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BlueJacket Lobster Boat: A Review


Cathead
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BlueJacket Shipcrafters seems to be under-represented in build logs on MSW, despite their reputation as a quality American model company that’s been in business a very long time. I recently completed their Lobster Boat kit and thought I’d write up a quick review, as there aren’t any build logs for this kit on MSW (I didn’t do a log myself as I wanted a break from documenting model work and intended this to be a relatively quick, relaxing build). Overall, I enjoyed building this kit, though there were a few things future builders might consider.

cathead_lobsterboat_3.jpg.5fd877c1509a9faaa0b1d4e89f74deb6.jpg

Above is my finished model, built and named for my mother, who has long loved Maine, especially the Schoodic Peninsula. The number boards commemorate this year's birthday, when she'll receive this model. It's finished in the same green and white color as my current house.

 

Positives:

  • Good-quality materials. All the wood was solid and easy to work with, and the castings were clean and straightforward.
  • Clear and accurate plans. These matched the kit’s parts and were helpful as a reference. I could have used them to scratchbuild this without the instructions or materials.
  • Not too complicated. The kit might be tough for a complete beginner as it assumes a bit of knowledge, but almost anyone could figure these bits out and it’s pretty straightforward overall. It doesn’t have a lot of detail, which I think is good as it keeps the cost down and lets you choose whether you want to invest the time and money into creating a more detailed custom version.

Concerns:

  • The written instruction booklet is less than ideal. The black-and-white photos are very grainy and make it difficult to see any useful detail. For example, I was essentially unable to determine the planking pattern used because the photo was so blurry. Also, the text is presented in a long, linear block that could really use better organization and editing. Photos and drawings are often placed nowhere near their relevant text, resulting in lots of flipping back and forth trying to make sense of a given step. There is some "curse of knowledge" in places, where the instructions refer to a given part without defining what that is in real life or providing a clear diagram or label for the model.
  • Bow design. The kit’s default is to use a large carved block at the bow, rather than planking all the way to the stem.  With no experience, I had a very hard time carving and shaping this properly and finally gave up and reverted to planking the whole hull, something I have more experience in. That may just be my own problem, but it’s something a beginner should consider. Also, the added material needed to plank the whole hull (rather than just up to the bow block) meant that I exhausted the kit material and had to use a few pieces of my own scrap to complete the work. Beware of this potential if you decide to fully plank the hull rather than carving the bow.
  • A few oddities in the proper fit and size of pieces. For example, several of the hull frames really didn’t line up with the others, requiring me to add a 1/8” strip along the frame to match the flow of the planking or to carve/sand away material. Some of the cabin pieces also needed significant sanding or additions to form up properly. None of this was particularly difficult, but did mean that builders should be careful to check everything before gluing. For example, see the following two photos:

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In the photo above, note that the run of lower planking really bows upward at the third frame from the stern. I somehow missed this when checking my fairing and planking run. It isn't really noticeable on the finished model because both the paint and position hide it from clear view, but this clearly needed extra material added to the frame.

cathead_lobsterboat_2.jpg.80d476d42cba5e2fe87503c9fcd75dc4.jpg

In the photo above, you can see the thickness of extra material I needed to add to both sides of the second frame from the bow to match the natural flow of the planks. It's more obvious on the right side due to the shadow effect, but it's the same for both. The fourth frame from the bow has similar material attached to widen it, while other frames needed to be sanded down by a similar margin. Getting a smooth run of planking was more work than I expected, though not particularly difficult.

 

Here are two more photos of the completed model from various perspectives:

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Overall, I certainly recommend this model as a fun build. True beginners should be cautious and would benefit from carefully thinking through every step, test-fitting everything, and doing some research on the side to understand certain aspects of kit-building that are taken for granted by the instructions. Although I mildly criticize the instructions and a few parts above, they were still far better than those of the Corel Ranger that I built before this. Overall, the concerns were minor and easily dealt with by common sense and careful work, and the result is a quite attractive model (in my humble opinion). It has a lot of potential for adding extra detail if you really want a realistic appearance; for my mother, I was happy with a representative model that captures the feel of these iconic American work boats without much fuss. This was my first BlueJacket kit and I would definitely purchase another.

