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Sailing ships in bottles . .  . here are a few by Alex Bellinger.

I’ve heard them called “patience bottles” and “impossible bottles.”

But how many of these have you seen, tugs in bottles?

Alex, whom I’ve know for 30 years, writes:  “the tugs are for my  older brother, who worked on tugs out of New Orleans along the river and through the Gulf for many years, until he grew tired of them and wanted more deep water work so spent a number of years on LNG tankers in the Sea of Japan and Malaysia.  He finished his career at sea on cable laying ships.”

I made the attached model of a tug for him many years ago, and another soon after, which I sold.  A little more recently I made the small tug with a schooner, inspired by Gordon Grant’s watercolor, “Bon Voyage”.  That’s about the extent of my tug in bottle work, done more fun than serious work.”

Another friend, Frank Hanavan, rigs tall ships as well as ships in bottles.

So how do they get in there, and what are all these strings?


Let’s go back to Alex’s work, and I summarize his explanation here: This is a model of Ingomar, built 1904 in Essex MA and wrecked in fog on a beach nearby in 1936.  By the time she was known as “queen of the halibut fishery,” in 1923 her crew received a record premium of $400 (in 1923!)  for their catch.

The scale is 1: 228. The model measures 6 inches from the waterline to the mast top and is 8.2 inches long.   The hull is made of pine. The deck planks, bulwark, railing and deck equipment are made of the same. Masts, yards, spars and the capstan drum are made of bamboo. Parts of the deck equipment were made from index card paper, as were the dories.

When the wooden parts were finished, the deck was stained, the masts, rails and the spill with a slightly darker stain. All surfaces that are painted are embedded with acrylic primer. After painting, grooves were carved to represent planking. The parts of the deck equipment were made from index card paper, as were the dories. Load hatches and the deckhouse rails are made of pear wood.

The mast rings were made from a copper strand of an ordinary extension cord, wrapped around a pin about the mast diameter, and cut into rings with fine nail scissors.  Parts of the deck equipment were made from index card paper, as were the dories.

In total there were 35 threads to raise parts of the rigging one it was nested inside the bottle.

The model was nested in on a Saturday and finished the following Friday. The white wire is part of a coat hanger that holds the model in place while I sort the threads and carefully tension them. The wire is fixed outside the bottle with a duct tape.

Many thanks to Alex and Frank for sharing these photos.

For some exceptional ship bottles, check this translated article.

And finally, from Frank, it’s two of his ship models, one in a bottle, all in one painting.  More Frank photos here and here.

For an entirely different form of ship’s models, these in cases, there’s a must-see museum in Savannah GA.  I visited it here.


I could not make the Sunday heats, so here are two more of my photos of the British entry showing how these boats perform . . .


above the surface with most of the hull.  Approaching shore requires caution . . . but thanks to Frank Hanavan, here is a set of photos showing what happened along the Jersey shoreside, Morris Canalside . . . on Sunday.  The New York race over,


one by one the boats were hooked and


lifted above and beyond the watery confines,


lowered carefully for a landing


in the parking lot at Liberty Landing Marina, and




prepped for the road, and




loaded into the containers that will likely travel beyond the sixth boro along I-80 and I-90 into Chicago for events starting June 10.  

For these bright Sunday photos, many thanks to Frank Hanavan, whose website here shows what he spends most of his time engaged in.

More photos from the event soon.

Pier 25 is unmistakeable on the Hudson side of lower Manhattan.  I posted fotos of Lilac moving to Pier 25 aka “historic ships pier” back a year and some months ago.   On some of those fotos, you can see bowsprite catching lines from the Miller’s Launch crew assisting Lilac’s arrival.  Bowsprite also goes by the name “Christina Sun,” who is half of the art show proclaimed on the dockside sign below.

Here she was hanging the show last weekend.  If you’ve looked at her site much, you’d have seen her rendering of RB 45614 (below) on her artblog here.

The other half of the art show (up til the end of August!!) is Frank Hanavan.    I’ve painted with Frank, like here on this bowsprit at least six years ago, and posted on this blog here back in 2007.  This foto and the next by Maggie Flanagan.

But besides painting in places that require a harness, Frank also paints

en plein air with an easel. In fact, this piece, part of his show, he did ON Pier 25 back in May when Picton Castle docked there for a few days.  Click on that link  (scroll through) and you’ll

see what message was printed on the square sail on the foremast.  Frank’s art is all contained in one room on Lilac, but

bowsprite’s 38 prints are spread through Lilac, leading the observer on a treasure hunt . . .  even through the engine room!

But I can’t look at a piece like this and NOT remember the delightful story on her blog about excavator dredge J. P. Boisseau with remembering the whale that appeared in Lower NY Bay, no doubt coming to check who was scratching the harbor’s bottom . . . and why.

Lilac is a unique vessel open to the public Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Hours are here.  In fact, this Saturday evening, besides art, you can also see the world premiere of a documentary about MV Liemba, the nearly century old steam ferry (I believe very recently dieselized but still running) on Lake Tangayika.  For a press release about the film from Lilac Museum director, Mary Habstritt, click here.

Historic ships, art, film, music, drinks, warm summer evening on the Hudson in Lower Manhattan . .  . . . .  see you there!!  Bring some $$ too and take home some beautiful marine art for your walls.

Here’s Frank’s official site.   And here’s Christina’s online “sketchbook.”

Unrelated:  Here’s a 13-minute interview I did with John Doswell of Working Harbor Committee (WHC) back in 2010.  I’d never heard it until today.  And remember  . . . here’s info on the WHC-sponsored 20th annual tugboat race coming up in NYC’s sixth boro in less than three weeks!!

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April 2023