Tag Archives: NRG Conference

No NRG Conference for 2021

Sad news for fans of the Nautical Research Guild’s annual conferences. The NRG secretary just announced that there will again be no annual NRG conference this year due to continued Covid concerns.


The conference was to take place in the Fall at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, the same place as originally planned for the 2020 conference, which was also cancelled.  The next conference will now be in 2022, and the intent is to hold it at the same venue location.

It’s unfortunate that the conference had to be again cancelled, but as the NRG secretary explained, many NRG members are at high risk for Covid exposure, so the board of directors made the difficult call to cancel the event.

It looks as though the annual meeting that usually takes place at the conference will be held virtually via Zoom or some similar videoconferencing service. Further details on this meeting should be forthcoming. Ω


2020 NRG Conference at Channel Islands Maritime Museum

Good news for Nautical Research Guild members in California. Today the NRG just announce that next conference will take place from October 15-17 at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard, CA.

It’s a bit of a small venue for the event, I think. But, the collection of models and marine art is wonderful.

For myself, my earliest years of ship modeling were associated with this museum. As I lived less than an hour away, I made many trips to look over the collection of models, my favorite being those made by the late Ed Marple.

I was even president of the model guild for a short time, but my service was cut short when I went back to school and had a shift in family life. I probably still know 3 or 4 people there, who I will hopefully see again, as I fully intend to go the conference this Fall.

Other details about the conference aren’t available at this time, except that there will be no special hotel arrangements for the conference. Keep an eye on the NRG website for further news. Ω

NRG Conference in New Bedford, MA Next Week

It’s time for the annual Nautical Research Guild Conference again. This year it’s in New Bedford, Massachusetts (Ha, I passed the spell check!), at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, October 24-26, 2019.

This should be an ideal place to hold a ship modeling conference. I’ve never been there myself, and have always want to visit. However, since I’ve only really attended the conferences for Ages of Sail, and this event has almost no vendors due to Massachusetts sales tax laws, or so I’m told, I’m not going to be there.

A couple members from the South Bay Model Shipwrights club will be going, so I’ll be looking forward to hearing what they have to say about it at next month’s meeting.

One thing I will be missing out on is their collection of Japanese prints and historical information about Japanese whaling, which could aid me in my research of Japanese traditional boats, which includes the Japanese whaleboats, called Kujirabune. I know that the Japanese whaling museum in Taiji, Japan, has some kind of connection, being that both involve the history of whaling.

In any case, if you’re interested in the Conference, there’s still time. Visit the NRG’s webpage for more details: https://www.thenrg.org/nrg-2019-conference.php




NRG Conference Follow-Up

It’s now Saturday evening and the NRG Conference is essentially over. I’m now just waiting for the annual banquet. This year was at San Diego and this was the first year that I was one of the featured speakers and had my own sessions at the roundtable discussions. I feel vastly under qualified, but people were very kind and many stopped me to say that they really enjoyed my talk or my discussion session.

Because boatbuilder Douglas Brooks was my presentation partner, I did benefit greatly from the association, and feel very fortunate for the opportunity. Douglas Brooks has been studying actual Japanese boatbuilding through several apprenticeships in Japan and is also an accomplished American boat builder. He’s also an excellent speaker. We gave a combined talk on Japanese wooden boatbuilding and model building, my portion being on model building. As my portion of the talk followed his, I can tell you that he’s such a good speaker that it was very hard to follow him.

I would have been nervous anyway, not being a skilled speaker. But, my part of the 50-minute talk was short – only about 15 minutes. So, it couldn’t go too wrong anyway, and then it was done.

For the roundtable sessions, I bought the Urayasu Bekabune model I’ve been working on, along with notes, jigs and tools I’ve been using. I also brought a couple Japanese kits I had, so I could give people a first-hand look at what these kits are like.

There were supposed to be 5 roundtable sessions, and each presenter was supposed to get a break and skip one of the sessions. However, not having done this before, I had no idea how I was going to find out which session I was going to skip, and by the time I figured it out, that session had already passed. So, I pretty much talked for 2-1/2 hours straight. It wasn’t so bad, though, and I worked hard to repeat my presentation as completely as possible 5 times.


Vendors and Models

As I mentioned, there wasn’t much activity in the vendor room, but there were vendors, and there were models, models and more models. I’m told there were about 50 in all. Some people had indicated that it was the largest number of models they’d seen at an NRG conference. I personally had three on display. I signed up to bring a fourth, but then discovered I couldn’t fit them all in my car.

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The vendors this year included Train Troll, with some neat new laser-cut kits and parts; Sherline, which showed off their lathe and mill; Douglas Brooks, who was selling signed copies of his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding; BlueJacket, with a selection of their newest kit releases; and Ages of Sail, which not only set up three tables of ship model kits and fittings, but also set up a couple tables and a tool rack for Model Craft Tools.


