Monday, April 11, 2016

The Dover Cut & Assemble "Santa Maria", A Paper Nao


It took three months, but I finally completed my Dover Cut & Assemble "Santa Maria". As I mentioned some weeks back, this was my first complex paper model sailing ship, and the end result has proven to be better than I was hoping.
A few particulars about the model. The scale appears to be 1/96. Many components of the model were replaced with wood, and in the case of the sails, fabric. The rigging plan is an interesting story. Normally, whenever I build a model of someone's interpretation of a ship, I do my best not to make changes; this is a model based upon their work, not mine. In a way, I'm honoring their work. However, the rigging plan on this model is very simple, and as I was adding detail, it was necessary to fill in the blanks. Several sources were consulted, notably the works of Björn Landström and the woodcuts of Master W of the Key (W.A.).
As a kit, there are a small number of problems building the model, but I put those off to inexperience. There are some fit problems, and a few parts had to be replaced. Again, probably a lack of experience on the builder's end.
There are a number of minor issues with the model design itself. First, it has a square stern. This is a matter of some contention amongst many maritime historians, but the consensus is that the "Santa Maria" likely had a round stern. It's most likely that square sterns on naos and other round ships started appearing either at the end of the 15th century, but by the 16th century were common. The top sail is rectangular, pointing to an earlier period (like that of the actual "Santa Maria"). The model probably more closely resembles Magellan's ship "Victoria" (a possibility for a future project). The flags on this model were common up to 1504, so it could be a small nao of the very early 16th century, and in fact that is what I plan on calling it eventually.
For now, this little interpretation of the "Santa Maria" has been quite the learning experience. Will I do another paper/card model? Yes, and in fact I rather enjoyed this more than any project I've worked on in a long time.











Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Study of Sterns

One of my favorite interpretations of the "Santa Maria" is the 1892 E.A. d'Albertis version. Unlike the other contemporary interpretations, it alone had a proper round tucked stern, with planking that ran up to the sternpost and round to the transom. There were problems with the design, of course, such its size and the sail plan. Still, it was superior to the Spanish Commission/Duro and Monleon versions.
However, in reviewing that design a little further, it became apparent that it has much in common with two other, more recent, designs; the Serrano version from the early 1990's, and Vazquez/Coin-Cuenca version from 2012. The similarity lies in the stern.


All three designs have planking that has very smooth runs, ending at the rudder. This design produces hollow stern lines that would definitely enhance sailing. It was for this reason that Vazquez and Coin-Cuenca chose the design, as a way to explain the "Santa Maria's" ability to haul close to the wind. However, all three designs borrow heavily from one source, "Instruccion Nautica" by Garcia del Palacio. This work, an early shipbuilding treatise, was published in 1587, ninety five years after Columbus' first voyage. As such, it is a questionable choice for a reference. However, it is really the only treatise from any time near 1492 that covers the shape of ships.
A large nao from "Instruccion  Nautica"

A smaller ship from "Instruccion Nautica"
Before we go any further in this discussion, let's review how the sterns of ships changed in Europe. The first real leap occurred in northern Europe with the development of the stern rudder, which was epitomized by one of the most successful Medieval ship designs, the "cog". This single square sail rigged cargo vessel first began to appear in the 13th century, and soon was plying the coasts of Europe, eventually reaching the Mediterranean. It was shell built, using clinker construction for the most part (the Bremen cog used a form of carvel construction on the lower hull). This form of construction also produced very hollow runs both fore and aft.
Meanwhile, the ships of the Mediterranean were smooth carvel built, usually rigged with triangular lateen sails, and used twin steerboards for rudders. Their hulls were round tuck, with the planks ending at the stem and stern. This design would persist even into the 15th century, and possibly beyond.
By the 15th century, we begin the see a synthesis of the two designs; the northern single rudder design on carvel built hulls. This is exemplified by the famous Mataro nao model. The design retains the Mediterranean/southern European carvel hull, with the planks against one another instead of overlapping in the lapstrake clinker fashion of the north. One interesting feature, though, is the extended sternpost, that almost looks like an after thought but was clearly an attempt to adopt the southern style hull to a straight single rudder. It was a compromise that we will look at more closely shortly.
The ultimate form of large carvel hull can be found in the Portuguese carrack "Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai" from the first quarter of the 16th century. In this design, however, it is not clear if the planking runs to the sternpost, or if a rounder and a deeper sternpost is being used.

Now, let's return to the earlier stern design that became prevalent on carvel built ships, the design that used the deeper sternpost like found on the Mataro model. In the artwork of Vittore Carpaccio's "Saint Ursula Cycle", a number of ships appear. These are done in excellent detail, and on one painting, the sterns can be seen, and indeed are this design. These date from the 1490's.

