Clare Hess Discovers HSPMS Parallel in Japan

For those who didn’t know, I’m in Japan doing some research on my own on Japanese watercraft.

Yesterday, I was in Tokyo and visited a museum where there was once a thriving fishing community. It’s all landfill and upscale apartments now, but they have a city museum that is a recreation of the old fishing community. They also keep some of the old boats there.



So, what do I find when I walk downstairs amongst the old boats? A workshop set up in the middle, with three old guys at benches surrounded by small band saw, drill press, sanders, racks of clamps, sheets and blocks of wood, etc., and they’re making model boats!


An Urayasu bekabune similar to the one I’m trying to build.

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Big language barrier here, more than is usual at a museum, but they’re all museum volunteers, and in the middle is the kind of gruff guy they pointed out as the “boss”. It was clear to me that this was kind of like the equivalent of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights.


Now, these guys aren’t part of the Japanese ship model society called The Rope, that I’ve mentioned before. The boss is a former boat builder, and the others more or less appear to volunteer as his assistants. He actually has a full-sized boat building project going on there.

I wasn’t able to discern why they were building these models. They were actually kind of crude by ship modeller standards, but they were neat. They might be the kind of model you’d mass produce for museum shops, though there was no sign of anything like that. In one case, a larger model was clearly being set up for radio control.


I finally ran across someone who actually worked there and he spoke some english, so we talked about the specific boats that the region was known for. The guy was kind of like their own Terry Dorman, our hard working volunteer coordinator with the Park Service, and he was dropping off some band saw blades that the builders needed.

I didn’t catch his job title, and I haven’t had a chance to translate the Japanese business card he gave me, but his name is Mr. Shimamura. Since I’m now modeling a bekabune, which is the boat type built and used in Urayasu, he showed me some details about them and gave me their museum pamphlets.

Unexpectedly, as we were heading towards the lobby, he left me for a minute and came back with a paper bag and motioned me to come outside. In front of the museum, he took one of the bekabune models that the volunteers built and handed it to me, saying “gift”. I was really taken aback, but grateful and thanked him very much.

In case you're wondering, it was 80˚+ with 87% humidity in Japan

In case you’re wondering, it was 80˚+ with 87% humidity in Japan

I had no idea how I’d take the 14″ long boat model back home with me, but I was expected I’d figure something out. As it turns out, I think this will be a great prop for my demo on Japanese boat modeling at the Nautical Research Guild conference next month. And, as it turns out, if I’m really careful, I can pack it quite comfortably in my luggage.

I could easily have spent another hour or two at the museum, but it was late in the day, and having received the gift from Mr. Shimamura, it seemed like a perfect end to the visit. I will definitely be coming back here again on another trip

– Clare Hess

Mandatory Safety Training for Hyde Street Pier Volunteers

A mandate was made this year that all volunteers working at Hyde Street Pier must attend a safety training course. As all Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwright members are officially Park Service volunteers, all club members are required to attend safety training.

Terry Dorman, the Volunteer Coordinator, in coordination with our lead volunteer and President, Paul Reck, has set up a session for club members on the morning of April 30th, and has graciously offered to provide us lunch. All members are expected to attend. Those who can’t attend should have made alternate arrangements with Terry to attend a session on April 23rd, or made some other arrangements.

We’ll be discussing this a bit further and answering any last minute questions at the upcoming April club meeting. Ω

C.A. Thayer Returns Home

Today, the lumber schooner C.A. Thayer returned to its home at Hyde Street Pier from restoration work that was done in Alameda. We’ve missed seeing the old girl, even though she’s been without rigging or masts for many years.


CA Thayer after her initial restoration work, still lacked masts, rigging and more for years.

But now, she’s got masts, bowsprit and standing rigging. Looks like they’ll be finishing up the rigging, and hopefully the rest of the deck house construction and furnishings, alongside the pier over the coming months.

Here’s a link to the full story:

And don’t forget there’s a talk on the C.A. Thayer this Thursday evening at 6pm at the San Francisco Maritime Research Center in Lower Fort Mason.

THAYER Lecture

HSPMS Meeting this Saturday, November 21 on the Eureka

It’s time again for the next meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights. This should be a good meeting as it’s the first meeting following this year’s NRG conference and last week’s club outing aboard the USS Potomac.


The meeting also follows a workday that took place a couple weeks ago where a number of club members met to clean up our workshop and set up a new bookshelf.

As always, guests are welcome. We meet at 9:30am on the third Saturday of every month outside our workshop aboard the ferryboat Eureka at Hyde Street Pier. Going aboard the ships at the pier usually requires that you purchase a pass. However, if you are coming just for the meeting, just head right on aboard the Eureka. If anyone asks, just let them know you’re heading for the ship model meeting.

Hope to see you there!


Visiting Our Gracie S. Model in the Maritime Museum

We had a nice meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights aboard the ferry boat Eureka yesterday. Good turnout, interesting talk, news from members, and all. We even made some decisions and got started on cleaning up and cataloging our library of ship plans, books and media. So, at the end of the productive day in workshop, heading back to our cars, Paul Reck and I decided to stop in at the Aquatic Part Bathhouse Building which is home of the Maritime Museum (or what remains of it), and visit the Gracie S.

The model was built by members of the club, including yours truly, though I had a relatively small part in it compared to Paul, Tom and Bruno.


The Gracie S. model was built at a scale of 3/8″ to the foot or 1:32, and I can’t exactly recall how long it took to complete. Group builds can be slow, particularly when they are worked on primarily in our model shop.



The neat little shipyard diorama was mostly Paul Reck and Tom Shea’s work and it really adds life to the model. Paul commented that his neighbor also had a hand in it, contributing an old board from his fence which was used to build the sheds in the display.


What’s particularly nice about this display is that the museum put together the information board, showing photos of club members working on the model and describing our group and how to find us. You can even see my hand and belly in the first photo…



It’s nice to see that the model has a good home, is viewable by the public, and that it reminds visitors that people still build ship models. Time to go home and build more…

– Clare Hess



July Meeting

The next meeting of the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights is this coming Saturday, June 18th. We’ll be meeting as usual aboard the ferryboat Eureka at 9:30am.

Club topics that will be discussed will include our Annual Barbecue, which is taking place on Saturday, August 15th in lieu of our regular August meeting. Also, we’ll be trying to get a final count and to nail down a specific date for our upcoming club cruise on board the former Presidential Yacht, U.S.S. Potomac. The plan is to get a group of 20 signed up for a 2 hour cruise on either August 8th or September 12th. Members need to chime in so we can get this nailed down!

The Potomac is moored near Jack London Square in Oakland, CA. More info on the ship can be found at: