Friday, August 14, 2015

My "Santa Maria" Pourquoi Story

Frequently in literature, and in mythology, one encounters the "pourquoi story". "Pourquoi" is French for why, and these stories tell an origin story, if you will. Where old ships are concerned, this is mine.
I started building true miniature ships in the summer of 1985, when I checked out a small, Rand-McNally style pocket book on sailing ships, and John Bowen's "Scale Model Sailing Ships". A little more than halfway through that latter book was a section written by the late Derek Hunnisett on sailing ship miniatures that opened a whole new world to me. His preferred scale was 1'=50' (1/600), and that was the scale I initially adopted. My first attempt was a 16th century Venetian carrack from that other book, a vessel named "Madre de Dios". Though the model was a bit sloppy, I was hooked on miniatures.
It was a little over two years later when my friend Mike Madigan was clearing out some of his models when he gave me two classic 1973 era Airfix Series I kits, the "Revenge" and the "Santa Maria". The former, a proper English galleon clearly derived from the works attributed to 16th century English shipwright Matthew Baker was the far superior. That latter model, though, was something else. The artwork on the package showed one version of the "Santa Maria", while the model enclosed was clearly another. 
This was probably the best packaging Airfix ever did for their Series I kits.
When I started construction of the model in early 1988, I was stumped. This model was going to be done right, but how? I cut away the forecastle railing and started crafting a new fore deck. Still, there were questions. The model got as far as being painted a tan color when all worked stopped on the forecastle by February, 1988. 
On a weekend visit to the old Hayden Burns Library, the main library in Jacksonville, I found my answer, a book with the modest title "Columbus' Ships" by Jose Maria Martinez-Hidalgo. It was the editor that caught my attention, none other than Howard I. Chapelle, whom I was already aware and greatly respected.
My third copy, clearly well loved.
It was that book that told me that the version in the package was actually the version by Julio F. Guillen (y) Tato. The model painting, though a rather dramatic image by the great Roy Cross, appeared to represent a combination of versions (I admit, I do so want a copy of that painting).
Sadly, that little Airfix "Santa Maria" was put away, and subsequently lost, but that book had changed my interests in the hobby, from one of simply being a model builder to researching, doing my own artwork, and studying from others. That change occurred thanks to that little model.
Recently, my parents decided to gift me with another one. It hasn't been opened yet, as another model is under way currently, the Zvezda 1/350 scale "Santa Maria". The packaging, however, has allowed me to make some measurements, and I am happy to report that it is very close in scale to the Zvezda/Serrano version. 
When construction does finally commence on the little Airfix kit, rest assured you will be seeing it here.
ADDENDUM - 15th August, 2015 -
In studying the Cross artwork for the kit a little more closely, I discover it appears to be based upon the so called Landstrom I version from Bjorn Landstrom's "The Ship". It could have been used as the cover for the Imai 1/225 "Santa Maria", which has yet another variant on the box top!

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