Detail from "The Meeting of Ursula and the Prince"

This design is borne out in some additional artwork from the period as well. In the woodcuts found in Breydenbach's "Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam", the artist Erhard Reuwich, who accompanied Breydenbach on his journey in 1483-84. On the journey, the pilgrims stayed in Venice, which Reuwich illustrated as having a number of ships apparently fitting out. One of these is seen from the starboard, and again shows what appears to be that very round stern.


The Flemish master known variously as "W.A.", or "Master W with the Key" also illustrated this same design, which by that point had started to show up in northern Europe.


But, all is not as clear as it seems. W.A. also did an illustration of a large ship that is not particularly clear as to how the planking ran astern.


Then, in another woodcut found in "Peregrinatio" we find a large carrack viewed astern, and it is not clear where the planking ends as well.


We could again reference the large Portuguese carrack "Santa Catarina", but not only is the painting slightly dubious, it really falls into a later period, and therefore quite possibly out of the question in discussions about late 15th century Iberian ship design. 

Five carracks, all apparently the "Santa Catarina". Attributed to Joachim Patinir

There is still the possibility that the Santa Catarina is of some utility in this discussion. Obviously, it had to have evolved from earlier designs. Most maritime historians believe that the caravel had square sterns in the late 15th century, and as a result clean runs of planking to the sternpost. It is possible that the Santa Catarina painting shows the end result of this, just before the shift to square sterns on larger vessels.
All of this is speculation, of course. While it would be easy to dismiss those three Santa Maria designs that opened this topic as too modern in hull design, we know that sharp runs were possible in both the earlier northern shell-built clinker design and in the contemporary square sterned caravels. In the end, at best the evidence is inconclusive.
Still, and I readily admit this, I am a fan of d'Albertis' work. Perhaps all that design needs is some rehabilitation, as well as a bit of size reduction. It really was the best design from those initial attempts to distill the appearance of Columbus' flagship.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Getting Down To The Heart Of The Matter

I was hoping that a new post would have been up by now. For a few weeks now, I have been busy studying European forms, and how the stern rudder in the north possibly created unusual adaptations in the south.
There was an interruption in my plans.
You see, I had a heart attack.
So, clearly there will be a delay.
But not much longer.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Models From Paper, The Other Wood Product

