Something completely different today! Ha! I'm not that predictable!
When Warlord released the Black Seas game I heard the sirens' song. The 'ohh shiny' syndrome, I know. But I immediately fell in love with all those ships. Yes, of course, a lot of people pointed me at Langton and so on. But these vessels at this scale were pure eye candy.
After the first impression and plans of getting a starter pack with a couple of fleets (breathe came back to normal) I still wanted to do something involving ships. But I was responsible and decided against getting the starter pack (yet).
Fortunately the Wargames Illustrated magazine provided the solution, as they were giving a frigate as a freebie. A frigate would be all I needed. I would remove the thorn in the flesh, build a ship, yet it wouldn't be another life project (I already have too many of those!)
A frigate then!
First thing I had to do was to choose what kind of frigate would it be, what period would I like to represent... you know, basic research. I finally made up my mind. Late 18th Century was an age of discovery and expeditions. I liked that. I would rather go that way. So I chose the Frigate Princesa. Let me tell you a few data about her.
The Spanish Royal Navy ships had an official nomenclature (mainly, but not only, names of Saints), but many of them also had an alias, a nickname so frequently used that absolutely everyone used it instead of the official name. Sometimes you could even see the alias in the official records. This was quite customary, and many times the real name was eventually forgotten, as no one could determine which ship was that with the official denomination.
This is the case of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario (the Holy Patron of the Royal Navy at the time). Simply known as the Frigate Princesa. She was launched at San Blas shipyards (current Mexico) in 1778. Spain had been quietly supporting the American independence financially and so, but it was a matter of time thar war would explode against Britain (as in fact happened next year). So the trading routes of the Pacific towards the Philippines had to be protected on the eventuality of a clash with the British.
The exact specifications of the Princesa are lost to us, though we know the main info. In fact I think the Black Seas model belongs to a later development in ship building and the Princesa hull might be slightly smaller. Whatever the case is, historical disclaimer: I'm just an amateur. I wanted a ship. That's all. For all of you, button counters, I'm aware that this hull does not accurately represent the specific ship I'm aiming at. I'm also aware that I will not be able to reproduce the exact rigging of a 18th Century frigate. Now that we've settled that, relax and follow me.
Well, I think it's about time for a damn pic:
|Painting this was the very easiest part of all the process
Some info. First thing, colour. The Royal Ordinance for Naval Stations of 1776 established yellow and black for all ships. Any variations would require royal approval. This would remain this way until 1810, when yellow was replaced by white. The gun port-lids would remain yellow (I guess you British readers are used to the Nelson Chequer, but this was not the case).
They were supposed to be repainted every two years, but given the actual budgets, in reality all the ships lacked uniformity and captains usually painted them using whatever yellow paint they could buy (not specifically the ordinance yellow). Sometimes they even painted them with no yellow at all, so you can find red ships (later on officially approved) or whatever. There is even record of pure black ships (apparently black paint was cheap and easy to get!)
Until 1793, all the ships in the Royal Navy had the same figurehead, a lion rampant:
After that they could use a figurehead representing the alias of the ship (or even it's real name!). As the Princesa was launched in 1778 I needed a lion, something that is not provided within the options of the sprue.
|If you imagine that it's a lion and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it, you will eventually believe it's a lion
|Rigging and stuff!
Again, I'm not pretending to achieve a real rigging. It's absurd at this scale and it's way far beyond my skills. However, I will do my best to give an impression of a real rigging, reproducing the most important elements. I will not call this a tutorial, because that word implies that I know what I'm doing and that I have something to teach. I'm just showing what I did and will point out what worked best and what was a mistake, so you can make your own decisions if ever face the same problems. The Langton tutorial proved useful, yet in the end I studied the actual rigging of other Spanish frigates of the time, as different countries did some things differently.
|No, really, do not expect this from my model
I'll start with the masts and the stays. In order to keep working, I fixed the mizzenmast first:
|Simple thread, no messing with special stuff
|Then the mainmast
I used superglue and applied it with a toothpick. Even doing so I sometimes screwed things up, so you will need some patience.
|It looked promising, I felt happy, I thought this would be achievable
|OK, then the stay to the bowsprit
|Aha, this one is tricky!
