I just heard the sad news that the Hacchoro organization, which operates a pair of these replica bonito fishing boats, is shutting down. It was only a matter of time. When I visited Yaizu in 2016 and was given the opportunity to look over the boats up close, it was clear that they were deteriorating. I was told at that time that when the boats were no longer useable that they would not be rebuilt or replaced. To my knowledge, these are the largest wasen that were still in operation. I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to see them up close before they were gone for good.
The Hacchoro measured 13-meters long, or just over 42 feet. The name literally means “8 oars”. These boats could also be rigged with three masts and sails when the winds were favorable. They vessels were used for bonito fishing and each carried as many as a dozen fishermen. The boats would travel to the fishing grounds and use a pole and line method for catching fish.
For more information about these boats of Yaizu, check out my post:
On my Shipmodeler site, there is an overview of my build of the Woody Joe kit:
Also, my notes for building the Woody Joe kit are here on Wasenmodeler:
And, finally, if you want to get the Woody Joe kit, order yours from Zootoyz. They provide good pricing and excellent service:
Hacchoro at Zootoyz.jp
If you’re interested in building the kit, I’m considering doing a new build of an “upgraded” version of the kit, using my the notes I took on my 2016 visit to Yaizu, in addition to some other materials I’ve collected.
The Hacchoro replica boats were built with much enthusiasm and fanfare in the mid-to-late 90’s. Now, more than 20 years later, they are out of service. It’s not unexpected. Boats of this type were made for harsh use and not intended to last a long time. Much research was done to re-create them in the first place, and that work is not lost. Perhaps the Hacchoro will be back again one day, if only for a time. Ω
A couple weeks ago, I reached a dilemma about the kobaya’s paint scheme. I’m trying to stay as true as I can to the 1868 notes by Armand Paris. He describes the lower hull, hanging beams and rail stanchions as painted in red lacquer. He then describes the interior deck area as being all painted a “blood red”.
This suggests two different shades of red, and there’s only one model I’ve seen that displays two shades. It is a model of the large gozabune Tenchi-maru, which was kept in use right up to the beginning of the Meiji restoration, 1868. From what I can tell, the model was part of the Tokyo Maritime Science Museum. Since the main museum is closed, I don’t know what the status is of this model.
But, since my kobaya also was apparently in use up until the start of the Meiji restoration, it might makes sense that dark red was common for the decks of these state ships, with red and black lacquered exteriors.
Model of the famous gozabune Tenchi-maru. Note the dark red deck areas, with the lighter red color for the hull.
I brought my Kamakura period sea boat to the Nautical Research Guild Conference, which was held this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had some last minute work to complete, but finished in time for the model display.
Kamakura Period Sea Boat (鎌倉時代の海船) at the 2018 Nautical Research Guild Conference.
Preparing it for the display took a bit of last minute work. I hadn’t put the remaining oars on until I was actually in the hotel the night before. The reason for the delay was mostly due to my taking the model to the October meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights. Carrying around of model of this nature, or any nature I suppose, has certain hazzards associated with it. I had taken the model to the meeting of the South Bay Model Shipwrights the night before with no problems whatsoever.
Just a quick update on the model as I continue to make progress in small increments.
You may recall that this boat has one large sail. I don’t know if I will mount a sail on it or not. I find it rather interesting how the lowered mast is stowed. I think I have a method for creating the sail, which was made from rice-straw matting, not cloth. But, I will have other opportunities to make that, and it would probably be simpler and more realistic at a larger scale.
In any case, I also have the full set of oars I made. I’ve decided that even though the museum models I’ve seen show the boat equipped for sculling, that my interpretation of early scroll paintings suggest they were rowed and not sculled. Also, I started to thinking about the side-to-side motion involved in sculling, and I see only rope bindings on these oars in all cases (museum models).
I can’t see how rope bindings would be able to take the amount of side-to-side pressure without loosing very quickly. If rowed, the binding would simply be to hold the oar and keep it from slipping. All the force of propulsion from the oars are taken by the beam extensions of the ship.
As if my work wasn’t coming along slowly enough, a car accident and heavier work load managed to bring my ship modeling of all types to a standstill. After nearly two months of making no progress on anything, I finally found myself in a position to move forward again on the Umibune. I didn’t managed to figure out too much regarding the making of scale figures for the model, but I did finish tying the bindings on the rails. I also decided on how I wanted to finish the aft deckhouse, or yakata.
I basically returned to the idea of installing only lower panels on the sides of the structure. There seem to be a multitude of ways that artists and model makers have interpreted this design, so I just went with something I recall seeing in a painting. Is it accurate? There really doesn’t appear to be any way to know for sure. But, it seems reasonable. In the photos below, you can see the panels before installation, as well as how they look in place on the model. I originally built these slightly oversized, allowing me to adjust them to fit.
I must confess that I haven’t done much on the umibune model itself. I’ve mostly been working out details on how to make or modify figures for it. I’ve been using wire frames, modifying plastic figures, etc., trying to develop some skills that will work for me. More on this later.
I’ve also been testing out a way to make the large square sail for it. It’s a little different from other sails because sails weren’t made from cloth at that time in Japan. Instead, they were made from straw mat. They were heavy and bulky and you certainly didn’t want to get them wet. I’ve been looking at how these have been modeled on museum models and one large scale 1/10-scale model that someone sent me photos of.
Model that was on display during Douglas Brooks’ work at a museum in Kobe in 2016.
So, I drilled out the rogui on which the ro, or sculling oars, pivot. I used a sharp point to start the hole and finished up using a small drill in a Dremel rotary tool. Because I’m starting to consider painting the model, I’m going to hold off on adding the pins to the rogui until some later time.
Also, I found more structural work to complete before I have to deal with the rails, so I’m putting that assembly off for the moment.
Today, I finished the remaining mortises. I did these the same way as the ones done earlier, laying out strips of tape to maintain even spacing, but the mortises at the todate (transom) and the miyoshi (stem), were a little smaller and slightly closer together.
One of the detail features of this vessel is that the railings are fastened to the beams by rope ties. There may have been more to it than that on the real boat. I have seen where a wooden key is used to keep two parts in alignment, while a rope binding holds them together. That may be the case here. But, all that really matters is what can be seen, so it’s important that the bindings make sense and they are all the same.
While I’m waiting for the urushi, there is still more work to do on the hull, as well as more design problem solving as well. The main feature needed next are all the mortises. Mostly these are along the bottom edge of the upper hull plank. In addition, for the lower planks, there are mortises at the bow and stern edges. Technically, there would also be mortises at the bow edge of the upper plank and ones all along the bottom edge of the lower plank. But, these apparently do not have metal plates covering them. Most likely, these are plugged and painted over, so you wouldn’t see them anyway.
These mortises measure out to be approximately 5mm long at this scale, with a 4mm separation between them. To help position these evenly, I first lined the edge of the plank with tape, tryng to keep and even alignment about 2mm from the edge of the plank.
I then took some more tape and cut two long strips, one 5mm wide and another 4mm wide. From this I cut short strips crosswise and laid them into place, alternately, to create a pattern for the positions of the mortises. To cut the mortises, I used a 5mm wide Japanese carving chisel and a second chisel that I ground down to a width to 1mm.
Below, you can see some of the mortises I cut and the pattern of tape I used to create the proper spacing. the section on the right has been completed and the tape removed. On the left, I have yet to start cutting.
The Paint Scheme from Paris
Having made some great progress on the model, it’s time to begin consideration of the paint scheme. From the very start, as a gozabune, it’s been very clear that this is a highly ornate ship, painted in black and vivid red lacquers, and decorated with gold trim.
Model of a large gozabune I found on the Internet.
I’ve noted that modeler Yukio Nakayama’s gozabune models, as well as those made by other Japanese ship modelers, are painted inside and out. Pretty much everything except the decks. This left me wondering how I would end up finishing this model.
I’ve been in a quandary because I do like the look of the interior painted bulwarks and beams with the bare wood deck. But, I recently looked more closely at the notes on the Paris drawings and discovered that interior painting information is actually there in addition to the exterior info.
Another gozabune model found on the Internet.