My Flying Fish Project

This time of year, I’m usually wrapping up any indoor projects in anticipation of more outdoor time during the onset of Spring. So with some trepidation, I drove to the house of Greg, one of my gym rat buddies. He said he had a little fix-up project that I could have for free. The stipulation being that I couldn’t just stash the item into a closet and forget about it. I had to actually make it presentable again.

Greg ushered me into his den and pointed out a dilapidated looking model ship. He told me the model was built by his older cousin who is moving to Minnesota in search of work. Greg’s cousin wants everything liquidated from his apartment in order to start fresh in his new city and home.

Just looking at the model, I knew it was a 19th Century tall ship. It had a somewhat familiar profile. The shape and style of her hull along with the number of masts and sail mounts meant that she was a clipper ship. The state of disrepair, though, made me think of “The Flying Dutchman”, the mythical, haunted, tattered Dutch Man ‘O War hulk that is forbidden from ever docking at her home port, doomed to sail forever.

I love the grand old sailing ships, so I accepted Greg’s offer. We carefully loaded her into the trunk of the ol’ Camry for her voyage to dry dock…my kitchen table.

I took stock of the thing to assess just what I’d gotten myself into. First of all, she was much larger than any other ship in my fleet. She measured, 77cm (30″) long by 43cm (17″) tall. She appeared to have all the furled sails. All the masts were in place. The main mast was intact and needed no repair. The foremast had some major damage, but the mizzenmast (rear) only needed some minor tweaks. The rigging was pretty much intact, but there were some breaks in a few places. Those breaks looked tricky and required some fine dexterity to fix.

Otherwise, the entire ship was coated with dust and cobwebs. She was tawdry in appearance. I brought the ship to the backyard where I blew off most of the dust and the larger spiderwebs. Then, where I could, I used a small dry paintbrush to knock off some of the worst dirt.

I brought her back in to study the shapes and necessary work. I needed to find out the name of the ship in order to properly restore her. I knew she wasn’t the Cutty Sark, the most popular ship model by far (I have two of them), nor the Sea Witch, almost as popular for ship collectors. It certainly was not the Gorch Fock, either. I surfed the web and finally found the exact match. My ship was The Flying Fish.

At last, I was able to see where all the parts fit and how they related to each other. Finally, I had some visual ideas as to get her ship shape and ready for display.

I had to clean everything. I used the dry paintbrush on all the sails, rigging and deck. It was really tricky to get behind all the rigging, but I managed with several Q-Tips soaked in Pledge furniture cleaner. The foremast repairs were made with Elmer’s Glue-All and then clamped in place with standard clothespins.

Finally, I brought out a spool of white sewing thread and began the replacement of some of the rigging. That was the most difficult job because I had to duplicate the lengths and positions from the other side. For instance, there were some serious breaks on the starboard side of the bow. I duplicated the intact connections found on the port side of the bow.

These repairs took up much of an afternoon into early evening. At last, I was able to clean up the rest of the hull and the display mount and show her off to the world.

I phoned Greg and invited him over to “christen” the repaired heap. We placed The Flying Fish on a shelf in my music room and declared her completed.


The Blue Jay of Happiness loves the story of how the real Flying Fish raced the clipper ship Swordfish from Boston around the horn of South America to San Francisco.  She won the race on February 10th, 1852. She took 98 days for the entire voyage.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Hobbies, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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