When I was a kid, my dad made a model ship roughly based on the ship in Master and Commander, the Patrick O'Brian novel that had not yet been adapted into the Russell Crowe film. It was an undertaking that took years; the thing was made to be fully functional. The hull was painstakingly carved from bits of buoyant balsa wood, every plank about 1:80 scale. It was stained and painted, and built with functional masts and hand-sewn sails. There was rigging controlled by RC-controlled motors under the deck. It was motor-powered but all it's propulsion was from the wind. With a controller you could control the sails, their angle, raise them, control the rudder etc. Lights would come on in the captain's quarters to let you know the motor was turning. It took years to put together, and he always had another little detail to work on even after it was seaworthy. Cannons with ports that opened, nets, lifeboats. There was an elaborate gold-painted figurehead at the bow, lady and spear.
He'd take it out to Spreckles lake in SF to sail it around, along with a bunch of other guys with model ships, none of which were ever as impressive as his. At one point he dove in to save some older guy's ship that started going under, and that water was nasty. One time I came home from a hobby shop and had picked up some little plastic figures at ~1;80 scale. He asked where I got em from. After that, he had little plastic crew on the ship. The figures were in a stiff, hands-to-side pose, but with some x-acto knife, careful lighter flame, and paint he could make them into any sort of pose and role. People pulling on rigging, the captain at the forecastle, people tending the raised lifeboats.
He died when I was 16. Life was chaos and living situations were unstable not long afterwards, and I don't know where the ship ever ended up. It was before the era of ubiquitous cameras, and I don't have any pictures of it. It's the biggest sentimental material loss of my life. I'll always have memories of him working away at some detail of the ship in the upstairs room of our house in the yellow lights though. Maybe there's where I got my tendency to take on too many crafty and tinkering DIY things. It's one of the most memorable pillars of my childhood. Sometimes I'd play N64 in the room across from his dedicated workspace for it. We'd play eachother at MarioKart or Xtreme G.
I knew I had to write something about it when I saw this post. I was also kinda weary to. It's been a little while since I revisited those memories in that much detail and I could feel them being heavy from a mile away. I have his copy of the book still. The historical setting and language were too obtuse for me when he first gave it to me, and it always seemed too sensitive for me to pick up after he died, so I still haven't read it. I think it's time I need to.