Edited by Cathead
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I forgot to mention one related point. I also purchased the separate paint kit for this model, but had a serious problem. I have always used water-based paints because of their easier cleanup and lower toxicity (I work in my living room and both my wife and I are fairly sensitive to chemical odors). I did not realize that the paint kit was oil-based until I received it (although I should have as the list includes thinner). The odors from the open bottles permeated our house and gave me nausea and a headache. Even when I tried painting outside, when I brought the dry model back indoors it still reeked of chemical paint smell. I closed up the entire paint kit, set it aside, and never touched it again. I used water-based paints instead with no problems, as is my normal practice.

 

So if anyone would like a complete, nearly unused set of paints for this kit, I'd be happy to part with them rather than having the bottles sit around going unused. If you're less sensitive than I am, or have a better painting setup, they may well work great for you. Just not for me.

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Eric:

A very nice build.  I like the colors too.  I built the Bluejacket Lobster boat with the fiberglass hull and the instructions and plans appear to have been much better with the kit I did as it's a newer kit and the instructions in their more recent offerings just keep getting better.  I considered the same green color you used but used a lighter green.  I attached two photos of my build.

 

I agree with the paint issue - I switched to acrylics many years ago.  When I opened the old Floquil paints my wife would immediately start to complain about the smell.  For peace I started to investigate acrylics and have not used any solvent based paints other than rattle can primers (occasionally) and then out doors.  Since Badger introduced their Stynylrez primers I use them indoors.  In fact Mary will often be in the shop at the same time I am airbrushing with the Badger paints and doesn't mind the very slight odor.  It's great being able to paint w/o a respirator - though I do use a spray booth - for the particulate issue not harmful fumes.

 

What's next on the building board?

 

Kurt

Pilothouse-pt3.jpg

Stbd - for NRG.jpg

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Nice, Kurt, thanks for sharing! Your extra detail looks especially nice.

 

Your shade of green seems more marine, but I chose the exact color scheme I did because it's quite literally the same as our house. After I rejected the kit paints, I decided to use the house paints I already had on hand for our siding and trim  as I'm budget-conscious and really didn't want to order yet more paints (I wish I'd thought of that in the first place). I know that house paints are generally not good for models because the texture is so much coarser, but given the large scale and low detail of this particular kit, I thought it would work well enough, and as it's a gift for my mother any subtle reduction in textural quality is overruled by the "cool" factor of a meaningful color scheme. If you look closely you can see the texture isn't ideal, but it looks great from more than a foot or so away, and that's good enough for me on this one.

 

Next up I'm finally getting back to my long-delayed steamboat Arabia project, which has been languishing all summer. It's still in design mode but I'm close to actually doing some physical mockups that will help me move forward.

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I also built this lobster boat and had similar experiences as cathead: bulkheads not correct and needing shims etc. I also thought the plans were very poor and the instructions often bore little relationship to the plans. The wood was brittle and I was constantly fixing broken parts. Over all I was very disappointed with the kit, as I have been with other the Bluejacket kits I built: ironclads Monitor and Virginia.

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Ragove, that's interesting that you had quality issues, as I didn't. The only part I broke was the very thin port-side door frame which sticks up alone for part of the build, and that was my fault for rough handling. I was able to reattach and brace it with no problems. Otherwise the frames stood up well to sanding and shaping, and the planking material was strong but flexible.

 

I did hear from Nic at BlueJacket (I hope it's ok to share this) that the kit is due for an upgrade, which would be exciting as it's fundamentally an interesting model and well worth building.

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On 10/18/2017 at 10:55 AM, Cathead said:

Ragove, that's interesting that you had quality issues, as I didn't. The only part I broke was the very thin port-side door frame which sticks up alone for part of the build, and that was my fault for rough handling. I was able to reattach and brace it with no problems. Otherwise the frames stood up well to sanding and shaping, and the planking material was strong but flexible.

 

I did hear from Nic at BlueJacket (I hope it's ok to share this) that the kit is due for an upgrade, which would be exciting as it's fundamentally an interesting model and well worth building.

i purchased the kit around 2008, I think it was, when we were visiting Maine and I stopped into their facility in Searsport, ME and got around to building it just a couple years ago.  Perhaps the kit had been up-graded since that time.  It might even have been a Laughing Whale kit in a Bluekacket box. 

 

I have a Laughing Whale model of Slocum's "Spray"  that I had been sort of reluctant to start.  I just re-read his "Sailing Alone Around the World" and that has encouraged me to give it a go.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nice builds, Eric and Kurt.  

