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Meta by bolin - Billing Boats - 1:40 - original fore-and-aft schooner rig

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About a year ago, an offer was made on a Swedish model building forum of a barely started model of Billing Boats Meta. At the time, I had just started to work on my Sloop from Roslagen and had begun to read about the costal sailers and small workboats of the late sailing period in the Baltic. I was considering a fore-and-aft schooner as a possible future subject. When I learned that Meta originally had such a rig, I reached out to the man offering the model. As it turned out, he lived just 15 minutes away, and I went over an evening in August last year.


He told me that he had gotten the model in about 79 and had started to build it. But soon he went of to university, and it was abandoned. It had then been sitting in first his parent's house, and then in his own basement. Hopefully waiting to be finished. Now he had sold his house and planned to move to something smaller. Apparently he still felt for the model, as he had kept it all these years, and had now reached out to offer it to someone to complete.


What I got was the box with all material and fittings, and the bulkheads and keel assembled.





As can be seen from the pictures, this kit was made before the introduction of laser cutting. The paler wood looks like Obeche and the darker strips as Walnut. The pale wood is relatively soft and has quite visible grain, but is otherwise of good quality and clean cut. I plan to replace some, possibly all, of the wood with better quality. The same goes for the fitting, a few pieces looks usable, others must be replaced. The brass belaying pins looks OK, while the plastic blocks and dead eyes are terrible.


When I got it, the keel and bulkhead assembly was slightly twisted. It might have been assembled such, but I though that it had been lying on the side for many years in a basement. I bought a building slip from Hobbyzone, soaked the assembly and put it to dry for several months while straightened in the building slip.


It did not turn out totally straight, the last bulkhead must have been misaligned when installed. I have not decided if I should disassemble the offending bulkhead, or if I can correct it in place with shims on one side and filing on the other?


My plan is to modify the model to make the model look like the ship was originally built. In a future post I will present what I have found out about so far, and what I plan to modify  in the model to get her to look like it.

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Chris, you are more than welcome to join.


As promised, I will start with a brief history of Meta.


Meta was built in 1915 in Barth, Germany (between Stralsund and Rostock on the Baltic coast). She was originally delivered to a captain of the same town. Later she sailed from what was then the German town Stettin (now  Szczecin in Poland). In 1925 she was sold to Denmark, where she stayed until 1927.


Meta was built in oak and was rigged with a fore-and-aft schooner rig. By this, she was one of the last pure sailing working ships. This is the same time as three-island tramp steamers were taking over most of the sea trade, and large ocean liners were cruising the high seas. Small working ships like this where delegated short coastal trade and the rig must be as simple as possible to handle by a small crew.


In 1927 Meta was sold to Stocken on the west coast of Sweden. At the same time, the first 40 hp help motor was installed. It is also from this time the first photos I have found comes. Some local enthusiasts from Stocken have put together a brief history of the ship ( http://www.foreningenstocken.se/PDFer/Tremastskonaren-Meta.pdf ). This provides the bulk of the information I have found about her.


The following picture is from that document. It looks like the ship is moving within a harbor without being towed, and there are ripples on the water at the stern that looks to be from a motor. I assume that the photo is from late 1920 to early 1930.


The picture shows several details regarding the original rig and the outfitting on deck. This, and some other pictures from the same document, will be my main source for reconstructing the original look of Meta.


In a future post, I will continue the history of Meta and describe why she got such a strange rig as she has on the box art of the kit.





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Continuing the history of Meta.


From 1927 to 1944 she stays at Stocken. She keeps on sailing as a cargo ship carrying things like sawn planks, timber, stone, coal, etc. All rather bulky and cheap material that doesn't perish if the ship is a bit slow.


In 1944, she is sold to Byxelkrok on the Swedish island Öland in the Baltic. There she continues as a cargo ship. After a few years, in 1948, a new stronger motor is installed. At the same time, the top mast seem to have been removed. There is a sketch from 1949 (which I cannot upload due to copyright restrictions) showing a new cabin, no top masts and a removed gaff on the mizzen mast.


