Ships Ahoy!


Over the years I have been the collector of many things. From hockey cards (ice) to marbles and Blues music to sea shells, I’ve tried all sorts. I did make an effort to collect different empty ale bottles when I came to England, but you’d need a barn for those. My last endeavour, before moving to life on a canal narrowboat, was to amass shot glasses….from all over the world.

Music students bought me some from their travels, friends and family contributed and I purchased others from places I’d been. From St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia and Riga in Latvia, to New York, Buenos Aires, Toronto and Los Angles in the Americas. I had souvenir shot glasses from the London Eye and the Tower of London, Brighton Pier, York….well, anywhere I’d been. My aunt and uncle got me one from Norway, a moose hugging a shot glass. A student found one in Spain sitting on a donkey….not a real donkey of course. And I purchased a set of shot glasses commemorating the four houses from the Game of Thrones TV show. I have well over one hundred already.

My favourite, though, is a shot glass of crystal from Portsmouth with Admiral Nelson’s flagship the Victory emblazoned on the side. I still have them all, individually wrapped in a box in storage. I am negotiating a place for them on our boat. It may take a while. I am a patient man. And my best friend is a formidable wall of practicality.

So, I have to think small and unbreakable. Nothing of interest had come to mind until we went to York just after the new year. Such a beautiful city. Lots to see. This visit was different. Funeral for a relative. And the city was reeling from the recent floods over Christmas. I was certainly not looking for collectibles. Then it happened. And it was neither small nor unbreakable.

We were all back at my uncle’s place in Murton (refer to the last Blog ‘Sam and The Bay Horse’) when one of his neighbours mentioned to me that she had a garage full of model ships she would like to give to someone who would appreciate them. An old friend of the family had left them to her mum and they had remained stored away ever since. I love model ships. I once did a scale model of the Cutty Sark and gave it to my then girl friend’s father as a Christmas present. I think it and her father have since departed this world. When I came to England, I bought a scale model of the HMS Victory, got half way through and realised parts were missing. I replaced it but never got around to starting again. It ended up as a gift to someone else this past Christmas.

Now my eyesight and lack of patience precludes my taking up another such effort. I now admire the finished items in antique shop windows. My love for all things boat has never waned. Thus my imagination was piqued when my uncle’s neighbour asked if I would like to see the whole collection with the view to taking them off her hands. She had already given a bag of nautical figures, including one ship, to my best friend earlier in our stay up there. She took them because she knows my penchant for such ‘tatty’ things as she calls them.

Down the street I went with my uncle’s neighbour, to her brother’s place and into the garage behind the house. At the back of the garage was a shelf laden with tall ships of varying size. Like a kid in a candy store. The only way to describe my wonder and excitement. A whole navy lay before me, a flotilla of some of the finest ships ever to sail, including the Cutty Sark and The HMS Victory. Plus the RRS Discovery and a pirate ship. Two other ships, each at least a foot and a half long, sat on a table, one a ship that once sailed the River Thames and a Dutch fishing vessel. The detail on both was incredible. In my haste, and forgetting I lived on a 60 foot long, 6.6 foot wide narrowboat, I gathered the lot and headed back to my uncle’s. Ways of keeping them all raced through my mind.




My best friend was not amused. But she knows I’m a sucker for a sales pitch and can’t say no. I put the flotilla on my uncle’s table for the admiration of all gathered. The picture you see above was taken on my boat. That means I brought the ships home. Much bartering and exchanging of ideas for placement transpired. I really wanted the two large vessels but was made to realise there really was no place for them anywhere on the boat except on the roof, outside….a particularly sarcastic but poignant remark.

I came home with a bag of boats, a sack of ships, 11 in all, 4 nautical figurines and a lighthouse in one of those snowglobes, sitting on an island with a rowboat. As soon as we got back to the boat, I put on a fire and then strategically placed the ships at various points around our narrowboat….none on the roof. The pirate ship is in the bathroom….naturally. Even my best friend had to admit they looked good. The old boy who collected them would be proud that they found a good home I’m sure.

As far as the other two large ones go…and an even larger one I dared not bring back to my uncle’s house….I hope they too find a good home. I think my collecting days are over. I still have to find a place for my shot glasses. In the meantime, I am enjoying my tall ships in every corner of the boat, reminding me that seafaring is in my blood. After all, a relative of mine, my great, great grandfather, Septimus Shearer, was a Scottish sea captain. He died of cirrhosos of the liver. Ships ahoy!





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