 

I also built the bluejacket lobster boat.  I built it in the first half of 2016 before I discovered MSW.  My experience with the kit was much like Eric's.  I agree with pretty much everything in his review.  However,  I was able to manage carving the bow blocks without any prior carving experience.  It took time and patience but ended up working well for me.  I purchased some real carving knives for this which helped a great deal.   Even with the carved bow blocks, I also ran out of material for planking.  I am convinced the kit just did not include enough.  I also broke some of those cabin bits that are sticking up during part of the build, but they were easily repaired.

 

Note that bluejacket does rate this model a "6" on their 9-point difficulty scale, so that could, perhaps, be used to justify some of the lacking details in the plans, and some of the assumptions of prior knowledge.

 

Here's a picture of my finished model.miss_rita_001.thumb.jpg.1520ba94073db457abd2bf2d1669dd29.jpg

 

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Three nice lobsterboats!

 

Eric, I don't believe that the reverse curve three frames forward of the transom is incorrect unless your kit actually included a lines drawing showing something different to compare your model to.

 

These boats require a wide stern and rather flat hull form at the after end to avoid trimming by the stern when carrying heavy loads and "squatting" under power. They also favored a rather deep hull form forward. Had this deep hull form been carried all the way to the transom, drag under way would have been greatly increased and flow to the rudder and propeller restricted.  The reverse curve that you are seeing is the transition between the deep V foreody and the flat, shallow, afterbody.

 

Roger

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Roger,

 

Thanks for your input. I'm not sure if we're talking about the same thing or not, so please bear with me. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you; I definitely understand why the hull overall transitions from the very deep forward section to the very shallow, flat stern section. What I meant was, when looking at the run of planking from the transom over the next few frames forward, on the underside of the hull, the third frame (if you count the transom as one) was noticeably shallower than the frame on either side, meaning that the planking either dips in a "U" up into that frame or it needs to be shimmed for a smooth run of planking. I wasn't talking about the shape of the hull overall, but a localized dip in the run of the hull.

 

As I type that, I wonder, maybe you did mean that there's not supposed to be a smooth run from the fuller middle to the flatter stern, but rather a sort of reverse S-curve that transitions more abruptly into the flat stern? This is hard to describe by words.

 

John,

 

In my kit, BlueJacket supplied two cleats for the bow and two that are placed near the stern, roughly opposite the stern rubbing strips. You can see them in black on my model. Were you referring to some additional cleats that should also be at the stern?

Edited by Cathead
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  • 2 years later...

I just finished this kit. I am 73 and have been building models and constructing things most of most of my life singe the age of 8. My father was much better at them than I am but I still try my damned best to do as well as he.

I am a master electrician and when work was slow I have spent most of my time at some kind of craft or another, and do not claim to be a master craftsman at making boat and ship models, but I am much better than any amateur. 

 

My first comment has to do with the person or persons who wrote the instructions for building the kit. They have to be dyslexic at best and have written them with no rhyme or reason. You are always reading some thing and then the image is 4 or 5 pages later and in the next paragraph the image they are speaking of is 4 pages prior. Its obvious that the model the pictures are showing is of balsa and the new kits are made of bass wood plywood and that would be OK if the Chinese who are making the kits realized that it should be manufactured by assembling the wood cross grained, but it is not. On any piece that is under 1 inch wide you can not even brush it with a finger without it braking off especially on things that you have to work around until the cockpit is installed and to that point you have already planked the hull, carved the bow, filled and sanded the hull to a point it is ready for paint so for most of time it has been sitting on the two 1/4 inch pieces that hold up the roof for the cabin. I gusseted them at least 3 times each and worse yet, wait until you put the framework for the roof on the cockpit and then try and glue the roof to it

 

. The pieces used for the windows in the cockpit will amaze you too. If you even so much as touch the crappy "plywood between them the break into pieces.  Along with that if you put any piece on top of the blueprint it is undersized and often not even the same profile. Another thing the computer programmer should know is that you CAN'T PUT I INCH INTO A 1 INCH HOLE! (Talk to a machinist, they will explain what I am talking about.) 

 

Even the display base hat 1/2 inch holes and 3/8 inch dowels meant to fit them. Some of the bulkheads were cut off center and even with the part number on the same side the cut out is not centered. Just **** poor manufacturing. 

 

 

 

 

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