Monthly Archives: February 2016

Japanese Watercraft Blogging – Menu or Site

Because of my work on this unique subject, I’ve decided I need to make a place to keep it organized for others to follow.

Partly, this is to expand and organize the work. But, I realize also that with all the work I’ve been doing on this subject matter, the traditional ship modeling subjects like European ships of the line, Spanish Galleons, American Privateers, Clipper Ships and all, are getting buried a little.

I have reserved a separate wordpress site, but I’m not too sure yet how I’m going to use it and keep the two sites organized. Maybe it will be better to just use one site, but I’ll have to do a little housekeeping to make it all work well.

Please watch for coming updates!


C.A. Thayer Returns Home

Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights

Today, the lumber schooner C.A. Thayer returned to its home at Hyde Street Pier from restoration work that was done in Alameda. We’ve missed seeing the old girl, even though she’s been without rigging or masts for many years.

CIMG3305 CA Thayer after her initial restoration work, still lacked masts, rigging and more for years.

But now, she’s got masts, bowsprit and standing rigging. Looks like they’ll be finishing up the rigging, and hopefully the rest of the deck house construction and furnishings, alongside the pier over the coming months.

Here’s a link to the full story:

And don’t forget there’s a talk on the C.A. Thayer this Thursday evening at 6pm at the San Francisco Maritime Research Center in Lower Fort Mason.

THAYER Lecture

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Hacchoro – Notes for building the Woody Joe kit

I have completed an initial draft of notes I compiled on building the Hacchoro kit by Woody Joe. The kit is a model of an 8-oared Japanese finishing boat from the area of Yaizu, Japan, which is on the coast, roughly about 100 miles southwest of Tokyo. The boat is a traditional type boat, following the classic 5 sided Japanese construction. That is, bottom, garboard strakes and shear strakes in a hard-chine hull configuration.

The real boats were roughly 45 feet long and could carry 3 square sails on masts that could be stepped as needed. There are still Hacchoro in existence today, though I don’t know what the total number is like. I also don’t know how they are used today, except that there are Hacchoro races where teams man the boat’s oars to race each other on a short course.


I am aware of two operating Hacchoro in Yaizu. With the help of a wasen authority in Japan, I have made contact with a gentleman in Yaizu who has offered to show me the Hacchoro there. So, I am now making arrangements to see them in order to record some of their finer details for later use in modeling them. This is part of my Japanese Boat Research Trip that I’m trying to raise some funds for. If all works out, I will take lots of photos and record the details.

For now, anyone who is building Woody Joe’s Hacchoro kit can download a copy of my notes.

But, in using these notes, you must accept that these are just suggested guidelines and there are always the possibility of errors in the document. Also, the document includes my own translation of the text of the Woody Joe instructions. I am not an expert in translating Japanese into English. Use them to give you more confidence in using the kit instructions, but you must agree not to hold me responsible if you end up gluing a part into place wrong. The kit is pretty well buildable using just the illustrations in the instruction book. But, sometimes it helps to know what the text says. Also, note that there are a lot of labels in the instructions, and I’m only translating the descriptional text and not all the individual labels.

Download Hacchoro Notes and Translated Instructions

Of course, if you have any questions about the document, just send me a comment with your email address and I’ll answer as best I can. Ω

Having Trouble Buying Woody Joe Kits?

UPDATE 11/2/16: This is an update to a post I made back in February. At that time, the Japanese online hobby dealer,,  was having some issues with the store, but it is up and running and all is well. In fact, there have been a lot of updates to the product list (check out Woody Joe’s new I-400 submarine and the revised Kitamaebune kits) and to some of the sites features.

One thing new is a small link you can click, once you get to the product pages, which allows you to “select your currency”, making shopping a bit easier for us international buyers.

Here’s the original post I wrote, but it is now out of date, and the site is happily working fine.

Original Post from 2/21/16

If you’ve been looking for a Woody Joe kit and reading my blogs, you’ve probably been to visit I’ve been in email contact with the owner, and apparently he is having some issues with the online store.

Japan's Online Hobby Dealer

Online Hobby Dealer

So, if you’re looking for something and it’s coming up as “Out of Stock”, don’t give up. Just send him an email at: Let him know what you’re interested in.

That said, if you need to place a credit card order (he only takes Paypal anyway) or just don’t want to deal with a real person, seller prices appear to be a lot more reasonable now that when I was first getting Woody Joe kits. Just watch for shipping times as not all sellers use expedited shipping the way Zootoyz does.

Douglas Brook in Japan

I’ve been in touch with boat builder Douglas Brooks, and I’ve known of his work in Japan this Spring. But, looking at his blog and seeing photos he and his wife have posted on Facebook and Blogger, I can’t begin to describe how envious I am of this man’s life and work. To be doing such things and spending months in Japan working and studying in the out of the way locations in the country is just incredible.

I am truly hoping with all my heart, that I will be able to make the trip to Japan this Fall and wishing as strongly that it could be a longer visit. For now, I’ll be checking Douglas’ blog on a daily basis, thoroughly studying his book Traditional Japanese Boatbuilding, and collecting drawings and taking notes.

You can check out his blog at And, of course, if you want a better understanding of what he’s doing, buy a copy of his book!

Scale Conversion Chart Updated

Because I’ve been studying small Japanese watercraft, and Japanese boat builders often model their work in 1/10 or 1/15-scale, I’ve decided to update my conversion chart to include these. I included 1/30-scale just because I was looking at a drawing at that scale yesterday and needed to convert it anyway, so I added the scale to my list. Also, realizing that there are kits in 1/100-scale, I added it too, though I already have 1/98, which is awfully close. But, I figure ship modelers pretty well want exact measurements…

Copy Scale Chart (rev. D) 

I’ve had to narrow down the columns just a tad, so the chart is getting a little tighter. However, the font sizes haven’t changed and it will still fit on one sheet of standard letter-sized paper.

