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There are many challenges in putting ships in bottles. Besides the obvious ones, I mean! For example, if you look carefully you will see that almost all ships in bottles are sailing towards the neck of the bottle, and almost all are on the starboard tack (the wind is coming from the right side of the boat and the sails swing out to the left side). Why? 

Towards the neck

Well, they face towards the neck of the bottle because the easiest way to erect the masts is to pull on the 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 sails) can be glued in place outside the bottle, to be tightened 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 centreboard 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 untwist. Any sails on the stays then swing leftwards. If the ship is on the starboard tack this just keeps the jib or staysail near the centreline of the ship, because it can’t swing past the other stays.  Of it was on the port tack, it might just swing out to an unnatural angle. If you look back at my first ship-in-a-bottle page you will see a three-masted staysail schooner on the port tack (I like real challenges).

Big bottles

Big bottles are fun, as for example my barque in a 2 Litre sherry bottle (shown on the main page), because you can put so much more detail on the ships. That becomes the challenge.

Tiny bottles

Even more interesting is to use the smallest bottle you can find, or the smallest possible neck.  Here are two attempts at this. The first is a small gaff cutter in one of those small spirits bottles they serve you on airplanes.  The second is a two-masted gaff schooner in a similar bottle.




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 in age. It was an exceptional boat-building timber until it became over-logged and endangered. 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.