Monthly Archives: August 2015

Scow Schooner Alma Photos

I was down at Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco yesterday and a fellow ship modeler had asked me to take a couple photos of the rudder. I was happy to help him out and walked down to the ship with ship modeler Paul Reck.

Great thing about being a member of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights is that we’re all officially Park Service volunteers, so we have ready access to the ships at the Pier. So, while it was still closed off to the public, Paul and I hung out by the Alma and Paul told me about his days as volunteer crew taking care and sailing the Alma on the Bay. I took the photos I promised, and then decided to take a few more shots and thought I’d share them here for anyone who needs them or just wants to look at her.

The Alma, by the way, is a San Francisco Scow Schooner, built in 1891. Scow schooners were flat-bottomed, shallow draft boats that operated on the Bay and up and down the waters of the San Joaquin and Sacramento river delta. Back in the days before the bridges, these boats served much as big-rig trucks do today.

Alma Photos

Click on any photo to enlarge.


Here are a few useful links on the Alma. For ship modelers, the Library of Congress link is very nice as it provides a set of drawings from which a model of the Alma can be built. Also check out John Earl’s build of the Alma. John was one of the earliest members of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights.

National Park Service – Find some history and photos of the Alma

Library of Congress – Photos and drawings, Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)

Model Boatyard – Shipmodeler John Earl, former HSPMS member’s Alma build.

SF Bay Crossings – A nice article on the Alma and scow schooners.


Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding Book by Douglas Brooks

Last week, I broke down and bought my copy of this new book directly from the author’s website. That’s a nice way to get it as more money goes directly to supporting Mr. Brooks’ efforts. The hardbound book, published by Floating World Editions, is 320-pages, all in English, in a roughly 9″ x 11″ format.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

My copy arrived today and, naturally, all my ship modeling efforts and other tasks have come to a complete standstill as I read through it. This is an absolutely beautiful book, full of information about the subject.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

I was thumbing through it and had to stop and read through the section on the “ro“, which is the Japanese sculling oar. The author goes into a fair amount of detail on its construction and how it actually works in practice, based on his own experiences using it. He provides some very enjoyable narrative of his first experience using the ro on a rental boat on a lake in Japan, or rather, his experiences trying to rent the traditional boat from the owner, who probably had to rescue too many foreigners who couldn’t figure out how to use the ro.

The book is filled with lots of information on tools and methods used by traditional Japanese boat builders, and details each of the author’s five apprenticeships. The book is well illustrated, and is full of photographs and drawings showing some of the finer details of the traditional construction methods, with many measurements provided.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

Ship modelers and boatbuilders should be aware that this is not a construction manual. Though there are nice profile drawings of the subjects, there are no fold-out plans. The author may eventually publish plans separately, but I don’t have any information about cost or what the timetable might be for releasing them. However, even a set of plans would not cover the the details of the traditional construction methods that he describes in this book.


Photo courtesy of KAZI Publications.

For modelers building some of the available kits of traditional Japanese boats, this book will provide a solid understanding of the true construction and features of these boats. For those who might be scratch-building models based on some of the commonly available drawings, such as those in the classic Souvenirs de Marine, this book will also help you with some of the features of traditional Japanese boats that aren’t shown in overview drawings.

For those who are just interested in woodworking and in Japanese traditions, this book is a fascinating read, giving you a real sense of a disappearing art form. It will also give you some hope that people like Mr. Brooks and his own students will help to keep the art alive.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks

My hope is that it will generate more interest in subject and help to not only inspire more traditional Japanese boat builders, but also help to keep struggling museums open in Japan, when so many of them have closed due to a lack of funding.

While the book is available from the usual online sellers, Buy Here to support the author, or support your local bookstore and tell them to carry it or at least to order it for you. If you do order direct from the author, you will not only be supporting his research efforts, you will also get a signed copy, with the option to have it personally inscribed. Ω

The Good News – Classic Yacht Model by Paul Reck

Check out the slide show by Paul Reck of one of the many models he built for the St. Francis Yacht Club. Beautiful workmanship!

Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights

Long time Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights member and president Paul Reck shares a slideshow of a model he built in 2010 of the 60′ yawl-rigged yacht Good News. The original boat was designed by Sparkman and Stephens. The plank-on-bulkhead model was scratch built at a scale of 1/2″=1′ using white pine with sugar pine hull planking and deck planked with Alaskan yellow cedar.


The model features wire rigging and many parts that had to be built from scratch. Paul put together a nice little slide show of his build, which you can access on his Dropbox account here:

Good News Slide Show Note that it’s not necessary to have or to create a Dropbox account. Just close the window that asks you to sign-in.

The model was built for the St. Francis Yacht Club, where it now resides. It is one of 70 models (many of which were built by Paul)…

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