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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

November 5, 2009 at 8:45 PM

Ship models teach a Sound history lesson

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11:26 a.m. [Click images to view larger]
colleen110509m.jpgboat110509m.jpgmodelersinside110509m.jpgIt took 10 years for members of the Discovery Modelers Education Center to finish this 13-foot-long model of Captain Vancouver’s HMS Discovery. The handcrafted replica, complete with figurines of the British explorer and his crew, is on display at the old Navy armory in Lake Union. The hand-stitched linen sails alone took a year to put together.
The group of ship modeling enthusiasts was started in the mid 1990s by Judie Romeo and Colleen Wagner, who I met this morning at the Modelers’ offices in the old armory. Wagner and her husband, Dick, also started the Center for Wooden Boats in 1968 “on the back of our house-boat,” she said.
The crew of the HMS Discovery charted the entire coastline from Los Angeles to Alaska during their exploration of the Pacific from 1791 to 1795, explained Wagner.
“They put us on the map. They opened the seaways the same way Lewis and Clark opened the landways,” she said.
Talking to her this morning, I also learned that Vancouver named the Puget Sound in honor of his lieutenant, Peter Puget. Vancouver also named other Northwest landmarks in honor of British admirals like Vashon and Rainier. Mount Baker got its name from Joseph Baker, a lieutenant who spotted the mountain first.
“It’s important history,” Wagner said. “If we can get these ships in a place where people can see them, that’s important.”
The Modelers’ center future is uncertain as they have to relocate from the armory before the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) moves in.
“We are looking for a new home port,” Wagner said.
This Saturday, the modelers are hosting a Maritime Family Festival, probably the last one at this location. Visitors can see the HMS Discovery and other models of ships with ties to the Pacific Northwest. You can see modelers demonstrate how to put a ship inside a bottle, take a look at an 8-foot submarine made out of Legos and tour historic boats at the Center of Wooden Boats. The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

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