Making of the Landship

Building the “Landship” for Sea Scout Ship 1942

By Dave Leggett

I built my first flagpole in 1982, 30 feet tall with a yardarm and gaff, from which I could fly my extensive collection of flags, five or six at a time.  During the winter of 2014-15, the main spar of this pole was destroyed by a storm.  When I replaced it the following summer, I got to thinking how much Ship 1942 could use such a mast for its landship, maybe not quite as tall, but as big as possible.  A landship is a symbolic version of a ship made of pieces representing a bow, a stern, masts, and a bridge, and is used during ceremonies on land.  
I resolved to start with a half-scale model of my original flagpole mast.  At 15 feet, this would easily fit inside the parish hall at St. George’s Church in Arlington where our ship meets and has its ceremonies.  For easy transport, no component would be longer than 8 feet, but once assembled, it would be large and solid enough to do justice to our landship ceremonies.   I showed our Skipper Tom Ballew a photo of the original flagpole, and he thought a smaller replica was a good idea.  I completed this mainmast in November of 2015.
Once Skipper saw what I had made, he thought it would be wonderful to make fore and mizzen masts to match, complete with little bow and stern bases to hold them, and maybe with sails?  I said OK, and did him one better: navigation lights.  I finished by December 2015.  So now we had a bow unit with a bowsprit and jib, complete with red and green lights, and “S.S.S. DRAGONLADY 1942” on each side.  There was also a stern unit with a boom and mizzen sail, a white stern light and “S.S.S. DRAGONLADY  1942 ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA” on the transom. 

Yvonne Brandt was good enough to use her sail sewing machine to fashion the two small sails out of genuine Ship 1942 sails which had
passed their useful lives.  I went back and added a white masthead light to the original mainmast.  I also enhanced the stability of the stanchions for the rope safety lines which form the outline of the landship, and painted them grey to match the rest of the landship props.
We used these props for the first time in an actual landship ceremony on 9 Jan 2016 at the American Legion Post 144 in Fairfax.  Skipper’s next thought was to upgrade the landslip’s wheel, binnacle, and telegraph.   To do this job right, I had to separate a few of these functions, namely the binnacle from the telegraph. 

Our ship’s photographer Franklin Garcia had, some years before, been presented with a large brass ship’s bell inscribed with “Sea Scout Ship 1942.”  We had had no place to put it, so first, in October 2016, I made the binnacle.  It has an actual compass under its domed top with a viewing window made from a stainless steel mixing bowl.  Below, I used the original wheel, mounted on an axle that also serves to hold the new bell on the front of the column.  On each side, port and starboard, are red and green croquet balls, simulating the iron compass compensating balls found on old binnacles.  And yes, there is a light to illuminate the compass if one is manning the helm at night.
In December 2016, I turned my attention to the telegraph.  I figured the
 only way to produce something like this was to use a large steaming pot, mounted on the column horizontally.  I went to a Chinese grocery store and bought the largest stainless steel steamer they had, which proved to be perfect.  I bolted the bottom and the top of the steamer together back to back.  This arrangement left openings on each side, so now instead of a single screw vessel, we have port and starboard engine controls, operated by indicator levers I made out of plastic and wood.  Of course there is an interior light for use at night.


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