Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hello to you, Spanish Ladies

Obviously, the title for the last post was a takeoff on the "Day-oh!" lyric from Harry Belafonte's famous Banana Boat Song.  For this post title though, I've gone a lot farther back than the 1950's.

This post is particularly exciting to me, as it means I am coming close to finishing part of the Trafalgar Project.  Now that these two are built,  I only need to finish two Montañes class ships of the line for  the Spanish fleet to be completed.  After those are done, I will wrap up the French fleet (4 ships to build) and then the British (8 left to build).

Like some of my other recent builds, there's not a lot to say about these ships.  Good old 74 gun ships of the line, the backbones of almost every fleet in the Age of Sail.  One ship of the two is "at quarters," so is a bit more bristly than its companion.  What really sets the two ships apart are their paint jobs, and I'll talk about that after the photos.

Like I said, the two ships are basically identical.  The ship at quarters is at fighting sail, but other than that and the upper stern decoration, they are the same.  In fact, their catalog numbers are NS3 and NS4.  What I find interesting is how much different they look due to the paint job.  The ship with the single yellow stripe appears to be smaller than the other one, even though this isn't so.  Given the side-by-side photos of these two paint schemes, it's easy to see how someone on another ship several miles away, looking through a telescope or the naked eye, might mistake the ship on the right of the photo as being all black.  I tried to take a picture from 15 feet away (3 scale miles), but my current phone camera isn't up to the task, unfortunately.

The single-striper will stand in for the San Justo, as I think she was one of the ships mentioned as being "black" by some British observers.  I remember reading it somewhere, but can't find the source now.  There is, however, a model at the Greenwich museum that support the idea that she was all black.  It comes from a diorama of the battle that was originally built in the 1840's.  The diorama was disassembled in 1978 and all that is left are the model ships.  The models are not on display in the museum, but there are pictures of them on the museum website.  This is the San Justo:

You can find this photo online at:
This was not a standard paint job for the models, as this photo of San Ildefonso shows:

This photo is located at:
Pictures of the diorama taken before its disassembly are at: .  Overall, I'm pretty confident that the paint scheme on my San Justo will pass inspection.

This is the last post for 2019.  When I post the finished Montañes ships we will be in a new decade!  In that post, I'll point out some interesting differences between those ships and these.  Those differences are a cause of some brow furrowing for me where Langton miniatures are concerned.  What is it, you ask?  Well, I will only drop you a hint by saying that Vol Williams already knows what I'm going to talk about. 🤔  Tune in next time!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Ray-o, Ray-ay-ay-o!

The last two posts shared a title, since both of them were about the Texas Broadside convention.  In case you didn't recognize the line, it's from a Jimmy Buffett song entitled, "A Pirate Looks at Forty."  Since my main game was about capturing prizes in the Age of Sail, I thought the lyrics of the chorus fit pretty well:
Yes I am a pirate
Two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder
I'm an over forty victim of fate

  For the title of this post, I've gone a little farther back in time than 1974.  Even with that, for those of us who are "of a certain age," this one should be an easy guess as well.  Just as with the previous title, this one is modified but only very slightly.

Our subject this time is the Spanish 100-gun ship Rayo, which according to Google Translate means "Thunderbolt" or "Lightning" in English.  Yes, I skipped the obvious Bohemian Rhapsody jokes, and yes, you're welcome.  The history of the real ship is pretty interesting, which is why there's a brief history lesson before we get to the usual pictures.

She was originally launched in 1749 as an 80-gun ship of the line named San Pedro, and was commissioned into the Spanish Navy in 1751.  She had the usual spells of activity and idleness during her career, and was laid up from 1798 to 1803.  She was thought to be in poor shape by 1803, but her construction from tropical hardwoods (she was built in Havana) meant that she was still mostly sound.  She was taken and converted into a 100-gun ship in 1803 by enclosing her upper deck, similar to how Santisima Trinidad went from 112 to 136 guns in 1795-96.  By January of 1805, Rayo was in Cadiz.  Later that year, she joined the Combined Fleet after it returned from the West Indies.  She fought at Trafalgar, returned to Cadiz, and sortied again on October 23 to help recover the ships Santa Ana and Neptune.  She was then driven ashore and shipwrecked in the storm following the battle.  She was the oldest ship at the battle, being about 14 years older than HMS Victory.

