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Martha by Boxbuilds - FINISHED - Hooper Island Draketail - Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

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I just started a nice model of the Martha, a Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum model of a Hooper Island draketail,  a turn of the 20th Century workboat.  These bay water boats are unique in their narrow beam and long length. Many sport a mid-engine powerplant and a low cockpit.  Taking their design from torpedo boats and having a slopped transom, they look a bit like ducks, hence the name.  


The kit is the best quality I have ever attempted.  The CBMM kit starts with detailed instructions whose explanations are clear and expressive enough to avoid confusion.  The hull is machined basswood that only needed light sanding to be ready for assembly.   Wooden components were laser cut and completely cut through...some kits require you to clean up or finish the cuts...and are easy to  extract.  Line, metal parts, "windows", and decals are clearly packaged and "clean."  It even has a nicely formed wooden base plate for the stand.


Assembly is progressing quickly.  Parts are fitting tightly although slight sanding is sometimes necessary.  So far this is great fun .....so I'll get on with it


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Ebay.  It was of particular interest because we are frequent visitors to the CBMM.  St Michaels is a great town and the museum is very informative.  The lighthouse is open for visits and the in workshops of the museum one can see progress being made on boats in work as well as other life size exhibits. I've gotten some great photos there.  I also like the character of unique style boats and the draketail fits that bill (pardon the duck pun).

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This model has gone together well.  The instructions pointed out cautions that proved worthwhile.  Like any kit there are issues of fit and alignment that took some care. 

      Sanding the machined hull was somewhat nerve wracking.  Yes, I can sand a block of wood, lol.  The hull had such nice lines and was so precise that I feared taking off too much in a spot and messing up the conformity.  That especially applied to the slight grooves on the bow resulting from the machining. I opted for a very conservative approach and some fine lines can still be discerned.  Maybe paint will further smooth the lines.  

   The keel post is 1/32" thick.  Instructions call for a drilled hole in it for the propeller shaft.............good luck.  I will be remanufacturing that piece from scrap and trying again.

   The biggest deviation I made so far was to start painting sooner than instructed.  The forward cabin bulkhead and the keel are candidates to be broken if the ship is overhandled.  So I painted and sanded the bits in situ on their parts boards. This had the added advantage of dealing with small and delicate parts since the attachments to the board gave them stability and purchase when being sanded. 

  The rudder line guides are VERY small and delicate.  Removing them from the board was possible but the result was hard to handle and looked out of scale.  I substituted half of a split ring of equal size.

  I made seat cushions from dark red material for the benches in the cabin.

  I attempted to tack the pot metal rudder control blocks to the deck but the castings were too small and fragile so I ended up following the instructions and glueing them to the pads on the deck.  I made sure to clean and widen the rudder line feed holes in the block before installation.

   The side coamings went on fairly well.  Instructions called for careful alignment, clamping and gluing.  I glued sections of the coaming rather than the whole piece.  That gave me more control and accuracy.


In researching these workboats, I looked for equipment normally found aboard them.  Martha herself is not a crabbing boat, by purpose, but I wanted the option to illustrate how a ship like her might have been used.  While there were as many uses for them as there are variations of design, I chose the soft shell crab harvesting by a small outfit based in the Hooper Island or St Michaels area.  I have located photographs of the boats in use and am attempting to replicate their equipment...at least what I can see.  Small tools aside, I have cobbled two dredges, buckets, crab pails, life ring, and ice chest.  To accomplish my illustration AND have a kit version of the Martha, I am going to fashion a false deck on which to attach the equipment so it looks natural but which allows me to easily remove the "working" look. How to do that is a part of the design I haven't mastered yet...to be continued



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I am finishing the trim and rails and starting the cabin.  I also finished the false deck, weathered it, and created support for the dredge uprights. The pic shows the kit deck that will be painted white. Also the other paraphernalia and false deck are shown.  The dredges are made with soft wire. Uprights are basswood.   Other pieces were 3D printed from my own designs 
   I had a few problems of my own making.  RTFI READ INSTRUCTIONS.  They directed when to glue and I skipped over that.  I tend to skim directions and glue to drawings.  80 percent of the time you get away with it but that other 20 percent is destructive.   Then when I needed a clamp to gently squeeze parts towards each other the clamp popped close and took out the windshield frames. Luckily there’s enough scrap to remake the lost parts. 
   I talked about paint parts in their frames. It should be cautioned that such methods can make it trickier to extract the parts.  Be careful with small, fragile pieces or they’ll need repair. Sanding the edges will be important. 
  I made a console and printed a wheel based on cockpit photos of random crabboats. I couldn’t find a good one of Martha’s interior and I’m pretty sure my guess of location is off.  I welcome input re that. 



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  • 2 weeks later...

Martha is essentially built.  It still needs its decals and touching up.  The build had some interesting challenges but was pretty straightforward.  

    The laser cut parts fit well.  Its important to pre-fit and sand a bit.  The cabin takes care because there is a tight dependency to getting all the pieces in line.  The steering mechanism is a combination of line, pullies, and a steering lever.  The pullies are soft metal.  The small holes the lines run through should be cleaned up and enlarged a bit.  There are fairleads for the lines which tie off on the steering controls and the rudder lever and run along one side, up to the cabin and back in one large loop. The fairleads were wooden, small and really fragile.  I managed to break one and decided to use half of a split ring instead.  Once the cabin is built it is unlikely the line could be properly run, so do it before.  

    I have decided to modify the boat and make it "Martha" at work....at least my impression of a day on the bay.  



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To make Martha “work” I reviewed pics of other small crab boats on the Chesapeake to identify some of the equipment used. In short, I added crab scrapes, blue crabs, crab tub, buckets, net, life vest, gas can, toolbox, fire extinguisher, cooler,  nav light, floatation cushions, floor grate, gauges, sorting board and ropes. 
  To give miss Martha a slightly lived in look I put in a false deck that was weathered. I added thick layers of paint representing many years of maintenance. Woodwork was slightly worn with sandpaper after staining. Scuffs and dirt were applied with diluted mud colored paint. Watery black was helpful where oily grime was appropriate.  
    The crab scrapes were made with soft wire and netting.  I think the wood frame is instrumental in deploying and retrieving the scrapes.
   I used my 3D printer to make 2 crabs as a mount for the stand. I generally use creatures and figures (golden) to hold my models.  To hold the identity tag, since my last name is Boeck as in Bock beer, I use golden goats on all my jobs.....kind of a signature. I tagged Martha with the CBMM logo to credit them with this great kit. 
 Now, on to the next 






The steering mechanism on these boats is unique.  Controls are in the aft, near the engine compartment, not in the cabin.  Looking at the boat's stern a long vertical lever, blocks, ropes and a steering arm are visible.  I drew a little diagram to help illustrate the mechanism.  A line is tied to the vertical, steering lever.  The line travels from the steering lever through one block and ties to the rudder steering arm.  From there the line is passed through the other block, through feeds along the boat bulwark into the cabin, around the perimeter of the cabin and back out the other side of the cabin.  Finally the line continues through the feeds and terminating at the vertical steering lever.  By moving the lever to the back of the boat the lines pull the rudder to the left and vice versa.  With the throttles attached to the engine housing and the adjacent steering lever, the boatman can control his craft.  







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