Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: Zvezda's 1/350 Scale "Santa Maria" (or, At Long Last, Some New Miniature Ships)

Not too long ago, I noticed that the Russian model company Zvezda was advertising a 1/350 scale model of the nao "Santa Maria". In light of the fact that their larger, 1/75 "Santa Maria" was either a licensed copy or in fact the same tooling as the old Heller Guillen version, I expected this newer, smaller kit to be the from the venerable French company as well.
I was wrong. Joyously wrong. 
This new "Santa Maria" is completely new tooling.
This new tooling is extremely fine and delicate, which runs contrary to most snap together models. This kit is also a part of a series of 1/350 period sailing ships from Zvezda, and like them can be built either full hull or waterline.
But whose interpretation is this? 
Initially, some early images I found of this new "Santa Maria" reminded me of the version designed by E.A. d'Albertis in 1892. However, when I got my first look at the tooling, it became immediately apparent that this was the version found in "Arquitectura De Los Naos y Galeones de Flota de Indies" (1991) by Jose Luis Rubio Serrano. 

Compared to the drawings I have on hand, and the measurements I have available, it is a pretty good match for his work, one of the smallest interpretations thus far. To be fair, Serrano used a range of dimensions to cover a range of size possibilities, meaning this model could be accurate from about 1/350 down to 1/400. 

The kit is molded in three colors, tan brown, black, and white, with the majority of the ship (hull, masts, etc.) in that very first color, naturally. The black sprue contains small details like the ships guns and standing rigging. Like many smaller model sailing ships from the past, the ratlines and shrouds have been molded. But, unlike many of those older kits, they are incredibly fine, if still a bit out of scale. An important detail here, though; Serrano's interpretation uses a modified southern method for standing rigging, with few ratlines (confined to a few shrouds). 
The white sprue has the sails. As previously mentioned, the molding on this kit is incredibly fine, and the sails are very thin, and in fact a bit translucent. The clips that hold the sails to the yards are a bit oversized.
Like many snap together models, in order for the model to be pressed together, some allowances have to be made. On the sails, that would be those clips. The masts, while very thin, also have attachment points for the ratlines that are rather large. Still, once the model is assembled, they probably won't draw much attention. 
Rounding out the model are a set of decal crosses for the fore and main sail.
The instructions are detailed, with a paint scheme covered on the last page. As Serrano didn't cover the ships color's, the color scheme is pretty much open to interpretation.
Unfortunately, there are some details that are missing or wrong. The windlass that Serrano includes on his drawings is absent, as is the riding bitt under the forecastle arch. The ship's boat is a bit small, and the quarter deck is molded integral with the main. The cannon appear to be from the wrong period (and none can be found on Serrano's plans), and the number of stanchions on the rails at the forecastle is short. There are some smaller details as well, such as flags, that would have been nice, but with some patience and tissue paper, one could always make their own.
Do I recommend the kit? While snap together kits are generally thought of, at best, items for beginners or, at worse, mere toys, this model is neither. It has very fine parts that can be easily damaged or lost, making it a challenge for the inexperienced. It is far more delicate than a toy. I hope to commence construction of my kit soon, once I muster up the courage. This is probably the smallest plastic model sailing ship I have ever seen with this level of detail and fidelity.
CORRECTION 9th Aug 2015 - The anchors are actually on the tan brown sprue. The text has been corrected to show this. - RRL
EDIT 10th Aug 2015 - Now that the model is under construction, I can report that there are indeed cabin windows molded. They are extremely fine as well. Also, closer examination of the Serrano drawings reveals that what I thought was a bow windlass is actually a riding bitt. Once more, the entry has been corrected to reflect this. - RRL

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