This particular model turned out to be a learning experience in more ways than one.  Langton has begun casting its larger hulls in resin instead of metal, and this was my first experience working with one.  Overall, the detail is every bit as good as the white metal hulls.  Unfortunately, this model had damage to the starboard quarterdeck bulwark that would have made it impossible to run rigging lines.  It looked like it had been broken instead of not having enough resin in the mold.  Fortunately, I had some .010 plastic sheet, and a couple layers of that, combined with a bit of carving to shape,
made for a fairly quick repair.

It's easy to see the difference between resin and metal detail in this photo.
Also, you can see the repairs to the quarterdeck bulwark.
The sharp-eyed among you have already noticed other pieces of black plastic as well.  Another problem with this hull is that some of the channels for the ratlines seem to be positioned incorrectly.  Instead of ending in line with the hole for the mast, they end before the hole.  Consequently, the brass ratlines should not align properly with the masts.  The next picture will give a better idea of what I mean:

It is kind of a big deal.  As the plan of HMS Serapis below shows, the ratlines have to line up with the mast.

In fairness though, the Spanish 80 gun hull from Langton has the same problem, so I should have expected it.  Unlike the metal hull, this resin one made a repair much easier.  Take a piece of the .010 plastic sheet mentioned earlier, cut to roughly the right size, and glue them on.  I had thought that I might have to support them from below, but once the glue dried they were remarkably sturdy.  I won't say it's a perfect solution, but once paint is applied you can't tell the extensions are there.  I should probably have trimmed the back of the channels to make them a bit smaller, but didn't want to run the risk of damaging them.

Other than that, painting and basing went mostly as expected.  I decided to paint the ship based on some pictures I found on a website called Todo A Babor:  .  If you're interested in the Spanish navy, then put this website in your bookmarks!  There are articles, paintings and information on the Real Armada that I've not seen anywhere else.  There is a definite shortage of English language information sources on the Spanish navy out there, and this is a useful corrective.  The website itself is in Spanish, but Google Translate handles this quite well.  Some of the more specific nautical terms may be mistranslated, but you can still figure out what they mean.  Todo A Babor has a couple of different color paintings of Rayo, but I decided to go with this one:

Another painting shows the ship with the third gun deck painted yellow (which would be in line with regulations), but I decided that I liked the look of this interpretation better.  I decided to drill all the holes after the painting was done, and it was here that I discovered an odd problem.  In a couple of places, the outer layer of paint flaked away from the primer when I drilled the hole.  As you'll see from these photos, it looks like a bad problem:

No need for a circle here; the gray against black is very visible.

All the above photos are at 3X zoom, so obviously these are very small spots that should touch up easily enough.  I mention it only because I've never had it happen to a metal model before.  Also, I prime my ships in black, so I'm not sure why it showed up gray after the paint flaked away.

With the running rigging in place as seen above, the running rigging was going quickly and I was feeling good about finishing this ship quickly.  As I should know by now, that feeling is a prelude to something going wrong.  It started when I cut a line on the running rigging and cut into the knot, so it came loose from the sail.  In taking off the other end of that line, I accidentally cut the main mast standing rigging by mistake.  Annoying, but not disastrous.  While re-running the main mast standing rigging, I realized that the fragments from the old lines were making it impossible to get all the new ones through the hole.  So I decided to enlarge the hole from .5 to .7 millimeters.  After all, what could go wrong?  This could:

Yes, the bulwark broke into pieces.  Fortunately, I was able to find the largest pieces and glue them back into place.  What I couldn't find I was able to replace with some of that .010 plastic I mentioned before.  I covered everything with super glue gel and waited for it to dry.  What I got was this:

I re-threaded the mainmast rigging very gently, as I wasn't sure about the strength of my repairs.  I wound up having to re-rig the mainmast a third time, as a rough spot on the hole cut the string during the first re-rigggng.  A quick BUT CAREFUL re-drilling of the hole solved that problem and let me re-finish the standing rigging.  After this three hour delay (I told you I was being careful), everything else went off without a hitch.

Well, that's enough grousing and extreme close-ups of ship damage.  Below are the usual beauty shots of the finished vessel:

Obviously the camera angle is a little off on this one.
I assure you, Rayo is not skidding through the sea at an angle!

And since the Quarter of Comparison (TM) hasn't been seen in a while, here's a size comparison shot:

As a closing thought, this ship is also an example of the "check twice, paint once" adage.  If you look at the drawing from the Todo a Babor website, you'll notice that the ship is NOT painted in the Nelson Checker pattern; instead, the gunports are open.  I didn't notice this until after the ship was painted and partially rigged.  I could have gone back and painted her properly, but it would have been fairly difficult.  At that point, I decided it was just too late.