Mantua Models 1/98 Ship’s Boats for HMS Victory – Kit Review
Ship’s Boat Set 1:98 (for HMS Victory, Art.776)
£34, from http://www.mantuamodels.co.uk
I recently completed HMS Victory (Constructo 1:94). However, the kit lacked a full compliment of boats, apart from two cutter-types which hung from the stern area. There’s an area on the upper deck that allows the next deck below to be seen, and this cutaway is spanned by several beams at regular intervals. These are known as skid beams and are used as placement for the ship’s boats. Such boats in the 18th Century were not used as lifeboats as might be understood today, but rather for ferrying duties. The boats – launch, barge, pinnace and cutter, in size order – were set on upstands across the beams and lashed down.
I had looked for complimentary boats for the 1:94 Victory but the only available boats were wildly the wrong scale. I discovered later that Mantua Models issued a set for their own 1:98 Victory, and decided the marginal scale difference was negligible in this exercise. Unfortunately, by this time I had finished the model, and the addition of the boats, although a great feature, would be a challenge to install over adjacent finished work, including rigging. Those details aren’t further addressed here, but the boat set itself is of interest, not only for ship modelling but, as classic examples of the type, they can be used in dioramas with river/sea/beach effects, for periods up to the mid-to-late 20th Century.
The boat set is packaged simply in a transparent plastic bag, stapled, which is sufficient. Within this outer bag, further individual boats are presented. Within each bag there is a hull in buff plastic, a timber fret with decking details, oars, oar locks and rudder. The timber sections appear to be laser-cut but without any laser burns apparent on the timber faces. The oar and rudder handles have a square-edged appearance which is unavoidable with the laser process, but with delicate sanding can be rounded more naturally.
The instructions are in colour, in four languages including English, and are presented as cells with clear instructional imagery of the boat types. I should add that in fact the process is the same for all the boats, with only the fret sizes determining the variance. The instructions generally are printed on an A3 sheet, folded to represent double-sided A4 pages.
After priming and painting the hulls, and adding the timber sections, prepared previously, the wood was cleaned up a little where it met the hulls’ edges and then washed in various shades of artists’ oils, for effect. One point – Mantua has cast the hulls with the external appearance of being roughly planked, instead of in the style of lipped planking or as smoothly planed, which some modellers might prefer.
I decided to use only three of the six boats in the set. To completely obscure the below-deck area with all the boats would limit the detail that could be seen there, of decorative stanchions and rigged cannons, which view I wanted to maintain. Each boat sat on its own pair of upstands, as described earlier, placed along the beam faces at prescribed intervals. As these weren’t part of the set, I used the remaindered timber sections where the boat decks had been removed from the frets, and shaped them by hand.
An item of note is that each boat should have a pair of brass eyebolts to be set into the deck fore and aft for latter rigging. There was just a single eyebolt across all boat sets in this case, although I did have spares that I was able to use instead.
With the selected boats painted, ruddered and ‘decked out’ with oars, they were given a light cost of matte varnish and were now ready to install.
Overall, these boat sets are finely detailed and easily modelled. Although not required in this instance, they could be weathered to good effect also. I’ve seen a few individual boats at a price equal to the whole set here, so I think at less that £6 per boat, the Mantua set is good value. The issue of locating appropriately scaled aftermarket sets in this niche area remains so, but I’m happy to be able to now complete the final stages of my own HMS Victory.