Binnacles, Bulwarks and Cabins

Work proceeds apace on the Louise, the name I’ve christened the ship model on Morpeth. Well “apace” might be a slight misnomer, progress actually proceeds at a stately pace as befits a refined lady of calm, coastal waters. Louise, my partner, doesn’t know she’s having a ship named after her yet but I’m currently looking for the worlds smallest bottle of champagne which she can crack over the bow before launch. Once the decals are applied to the prow it’ll be too late for her to object 🙂

As you may be able to tell from the title of this post I’m still struggling with the the terminology of ships and their various bits and pieces, but I’ve really started to enjoy building the model now that I have the decks installed. As such it’s a little like the stage in building a locomotive when you’ve got the wheels turning: from this point on it’s all just about building on the foundations. I’m sure to run aground on my own growing self confidence now that I’ve said that. The model was supplied with a wide variety of wooden sheet and strip, along with different types of metal wire and tube and about 10 or 11 bags of mostly white metal parts. While there are a lot of parts, and the vast majority are unfamiliar to me as to their purpose and names, I feel I’ve managed to choose the correct ones for the tasks I’ve been undertaking over the past week or so.

The Louise has two bridges; a large, open one at the top of the central structure and a smaller enclosed one which you can see in this photo. The cabin has windows fore and aft and a small side cab which I assume is the head (that’s the toilet to land lubbers). The ceiling of the enclosed cabin is the floor of the bridge above. the wires you can see sticking out of the top of the cab will allow it to be lit along with a red and green LEDs either side of the bridge as per the prototype.

The problem I’ve found with the kit, aside from the names of everything being unfamiliar and the labeling being basic at best, is that the descriptions in the instructions tend to be fairly light on detail. For instance, I’m well aware that a bridge on a ship would need to be supplied with a steering wheel/tiller arrangement of some type, a compass and a speed communication thingy (a telegraph), the type you see in all the best WWII movies about the navy. You know, when the captain says “all ahead full”! a seaman will push the handle on this round thing that has a full, slow, stop, reverse slow, reverse full written on the side. There’s a corresponding display in the boiler room so the bloke shoveling the coal into the boiler can…well I’m not sure what he does but I assume he shovels faster and pull some type of lever 🙂 However the instructions say (and I quote) “furnish the inside with binnacle, wheel and telegraph as shown on the flying bridge plan”. That’s the sum total of the textual assistance provided by the instructions! What the #$^&@!% a binnacle? 🙂

I’ve spent the best part of a week gradually assembling the small enclosed lower bridge cabin and assembling the associated bridge furniture for this and the upper bridge. You see, if you have two bridges then each has to have it’s own set of bits to make it look authentic; a wheel, a speed thingy and a compass (that’s binnacle for us in the know). I’ve also assembled and started to install some bulwarks which is what us old sea dogs call the hand rails and associated rail walls. Each of these has to be cut from a sheet of 1mm ply, glued up and then installed in its location. It was as I got the glazing installed in the cabin and glued the first bulwark in place (while I waited for the paint to dry on my binnacle and steering wheel) that I came to the realization that you’d never be able to see the bloody things in there as it would be so dark. So of course I decided to light the cab and as an added touch I also decided to install red and green sea lights to either side of the flying bridge (the upper structure that I can’t install until I have the cab furnished with it’s own instruments). What’s a binnacle I hear you ask? Well read on…

This shot shows the bits and pieces that will eventually populate the lower enclosed bridge (used when the captain doesn’t want to get wet from rain and cold weather I assume) and the open, upper bridge. The binnacle is the part with the green and red testicles hanging on either side of it. These are iron balls (I kid you not) that evidently “balance” the compass in some way. Google it if you don’t believe me 🙂 In addition to these strange contraptions the wheel goes at the back of the cabin! Why the heck sea going loonies want their steering wheel at the back of the cabin I do not know but I’m going to glue it at the back just like the real thing!

So I’ve been cutting, gluing and assembling parts for a week and before I’d really done much I decide to complicate things enormously by adding lights. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end. I’m currently working on a small circuit board to simplify the installation of the lights as they all need resistors to ensure they don’t burn out. I decide to use LEDs rather than incandescent bulbs mainly for their longevity. Once the cabin light is installed it will be permanently entombed in there with no access for maintenance.

So until next time, avast ye hearties! Whatever the hell that means 🙂



1 thought on “Binnacles, Bulwarks and Cabins

  1. In the RCN at least, the iron balls (correctly coloured, well done!) were nicknamed “Nelson’s Balls). 🙂 The wooden pedestal also has doors in it and there are usually some adjustable quantity of iron bars in there as well. It was all in aid of trying to get a magnetic compass to behave itself whilst surrounded by a vast chunk of ferrous metal.

    In addition to the telegraph, there was usually some means for indicating a certain number of propeller shaft revolutions per minute. (Not needed to be modelled!) Half ahead would get adjusted thereby and full ahead/astern was only for emergencies. (the ERA’s (Engine Room Artificer)(engineer) would adjust a throttle to get the shaft RPM called for. Stokers(fireman) kept the steam up as needed.

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