Yet this step is important, as many other steps will depend on this one.You'll see in a minute
|From the mainmast topsail yard to the foremast
|Don't get me wrong. I was tired, yet felt optimistic
I guess this is getting fuzzy. I'll point out what I'm doing step by step:
|I told you, this spot is relevant
|Rigging for the jibs
|More. No, I'm not crying. I'm OK
|Finally, arrangements for the spanker sail
|Let's cross fingers for this to resist
|I could have used thread to suspend the boat, but that's more than enough for me
|Three dioptres and four glued fingers later, this is how she looks so far
I thought the stacked boats looked lame in the middle of all that rigging. I slowly managed to put some thread around them...
|I should have though of this before I glued them to the ship
|Then I added this small piece of thread...
|...and then another thread to the (imaginary) capstan. Told you, that spot was important!
Two things happened in this pic. First you can see I added rigging from the end of each yard to the correspondent mast (small arrows in the pic below). Besides, I started adding rigging from the end of the mainyard to the base of the mizzenmast.
|That was the way you moved he sails to let them interact with wind
|Just repeat the process with the rest of the &($%ing yards
|Don't forget about the bowsprit and its spritsail!
|THIS IS IT. All the rigging done. Little sanity left
Five years before, in 1774, Captain Bodega y Quadra (then a Ship Lieutenant) had sailed those waters, commanding a smaller frigate. They reached what today is known as Nootka, where they got back next year with some other ships (In fact what today is Vancouver Island was then named Quadra Island!). They reached Alaska, but weren't able to establish a settlement though, due to scurvy on board. However, Mourelle made some maps and charts of the whole area.
Mourelle's journal was sent to Madrid, where it was... acquired by British agents. Part of that diary and records of other expeditions were published in London in 1776 (Short Account of Some Voyages made by Order of the King of Spain, to Discover the State of West American Coast).
Using all those charts and info, James Cook explored the area and reached Nootka in 1778, so the Spaniards feared the British may establish a permanent settlement there. You could guess it was kind of personal for Bodega y Quadra and Mourelle. They would have loved to capture Cook (Spoiler: they didn't. Cook was killed in Hawaii that same year of 1779, more or less at the same time they left San Blas Naval Station).
They sailed north and explored different regions in Alaska, making detailed charts and maps (which were -this time lawfully- acquired by French explorer La Pérouse and later on published). For the rest of the AWI the Princesa was appointed to protect the Philippines and later on to enhance the supply of Alta California. This is the period I'm covering with this model.
Later on, from 1788 to 1794, with other captains, the Princesa sailed again to explore Alaska, reaching Unalaska, estabishing settlements in Nootka Sound and Neah Bay, and contacting the Russian posts and natives. But, as I said, I'm focusing on the previous period.
Let's go for more pics! What's next? Oh, yes. Sails.
Something that strikes me is that Warlord opted to distribute paper sails and shrouds, instead of providing any kind of plastic solution (I'd like to think that it's feasible, but I don't know if it's reasonable, economically speaking). I have to say I haven't seen them in person, but I thought there must (or should) be any other better solution than paper.
I found these wonderful kits by Navy Models & Books, which looked perfect for my purposes. Beware, they are pricey, at least compared to the actual plastic model! I doubt I could afford buying sails and shrouds for a complete fleet, but as this was going to be a one-shot project, I said 'what the hell, let's do it'
|I first painted them
|Oh, come on! All this work for this!?
|But I think I should have glued the sails first!
|Maybe that's the way everyone does it, but this was my first ship!
Then another unexpected problem . The spanker sail.
|It doesn't fit in here!
|I had to cut it!
The jibs weren't particularly difficult, but maybe a little bit challenging. The brass weighs and you have to compensate that with the thread. In the end I glued them all together, which is a terrible solution, but doesn't look that bad from a distance.
|I added some depth with a later paintjob and glued more thread to fix the jibs
|So all the sails are done
Final step was the battle ensign and pennant. As I'm portraying the Princesa in 1779, the current Spanish flag hadn't yet been designed, so I downloaded and printed the Royal Navy battle ensign:
|There was another (pretty similar) formal ensign for ceremonies
|Right. Any of these could have been the current Spanish flag
End of digression! Here you have the frigate Princesa, similar (I hope) to how she may have looked like in 1779, a year after she was launched:
|Subtitled 'how to lose sanity in just 247 easy steps'
What can I say. This is my first model ship. As I knew it was going to be a standalone project I allowed myself to add some extra details. No wonder if I was going to buy a fleet to play the game I would make things much easier. But it was a fun thing to do, just for the sake of it. It was mostly glue some end of thread and then paint any other thing I had lying around, so it's taken some time, I guess it's difficult to measure.
I don't have plans for any other vessels, but I have to admit that, now that I see the model finished, I still hear the sirens' song. I hope it won't be hard to resist, as I have loads of pending work, but yet... Have I told you that time when this ship, which was called...?