th. I’m going to try to get over there in the morning and see if I can get some good pictures.

The details can be found on the Japanese Consultate web page:

Also, there is page on the National Institute for Sea Training in Japan that gives details about the Kaiwo Maru: