Building the Kamakura Period Umi-Bune – Part 9

As if my work wasn’t coming along slowly enough, a car accident and heavier work load managed to bring my ship modeling of all types to a standstill. After nearly two months of making no progress on anything, I finally found myself in a position to move forward again on the Umibune. I didn’t managed to figure out too much regarding the making of scale figures for the model, but I did finish tying the bindings on the rails. I also decided on how I wanted to finish the aft deckhouse, or yakata.

I basically returned to the idea of installing only lower panels on the sides of the structure. There seem to be a multitude of ways that artists and model makers have interpreted this design, so I just went with something I recall seeing in a painting. Is it accurate? There really doesn’t appear to be any way to know for sure. But, it seems reasonable. In the photos below, you can see the panels before installation, as well as how they look in place on the model. I originally built these slightly oversized, allowing me to adjust them to fit.

As you can see from the photos, I also attached the rudder. The rudder on larger Japanese boats are fit through a hole in the back edge of a heavy beam at the stern. The Japanese did not use gudgeon straps and pintles to hold the rudder in place, but instead, rudders were held up by a rope lifting system, like Chinese boats, which allowed the rudder to be raised or lowered as needed. The hole in the large beam provided the necessary lateral support.

The lifting rope is attached to a hole in the top of the rudder blade and runs through a block, which is attached to the aft-most roof beam. The design of the block was not described anywhere, so I based it on a block that appeared in Woody Joe’s Higakikaisen kit. This is a teardrop shaped block that apparently contains no wheel, unlike a modern-style block.

I was motivated to use this based on a comment that was made to me while visiting the Hacchoro fishing boats of Yaizu in 2016. While showing me some of the features of the Hacchoro,

Mr. Hiroyuki Kobayashi, one of the people who are responsible for the Hacchoro boats, told me that while the Hacchoro replicas use a standard wooden blocks in their sail gear, the Japanese didn’t originally have such blocks.

Modern blocks on the modern Hacchoro replica.

He didn’t elaborate, but seeing the wheel-less blocks on the Higakikaisen model suggested to me that this was the design that the Japanese originally used and is what Mr. Kobayashi was referring to. Unfortunately, I can’t find any photos of that type of block, but here’s the one that I made.

This type of block would most certainly have too much friction with the rope passing through it to be very efficient. But, it’s very possible that its function is more to help support the rudder than to lift it up. Possibly, a few strong sailors would physically haul up on the rudder and tiller as someone hauled on the rope to take up slack and to help support the rudder’s weight until the rope was tied off to beam at the stern.

In any case, I glued the stropping rope around the block and siezed it into place. The ends of the rope were simply run over the top of the beam and tied off underneath a crossbeam. I have no idea how the original was attached. Probably just passed around the beam, the way a block is fastened around the yard arm on a Western sailing ship.

The rudder was put into place with a rope seized through the hole in the rudder blade and rigged. To help hold the rudder in place, as it’s too light to simply hang from the support rope, a hole was drilled through the rudder post and into the great beam and a pin pass through. This allowed me to keep the lifting rope taught, while keeping the rudder nicely in position.

I don’t know if I’ll have the human figures worked out next time, but I am now working out the mounting of the oars and the making of the anchors, which is a very interesting design that I’ll discuss next time.

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