Back from the NRG Conference

This year’s Nautical Research Guild Conference was held in Mystic, Connecticut, and I managed to go through the aid of my ship modeler friend Jack Lindley and ship modeler distributor Ages of Sail. Jack let me bunk in the spare bed in his room and Ages of Sail flew me out there, so I just paid for basic registration and some expenses. Of course, I had to work much of the conference, which can be a drag. But, it’s better to work at the vendor table at the NRG conference than to miss the whole thing entirely.

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Vendor room and model display

This year, I made sure to take some time out to make it to the talk on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding by Douglas Brooks. If you’ve been on my blog site here, you’re probably already aware of his work and about his book on the subject, which came out only a few months ago. We’ve been in communication for more than a year and I’m the one who connected him with the conference organizers. We’ve been emailing back and forth a little about the content of the talk and what might be of interest to the attendees.

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Japanese boat models brought by Douglas Brooks which were made by his teacher.

While the subject matter is very interesting, neither one of us was sure just how much ship modelers would be interested. But, the talk was very well received. It was truly fascinating and I heard many people telling Douglas that it was the best talk of the conference. In the end, it sounded like a very successful event for him, and he managed to sell quite a few books as well. He was even invited to give his talk to the Mystic Seaport staff the same afternoon.

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Later on, he and I sat down for dinner and had a nice long chat. Turns out that we had to talk about being about the same age, having both lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, both being involved with the San Francisco Maritime National Park and having life connections in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, and of course, both having experiences traveling to Japan, particularly rural Japan. He also had some revealing stories about being a westerner facing bias while trying to study and preserve disappearing Japanese craftsmanship. Some very interesting stuff that he mentions in his book.

Beyond this, the Conference was also attended by fellow ship modelers from the South Bay Model Shipwrights club of Los Altos, CA. It was nice to see their familiar faces there, though I felt bad not being able to spend more time with them. Between working the vendor table all day and trying to spend some time meeting up with people that I only see once a year, at most, I felt like I was ignoring my friends. Hopefully, they understand and spent time getting to know the many other people from around the country that were in attendance.

Finally, I had a nice, but embarrassing moment from the dinner banquet, as they announced the winners of the Photographic Ship Model Competition. The first thing that came up on the screen when they started talking about the winners was my Mary Taylor model. That was just a warm up handing me a blue ribbon, which many people get for their work. The next one was the actual award winner, my Privateer Lively model, which got me a bronze medal in the Journeyman category. This is the lowest of the six awards given in the competition, and I was very honored to receive it, particularly given the tremendous ship modeling skills of the competition and the members in attendance that night.

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New York Pilot Schooner Mary Taylor, 1850. This is a scratch built plank-on-solid-hull model based primarily on plans from BlueJacket.

This is my model of the Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813. It is a scratch-build based on kit plans from the old North River Scale Model company. Maybe I'll enter it finally this year.

This is my model of the Private Armed Schooner Lively, 1813. It is a scratch-build based on kit plans from the old North River Scale Model company. Winner of the Bronze Medal in the Journeyman category of this year’s NRG Photographic Ship Model Competition.

After recovering from awkwardly standing at the front, not really knowing how these things went, I finally wandered back to my seat with supportive congratulations from my South Bay friends and the folks at my table. Was nice. Awkward, but nice. And, while still in shock, I saw that Paul Reck, who heads our group, Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights in San Francisco, won the silver medal in the same category. So, we should have a nice celebratory meeting or two in November.

The Conference ended on Saturday and I came home on Sunday. It was a rotten flight set with two separate flight delays, losing my preferred seating assignment, and making back to SFO and hopping aboard the last BART train with literally 3 minutes to spare.

It was a great conference experience, but it’s good to be home and back to ship modeling! Ω

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