Please distribute as needed. All that I ask is that you leave the annotations on it, including the creator’s name (me!). This file is also updated in the SHOP NOTES submenu under RESOURCES. Ω


Krick Kits from Germany Now at Ages of Sail

I can tell you with all certainty that Ages of Sail, the ship model distributor and retail store located in San Lorenzo, California, is now carrying model kits from the German manufacturer Krick. An official announcement should be coming out today or tomorrow, but the kits are in stock and you can see them at

U.S. Revenue Cutter Alert

U.S. Revenue Cutter Alert





The lineup includes a few wooden display models including a very large scale model of a U.S. revenue cutter and the English built paddlewheel steamer Gulnara of the Sardinian Navy.

Operating models appear to have ABS plastic hulls and  include a German Type VII U-Boat, which can be built with an optional dive unit, also available at Ages of Sail, other electric powered models made for RC operation, and a few open steam launches, made for live steam operation.

Unfortunately, Krick seems to be having trouble sourcing the steam engines themselves, so those components are not yet available. But, all else is available including sail sets, fitting sets and the U-Boat’s dive set.

Since Ages of Sail is also a distributor, you should see these things starting to pop up at,, and others. Ω


Douglas Brooks’ Japanese Boatbuilding Class Project

American boatbuilder Douglas brooks recently finished teaching a one-month class on building a traditional Japanese wooden boat at Middlebury College, in Vermont. The subject was a boat that was once used on the Agano River in Niigata Prefecture.

DSC_0005 (28)

What an awesome class to be part of! The students did an amazing job. I can only wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to have been part of this experience.

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You can see more photos and description on Douglas Brooks’ blog here. Ω

Seamanship – Online Book

Somebody on Model Ship World recently posted a link to a book that’s available online. I checked it out and this is a copy of a book written by Commodore S.B. Luce, of the U.S. Navy for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1891. The book is called Seamanship, The Equipping and Handling of Vessels Under Sail or Steam.

titleThe text of the book has put transcribed and available thanks to the wonderful folks of the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association.

Access the book online here: Seamanship.


Also, you might consider supporting their efforts by becoming a member, or simply making a donation. As a member, you’ll received their semiannual magazine The Sea Letter, plus other nice benefits. Ω

Funding a Japanese Traditional Boats Research Trip 2016

Help Fund My Japan Research Trip

Well, it’s official. I’m making a trip to Japan in early September to do some hands-on research. I’ve been running into something of a dead-end on what I can learn here in the U.S., and one evening I was poking around on at airfares to Japan and found a deal that was too good to pass up.


Boats at the Toba Seafolk Museum

Of course, I can’t forget the fact that I can’t really afford to go, but I had to jump on it to secure the deal. So, for the first time ever, I’m going into fundraising mode – I’m selling off a few things I really don’t need, going into frugal spending mode at home, making a deal on one of my models, and so on.


A Hobikisen on Lake Kasumigaura

In addition, I’ve opened up a gofundme campaign, which is an online fundraising site. So, if you’d like to help out and have the means to do so, then please consider a donation of $5 or more. The details of the fundraising campaign including a breakdown of trip expenses is listed on the gofundme site. I feel a bit awkward putting out a fundraising request to allow me to do something I really want to do. But, without doing some fundraising it’s going to be tough to make it all happen. The more fully funded the trip, the more of my target locations I can get to and spend time at.

It’s going to be a short trip, I’ll arrive at Haneda Airport around 5:00 AM on September 5th and leave for home at 1:30 AM on September 13. That gives me 8 days in Japan to get where I need to go. I’m still working on an itinerary, but the two most important locations are the Toba Seafolk Museum and the Ogi Folk Museum on Sado Island. There are a number of smaller stops including working out a stop in Yaizu if I can arrange to meet with one or more of the people involved with the Hacchoro traditional wooden boats. Also, as a ship modeler, there is of course a planned stop to visit the folks at Woody Joe and learn about their operation.

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A Tosa Wasen

There are numerous historical resources in the greater Tokyo area including the Edo Tokyo Museum, a small boat museum in Urayasu, and the Fukugara Edo Museum.

A big destination would be the Michinoku Boat Museum up in Aomori, but that has apparently closed and the replica Kitamaesen called the Michinoku Maru is moored and not open to the public. But I’m told the Toba museum and the Ogi museums are both very nice and have good collections and I should be able to collect a lot of information from those two destinations alone.

In any case, I will be posting updates while in Japan to keep readers here up to date on the work I’ll be doing there. In addition, I expect to be taking tremendous quantities of photos and collecting as much information as I can for ship modeling purposes. I also hope to meet up with a few people in Japan that I’ve been corresponding with regarding ship modeling and Japanese traditional boats.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it all the over to the Tosa area on Shikoku Island where I’ve made a couple really great contacts regarding the small traditional wooden boats that are still being built and used regularly. There’s just not enough time, unless by some miracle, I get enough funding to extend my stay there. But, that’s very doubtful.


A Hacchoro under sail

It will be a very short and very busy trip, but I expect the information I collect to give me enough material to help me with a couple magazine articles I’ve been considering and maybe others I hadn’t thought about before. Also, I will share information here and elsewhere. Perhaps it will provide enough material do do a nice talk or write a book?

The link to my gofundme campaign is:

Thank you for any support you can provide, even if it’s just moral support! And, please be sure to pass this request along to anyone you think may be interested in supporting this work. Ω