In the middle of the 1950s the main mast is removed, and the bowsprit is shortened. She still carries cargo. Below she is pictured on the Fyris stream in Uppsala (Swededn) unloading grain to the mill. Judging by the cars in the background, the picture is from the late 50s or very first year of the 60s


In 1963 Meta eventually gives up the cargo trade. She is bought by a pair of art school students. They converted here to an art studio and an art gallery.


In 1965 or 66 she is outfitted as a "pirate" ship in a marketing campaign for a new soft drink.


A few years later, she is rebuilt for the role as "Charlotta of Carlshamn" in the filming of the Swedish novel "The emigrants". This is when she is given the jackass barque rig that is shown on the kit box art. In this form she starred in a couple of other films during the early 1970s, for example a less known version of Treasure Island by Orson Welles.


In the middle of the 70s she moves to the Mediterranean where she starts doing tourist charter trips, as shown here. And during a storm in December 1977 of the Greek island of Kelfonia she went under.


Since this last information is included in the build instruction in the kit, and the man I got it from had it in 1979, I conclude that the kit was introduced in 1978.


In a following post, I will outline what modifications I plan to do in the kit.

Edited by bolin
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Yes, she certainly had a long and varied life. I will only be able to represent her at one point in time.


As mentioned, I plan to model her as close as I can to what she would have looked when built. This means that I will deviate from the kit in several areas.



The basic shape of the hull I will keep as it is. There is no indication that she was altered significantly in that regard. I will however fill in the cut-out for the propeller in the dead wood area, as she originally had no motor. Furthermore, I don't have any other source of the hull shape than what the kit provides.

I will however reinforce the hull and add fillers in the bow to make the planking easier.



The shape of the stem and the bowsprit of the kit does not fit with the older photos.  Originally, she had a single spar bowsprit and the stem did not widen to support it.




This part does not seem to have been modified during the years. The transom and davits for the lifeboat seem to have been the same from the start. I will however replace the plastic lifeboat from the kit.


Deck houses and hatches

Originally there seem to have only been a low cabin in the aft and a small kitchen just aft of the foremast. I have not found any pictures that clearly show the hatches. The picture from Uppsala in the previous post show a main hatch, but the coaming looks too high, so it's probably not original.



The rig is of course the largest difference between the kit version and how she was originally built. When I measure in the photos I have concluded that the masts does not even stand in the same places. The mizzen has been moved forward a bit.

For the running rig, I will have to reconstruct that from general principles, none of the pictures I have shows enough details. Since I got the kit, the rigging of schooners has been a theme for my research and gathering of nautical information. One of the best sources I have found is Underhills "Masting and Rigging: The Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier", but there are others.


With all these changes, I will not have much help from the build instructions or plans in the kit. I will probably not use so much of the wood and fittings in the kit either. The quality is just not good enough. So, apart from the bulkheads that determines the hull shape, this will be mostly a scratch build.


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The first thing I have started with is to reinforce the hull structure by adding supports between all the bulk heads. This should prevent it from twisting back after I have corrected it, and give a more solid foundation for the planking.


I have also prepared and adjusted the positions and rake of the masts. It's easier to do this now, before planking and deck is added. The mizzen mast is moved a bit aft after I have measured its relative position in the photos.




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With the hull much stiffer, I can start with adjusting it to my liking. The first thing is to cut away the keel and stem. They are in plywood, and I want to replace it with nicer solid wood.




I have also made some experiments with painting the wood strips provided in the kit. It seems to be Abache, a soft wood with rather visible grain. It doesn't look good, and there is risk that I cannot cover it up with sanding filler and paint. So today I have ordered some better wood for the hull planking, the deck and the lifeboat.



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Today I got a package from MassivHolzWerkstatt in Germany with replacement wood.




Beech strips for hull planking and a piece of thicker (7 mm) beech for keel, stern and stem.


Maple for deck planking and for hull planks for the lifeboat that I will need to scratch build.


I have no experience with either type earlier, but with the good quality I got I look forward to learn how they work.

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