It was spring of 1973.
I was ten years old, in the fourth grade, and we had just finished reading about the voyage of the "Dove", a 24' sloop that a teenaged Robin Lee Graham nearly sailed around the world over a five year period, from 1965 to 1970 (he sold her and purchased a larger sloop for the final leg). It had captivated me. One of our in-class newsletters, I think "Scholastic News, Grade 4", had a little cut-and-assemble (and as it turned out, waterline) model of the "Dove" on the back cover.
This was not my first attempt at a card or paper model ship. I had checked out many books on paper projects, and there were almost always one or two paper ships in them. But this was the first one that looked like a real boat (I remember being surprised how beamy the little sloop was).
In the end, I misread the instructions; you were supposed to glue the hull section to heavier cardboard and then cut it out, so my flimsy model lasted all of a few hours. I learned enough, though, to get an idea of how paper model ships might work.
A bit over three years later, early fall 1976, my best friend Craig and I were in the midst of a miniature arms race. Be it ship or plane, we were cobbling together any kit we could find. There were models we wanted, however, that nobody seemed to make. Craig's mother, Vivian, was an artist, and had lots of supplies lying around. One weekend, she let us use some of those to try a few projects. Craig and I decided to make a couple of ships, as well as to improve upon a couple of models already in our possession.
I brought a lot of my own supplies with me. In my little box was an olive green tube of Testors' Wood Cement that I had purchased for a model rocket some time back, and I felt that this was the best choice. After all, it was, I thought, "real glue", not like that amateurish Elmer's. I decided to make a model of a torpedo gunboat, something I had seen in a book. This was a German design from the First World War, and rather resembled a small destroyer. Craig decided on something else, though I don't recall what. Since I didn't have the book with me (whereas Craig had a book), I worked from memory. Needless to say, my first attempt was a disaster. The Testors glue wasn't working, and in fact was making a sticky, gooey mess out of the first bits of my model. Craig, on the other hand, seemed to be handily working away with the Elmers', and was much further along.
In the end, we shared the white glue.
By the end of that weekend, we had managed not only to add a matte board deck to a damaged Lindberg "Arizona", making it into an erstwhile "HMS Furious" (we had to use plastic cement to attach it), but also to build two small paper/matte board ships. I had my gunboat, which I named "Melissa Sue" (I had a tremendous crush on "Little House On The Prairie" actress Melissa Sue Anderson at the time). Craig had his project, and he was pretty proud. A few weeks later, we would use some scrap matte to build a small, and rough, "Titanic". A few months later, Craig and I built a rather detailed aircraft carrier "HMS Courageous".
Not long after that, after a tragedy, Craig moved away. That was my last completed paper model, but not Craig's. He would hone his craft into adulthood and turn out some amazing model ships.
I would use the techniques I learnt on wooden models, but would not touch another paper model for some time.
In 1991, I was given, as something of a gag gift, a Dover Cut & Assemble "Mayflower", designed by graphic artist A.G. Smith. While it was a meant to be a joke, I saw in the model's construction plenty of potential. In fact, in the years since Craig's and my forays into paper modeling, I had seen plenty of examples, including large model sailing ships that were waterproofed and operational, and Eastern European model warship "kits" that had been super detailed. The Dover kit copied the W.A. Baker "Mayflower II" rather well, though a bit simplified. A short time later, I would purchase their "Santa Maria", also designed by Smith.
Aside from copying the Mayflower's principle parts in plastic and to a smaller scale, I built neither. They would simply sit in the collection, and eventually be lost. Some time later, I did attempt a card model of a 1/700 scale British destroyer escort, around 2005, but didn't get beyond the hull.
A few months back, I purchased copies of the Dover "Mayflower" and "Santa Maria" again, as reference material for my library. As I studied the "Santa Maria" in particular, I found myself thinking that, perhaps, just perhaps, it was time to try my hand at this model. There are some issues with the design (the flat stern, namely), but it does look very much like a ship from the late 15th, early 16th centuries.
To that end, I purchased another copy of the model.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been working away at it. Paper/cardstock/karton modeling is an art. While there are some techniques that aren't that uncommon from traditional model building, it is different in many ways. All of the "kits" (usually sold in book form) are printed in full color, so one must work carefully so as not to mar the finish. While you might think the material lacks strength, once the hulls are underway, they become fairly rigid. And of course, you can add more traditional materials, such as wooden masts, to detail the model if you so desire.

The hull's beginning, day two, 12th January, 2016. The rudder has been separated from the model's "spine". Amazingly, there are almost eighty pieces here. 
The almost completed hull, 3rd February, 2016. Better than I was expecting. Do note the little 1/96 scale "Very Mini Me" on the forecastle deck. I made him for purposes of reference. And because it seemed like a good idea.
My "Santa Maria" has had a few fit problems, but I've managed to work around them. The problem lies most likely with both the kit and myself. This model has long been out of print (I believe it was made that one year only), but the "Mayflower" was available up until a few years ago. Both can be found in used bookstores. Right now, I am at the point where I am about satisfied with the hull. I've added some detail, replaced a few parts with wood, and made touch up using a Prismacolor marker. It has been a learning experience, though. While it was initially frustrating, I am now enjoying the work. I like that I am using materials that are not particularly harmful. Like wooden model ship building, it has a very organic feel to it. I have started to enjoy it so much that I have found archived models of other "Santa Marias", and Columbus' other vessels, from Eastern European publishers that are decades old. This new aspect of model building is one that I am really starting to embrace.
As to why it isn't more popular is a mystery to me.
When the model is finished, I will of course share it here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Many Faces of the Santa Maria

Since 1885, there have been a number of studies that have attempted to show the appearance of Columbus' initial flagship, the "Santa Maria". This is an attempt to compile a basic catalog of many of them. It is by no means complete, but hopefully shows the different thinking of many of the researchers. Only three of the designs presented herein were ever built as "accurate" full sized replicas. A number of them were strictly model studies.
Dimensions are in Imperial and metric (in parenthesis). Some dimensions are estimated, and noted as such. No tonnages are given.


1. Monleon (I), 1885 -
Watercolor painting only. The ship in the center is the "Santa Maria". This is an early work by Rafael Monleon, and was actually part of a series of works depicting the history of the ship. It has been covered separately on this site. While not a true study per se, it should be considered the first serious attempt at an accurate reconstruction.


