Last Saturday, the Shearwater Aviation Museum was home to a number of craft much smaller than its usual big birds. The Eighth Annual Model Makers Showcase & Contest was on. Downstairs, folks were showing off their handicraft, which ranged all over the historical time line. They sat at tables with models, tackle boxes of tools and glue, take-out coffees and photo albums of their work. A few guys walked around in soft Civil War caps, but most folks (mostly guys, mostly white) were dressed in their regular street clothes.
Mike Bowles had a table showing off some of his work. He's 44, a solid man with thin hair curling down onto his leather jacket. He has gold wire rim glasses and a modern version of a happy dog mustache. Mike started building models as a kid in Hamilton, took a five-year break in the early 1980s and then got back into it.
He's now a car mechanic, but he really likes to build boats. He likes in particular his model of HMCS Bras D'or, Canada's famous hydrofoil built in Sorel, Quebec in 1966 and decommissioned in 1971.
Mike's dad was a Supply Technician at the Halifax Dockyard, and back in 1970, Mike had been to a Family Day and seen the Bras D'or run, going like stink. She had a maximum speed of 62 knots. So that was one good reason to build a model of her. Plus, no one in the club had ever built a model hydrofoil; the only other that Mike knows of is down in the Museum of the Atlantic.
So he built her from scratch, using sheets of plastic hand-cut with a blade and joined with microweld glue. He didn't make any drawings, so the whole process was closer to sculpting than anything else. "Getting the hull the right shape was the trickiest part," Mike said. "It took three or four days." The big propellers he made. The smaller ones he ripped off a model boat. We looked at his model of HMCS Star. Folks drifted over. George Sheppard, who had his own table of pristine remote control runabouts, asked about the second torpedo rack. Mike pointed it out and explained she was taken off when they put in the center housing. Nods all around. George added that though she'd gone to dry dock in Hamilton, she'd been at Toronto for a year. Chuck Clark remembered taking photographs of Bras D'or. He said the hydrofoil was truly Canadian, like the Avro Arrow.
Upstairs was the model competition. Tables held entries in various categories--Dioramas, Sci-Fi, Box Stock, Scratch Built. All the entry forms had their bottoms, where the entrants names were, tucked underneath. Mike's daughter Mailin had entered for the first time, in the Junior category, which had a cut-off age of 16. She's 12-years-old and younger than most of the other Juniors. She'd built a Grumman TBM-3 Avenger, a war plane. It had taken her, off and on, a year. "I saw the kit here last year," she said, "and my Dad got it for me." She found the decals especially tricky. Mailin explained that if there's too much water on them they just slip around. She did the work herself, though, but just that morning, on the way up the stairs to the contest area, the plane had slipped off its base. The finish of the base was too glossy and the glue hadn't held. One wheel had snapped off and the canopy had been damaged. Quick fixes were made and it looked none the worse for wear. Mialin also does cross stitch, but she's got the modeling bug.
Late in the afternoon, just before closing, the model contest winners were announced by event organizer and judge Robert LePine. He stood in front of a table piled high with prizes of model kits and modeling tools and joshed around as he called out the winners. Everybody seemed to know everybody. Mike Bowles won the Masters Table, a category for models that have previously won first place in another category. He won for his U-Boot U552 TYPIIC, a WWII German submarine. Mailin came third in the Junior category, to big applause. Mike took digital photographs as she collected her certificate and prize, a kit for a Wilhelm Bauer Air Hog XT9 Turbo Chopper.