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Ships in Bottles - Challenges
Towards the neck
Well, they face towards the neck of the bottle because the easiest way to erect the masts once the ship is in the bottle is to pull on stays running through holes in the bowsprit (or the bow). All the shrouds (holding the masts up sideways and back) and sheets (to control the sail positions) can be glued in place outside the bottle, to be redrawn up tight when the masts are re-erected. Facing the boat away from the neck is difficult, but it can be done. Putting a boat into an upright bottle with the neck on the top is equally challenging. Especially when the hull is too big to fit through the neck.
Here is the successful 1893 America's Cup defender Vigilant in a really prize Slivovitz Plum Brandy bottle (150mm dia) that I found on the bottle tip. If you want to know how it was done, ask. Statistics of Vigilant: 124’ LOA, 86’2” LWL, 26’3” beam and 13’6’’ draft. Sail area 11,272 sq ft, 70 crew. She carried a centerboard too!
Starboard tack
As to why all the ships are on the starboard tack, well most cotton and polyester threads are twisted left-handed (looking along the thread, the helix goes from right to left away from you and then under). When you tension the stays in erecting the masts, they tend to untwist. Any sails glued on the stays then swing leftwards. If the ship is on the starboard tack this just keeps the jib or staysail near the centerline of the ship, because it can't swing past the other stays. If it was on the port tack, it might just swing out to an unnatural angle. If you look back at my first model page you will see a three-masted staysail schooner on the port tack (I like real challenges) and a port tack brigantine.
Big bottles
Big bottles are fun, as for example my barque in a 2 Liter sherry bottle (also shown on a previous page), because you can put so much more detail on the model ship. That becomes the challenge.
Tiny bottles
Even more interesting is to use the smallest bottle you can find, or the smallest possible neck. Here is a small gaff cutter in one of those small spirits bottles they serve you on airplanes.
More difficult was this spritsail cutter in a food coloring bottle (80mm). The coin is an Australian 20¢ piece. The wooden parts of the model are made from Tasmania's rare Huon Pine Lagarostrobos franklinii (syn. Dacrydium franklinii). Some logs in the South West of Tasmania have been dated to 2000+ years old, and it grows and decays very slowly. Only California’s bristle-cone pine exceeds it as having the oldest living individuals on earth. It was an exceptional boat-building timber until it became over-logged. The grand old trees are endangered, but it is plentifully sold in nurseries as seedlings. The only timber now available is from stockpiles and driftwood logs. If you look closely, you may be able to see a helmsman standing up to the tiller (height 9mm). I made this model also on the port tack.
This is another challenge I set myself, to fit three yachts running under spinaker into a 75 mm (3 inch) miniature gin bottle.  The neck is really tiny (as is the bottle); the hulls are made of aluminium strip filed to shape and painted, set in an epoxy sea. The masts and sails were inserted separately. Judging the maximum mast height for each boat was a significant challenge, as the bottle glass is not of uniform thickness and there is little clearance.

© Copyright  2000, 2001  AHJ Sale
Page last modified on 2001 February 2