Conference Glitches

At this point, I’m really tired. The conference was good, but there were some glitches, and I felt really bad for the vendors who spent a lot of money, time, and effort to come and support the conference. There was a problem in that the vendor room, and all the models on display, were on the 5th floor of the hotel, and all the discussions, lunches, presentations, meeting, were down on the first floor, past the lobby and the bar/restaurant area.

In past conferences, in between presentations and talks, there were short breaks. Not long, but long enough for people to wander quickly into the vendor room to look at goodies, maybe make a purchase, ask questions, etc., before the next event. But, with 10-minute breaks, and the  vendor room so far from the events, there was very little browsing and the vendor room was, for the most part, dead. There were some sales, but it was very disappointing to me, and disastrous for vendors. I spoke up several times about it to the organizers. Some tried to do what they could to steer people up to the vendor room, but I also got some big time push back that made me rethink my NRG conference participation.

It didn’t really affect me directly, but I feel it hurt people that I was trying to help – people who are my friends. Worst part, there was some attitude exhibited that was clearly disrespectful of the vendors and what they do for the NRG. I know everyone worked really hard to make the conference happen, and they deserve much credit. But, the vendors who participate make relatively little money from the NRG membership, and spend a lot of money to travel, bring product, and pay for accommodations, etc. They deserve better.

We’ll see how preparations come along for next year’s conference, which is in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ve been talking with the organizers for that conference. They were the ones that tried to make things happen this year when I brought up issues, so I’m very hopeful.


Speakers at This Year’s Conference

I can’t say too much about the speakers at the conference since I was mostly in the vendor area and not able to attend of the talks but my own. Most of what I know is only what I’d heard. For the most part, I heard a lot of positives and only one real negative and that was about a talk by a non-NRG member that deliberately ran long.

Sadly, one of the speakers, Mr. Michel Mantin, who came to the conference from France, and who was kind enough to come up and introduce himself to me following my own talk, had to be hospitalized before his talk on Friday. Fortunately, his good friend Don Dressel (from the Ship Modelers’ Association of Fullerton) was there and went to the hospital with him, and reported back on Mr. Mantin’s condition. Last I heard, he was improving, but would need to remain in the hospital for a few days.

I have since notified a couple friends of his in France and in Japan to let them know what happened, and I’ll be checking with Don Dressel for an update.


Next Year, St. Petersburg, Florida


Speaking at the 2016 NRG Conference

Having been involved in Ship Modeling for more than 20 years, I’ve been a big admirer of the Nautical Research Guild and the work of its impressive membership. There have been so many great modelers involved in the Guild, I feel honored to be speaking together in a combined talk with boatbuilder Douglas Brooks at the opening talk of this year’s conference in San Diego. Douglas Brooks will be reprising his talk at last year’s conference on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, while I’ll be adding the element of modeling them.


Douglas Brooks speaking at the 2015 NRG Conference in Mystic, CT.

Granted, my portion of the talk will the shorter segment. In the 15 minutes or so that I’ll have, I’ll only be able to scratch the surface of the subject, mostly talking about resources available to those who are interested in building a traditional Japanese boat. Pretty much, just enough to give folks a nudge toward attempting one.

The other part of my participation at the conference came as something of a surprise as I was told just last month that I was scheduled to do one of the round table sessions. These are 20-minute sessions that takes place simultaneously with 4 other sessions. People attend the session of their choice, and after 20 minutes, people then switch to another table. So, basically, I have a 20-minute demo, repeated a total of 4 times (with one 20-minute break).

Having no idea what I was expected to do, I’d considered a couple possibilities. The first thing that actually came to mind that I thought would work out, was to demo some of the details of paper modeling. Having completed only 1 paper model made it seem a bit odd, but I don’t think anyone else has done it, and I actually did have some interesting techniques to show.

But, talking with Kurt Van Dahm, the NRG Chairman, and others, it seemed that the idea was to give me more time to talk about modeling Japanese boats. So, I’ll be talking a mix of building Japanese kits and building from scratch. It seems a bit odd to me, as talking about kits seems a bit like a sales pitch. The only thing preventing it from being a complete conflict of interest, seeing as how I’ve done some work for Ages of Sail, is that Ages of Sail doesn’t currently carry any of the kits I’ll be talking about. And, my most highly recommended kit, the Tosa Wasen, will only be available direct from the manufacturer.

Bekabune model gifted to me from the Urayasu Museum.

Bekabune model given to me by the curator of the Urayasu Museum.

In any case, I’ll bring my in-progress Urayasu Bekabune models and a small supply of Japanese woods for people to sample themselves, giving them a chance to sand, cut and bend them. Show a couple in-progress kits, talk about how to read the Japanese language plans, etc. A 20-minute discussion should go by pretty quick, then repeat it three more times.

I really hope it won’t end up being the lamest NRG round table discussion in history, and people will find it interesting and useful. Wish me luck!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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