2. Monleon (II), 1892 -
Beam - 25.78' (7.86m), Keel - 64.3' (19.6m), Between perpendiculars (PP) - 77.8' (23.72m)

3. D'Albertis, 1892 - 
Beam - 27.55' (8.4m), Keel - 62.34' (19m), PP - 86.6' (26.3m)


4. Duro/Spanish Commission, 1892 -
Beam - 25.72' (7.84m), Keel - 60.7' (18.5m), PP - 74.15' (22.6m)


5 Guillen Tato, 1927 -
Beam - 24.6' (7.5m), Keel - 61.35' (18.7m), PP - 84.32' (25.7m)


6. McCann, 1927 -
(Estimated) Beam - 23' (7m), Keel - 58' (17.67m), PP - 70' (21.33m)


7. Anderson, 1930 -
Beam - 26.9' (8.2m), Keel - 54.13' (16.5m), PP - 81' (24.7m)


8. Landström (I), 1961 -
Beam - 26' (7.92m), Keel - 55.5' (16.92m), PP - 78.5' (23.93m)


9. Martinez-Hidalgo, 1963 -
Beam - 26' (7.92m), Keel - 51.84' (15.8m), PP - 77.43' (23.6m)


10. Landström (II), 1966 -
Beam - 28' (8.53m), Keel - 56' (17.06m), PP - 82' (25m)


11. Timofeyev - Моделист конструктор, 1973 -
(Estimated) Beam - 25.6' (7.8m), Keel - 62.33' (19m), PP - 78.74' (24m)


12. Serrano, 1991 -
Beam - 18.86' (5.75m), Keel - 41' (12.5m), PP - 65' (19.8m)


13. Zu Mondfeld, 1991 -
No data available. Included here because of its unique appearance, especially in the stern quarters. Certainly a fascinating design.


14. Vazquez - Coin Cuenca, 2012 -
Beam - 19.69' (6m), Keel (est.) - 65.6' (20m), PP (est.) - 78.74' (24m)

Notes -
Monleon (II) data from his two part article "Las Carabelas de Colón" (1892), however drawings were found in "Christoph Columb - Vu Par Un Marin" by J.B. Charcot, 1928, pages 63-64.
D'Albertis drawing from "Le Construzioni Navali e L'Arte Della Navigacione al Tempo C. Colombo", 1892-1894, page 101 (via Google), with additional data from "Columbus' Ships" by Jose Maria Martinez-Hidalgo, 1966.
Duro/Spanish Commission drawing from "La Nao 'Santa Maria' Memoria de la Comisión Arquelógica Ejecutiva", Rafael Monleon et al, 1892, with additional data from "Columbus' Ships".
E. Armitage McCann drawing from a series of articles on building the model in Popular Science Magazine, December 1927 - February 1928, (via Google)
Julio F. Guillen Tato drawing and data from "Columbus' Ships", page 16.
R.C. Anderson data from "Columbus' Ships", however drawing (by Victor Lazzaro) from Time-Life "Great Ages of Man" volume "Age of Exploration", pages 83, 88 & 89.
Björn Landström (I) from "The Ship", 1961, page 103.
Jose Maria Martinez-Hidalgo drawing and data from "Columbus' Ships", page 50.
Björn Landström (II) from "Columbus", 1966, pages 46, 47, & 50.
B. Timofeyev - Моделист конструктор drawing their May, 1973 issue, pages 30 & 31.
Juan Luis Rubio Serrano drawing from "Arquitecture De Los Naos y Galeones De La Flota De Indies", 1991, pages 198 & 200.
Wolfram zu Mondfeld drawing from personal files. No other data at this time.
J.M. Lopez Vazquez & Luis M. Coin Cuenca drawing and data from "Reconstrucciones de la Nao Santa María". Also covered previously on this site.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Life-Like 1/250 Mayflower, Completed

The Life-Like (nee Pyro) "Mayflower" turned out to take longer to build than expected, really due to a number of unexpected issues, with both the project and myself. In the end, however, the work really paid off.
I've taken a number of images of the completed model, plus one image in particular, to give an idea of its scale.










There were a number of lessons I took away from this project. Chiefly amongst them is doing more planning before actual construction. There were a number of problems that could have been prevented had I planned ahead. As a result, the model has some rigging omitted (though at this scale, it doesn't detract too much). Other things I learnt were the extent to which "live rigging" (regular line/thread rigging as opposed to wire) can be utilized on small scale models. The cut off really isn't scale so much as size. A larger scale model of a smaller vessel, say one the size of this model, could possible be done with "live" instead of wire. There are now a couple of sections of rigging that respond to the weather.
The model looks good, however, and I am pleased with the end result. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Waiting Game

It has been some time since I've posted anything substantial here, and it nags me. In my personal life, this time of the year gets hectic enough, but there have been some additional challenges this year. However, rest assured that there is a piece coming, it's just taking longer than usual to get to it.
Soon, I promise.
 - RRL