Heller 1/350 Santa Maria

KIT #: 79705
NOTES: Possibly ex-Airfix


The Spanish carrack (or nao), the Santa Maria will be remembered in history as the flagship of Christopher Columbus when he made his epic voyage (with the smaller caravel-type ships Santa Clara, remembered as La Niña ("The Child"), and La Pinta ("The Painted") from Spain to Haiti, and was credited with discovering ‘the New World’.   

 The Santa María was built in Castro-Urdiales, Cantabria, in Spain's north-east and was named La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción - Spanish for The Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception.  It seems the ship was known to her sailors as Marigalante, Spanish for "Gallant Maria".  There are no exact details of her dimensions, but she was believed to be about 17.7-19.0m/58-62’ long (without bow-sprit), 5.5m/18’ wide (beam) and displaced 100 tons.  The Santa María had a single deck (which I don’t believe – there musta be another one below), three masts and 4 x 90mm bombards for defence.

Columbus set sail from Palos de la Frontera on 3 August 1492.  The Santa María was the slowest of the three, but she handled the Atlantic seas well.  On Christmas Eve, the crew of the Santa María was having a party.  But, as the individuals succumbed to the festivities and sleep, it was left to the last man standing (a cabin boy) to steer the ship.  Unfortunately, the Santa María ran aground off the present-day site of Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.  Realizing that the ship was beyond repair, Columbus ordered his men to strip the timbers from it.  They were used to build a settlement which he christened La Navidad (Christmas – Columbus musta had a smashing sense of humour) – with the approval of the native cacique, Guacanagari - north of the current-day town of Limonade.  Here, he left 39 men (including that cabin boy?), promising to return to collect them.  He did.  The (presumed) anchor of the Santa María now resides in the Musée du Panthéon National Haitien (MUPANAH), in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 


 There are only 17 parts in this kit – 1 x deck, 2 x hull, 3 x masts, 4 x sails and 3 x other bits, plus a 4-piece stand, all moulded in a soft mustard yellow plastic.  This appears to be a 40+ year-old former Airfix kit, without the decals for the large crosses on the sails.  It includes a small sheet printed with Spanish flags.  Some of the parts (eg, the deck) still show remarkably petit raised detail, while other parts show some mould-slippage (eg, the masts).  The hull pieces are well-detailed for their size though the sails are overly-thick.  Vacform parts might be the solution here.           

 In 2013, my son was in 4th Grade and was studying Ferdinand Magellan.  He sought from me, a model of a ship that Magellan might have used in his voyages of discovery, but all I had was the Santa Maria.  But, as it is a square-rigger, and has Spanish markings, he reckoned that it’d do – IF he can have it next week.  Fortunately, with the low parts-count, it MIGHT be possible – IF I work on it (and nothing else) every night. 


On the first night, I separated the parts from the sprues and cleaned then up.  Using Citadel Miniature paints, I painted, then masked (with really-thin strips of tape), random planks in the deck (multiple times) for a more casual appearance.  I used various shades of brown from a very-dark mournfang brown to a very-light commando khaki.  Middle-of-the-road snakebite leather brown was the main colour.  The hull parts and yardarms (the sideways bits above the sails) were painted rhinox hide - a dark brown, and the ails were painted their first coats of bleached bone.  I also assembled the stand - the fit was tight - and sprayed it gold.

 On night 2, I brushed the deck details with contrasting browns and dry-brushed the hull with commando khaki.  Between more coats on the sail, I trapped the deck between the hull halves.  Again, the fit was pretty good.  And after comparing the moulded-on crews-nest with that depicted on the boxart, I decided to modify it to suit.  Eight lengths of wire were superglued into razorsaw cuts around the crows nest, trimmed to length, then their tops were connected by a thin strip of tape.  The boxart indicated some sort of wrapping (rope?) around the base of the masts (the three sticking-up bits), so I replicated them with tape and glued the unpainted masts (OK – so I’m lazy), bow-sprit (a pointed stick extending forward) and the stern-sprit (is there such a word?) in-place.  Fit of the masts was sloppy.  While the masts are on the centre line, the sprits ‘aint - but who am I to argue with history?  This is when I took a few happy snaps.

 On night 3, I cut and trimmed strips from a solid red decal sheet to create the required 30mm, 20mm and 10mm Spanish crosses on the sails - this was time-consuming.  Supplying decals for this sort of thing would have made the job a snap.  At the same time, a few features caught my eye.  There were three walls on the decks.  Some doors are indicated in them in the box-art, so I resolved to add them.  This was easier than I initially imagined – especially when I decided to use small pieces of paper.  It was tempting to put then in the centre of the wall, but there’s a mast directly behind it.  I would have liked to do the windows of the captain’s cabin across the transom at the stern (back-end of the ship), and a ship’s helm too but size, time and commitment beat me.           

 On night 3 (& 4), all of the parts were ready for final assembly.  But, as nobody accuses me of 100% sanity, I decided that she needed a little rigging.  My rigging ‘aint neat and probably not accurate, but it is there.  Didn’t these little ships used to come with the ratlines (the A-shaped rope ladders up to the yardarms) pre-made in black?  I did them with fine black EZ-Line (it’s elastic and so will stay tight) but left-off the horizontal connecting bits because I don’t reckon I coulda got it looking neat.  This also took a lot of time.  Pre-formed or PE ratlines woulda’ been easier (but $$$?).  Heck – I’ve also seen ratlines printed (in black ink) onto clear plastic film (but it was waaaaaay too glossy).

 On the last night, all of the yardarms and their sails were attached to the masts – a 2-minute job.  Then, even more rigging was attached – anywhere that seemed logical, and with quite a few sideways glances at the boxart.  I also attached the paper flags (pointing forwards – wind, you know).  Finally, the model was tacked to the base, and the name of one of Magellan’s ships (the Trinidad, a 110-ton carrack) was printed on a card and attached to the base.  Another one can be declared finished.  After drilling-out the fairleads, I would have liked to build and add the anchors, and a capstan. 


This was supposed to be a short simple project for me, but the additions suggest that the objective was a competition – not a small class display in the local primary school.  Perhaps it WILL go into a competition – after I add those things that I’d like to add.  This is a small kit that my son could have easily thrown together by himself - if he wasn’t busy with his own research, and if he wanted to build it OOB and/or not paint it.

 In all, the hull (without the sticking-out bits) of the model measures 72mm/@ 3” long.  The box reckons that it is 1/350-scale, but considering the hull of the original was supposed to be 17.7-19.0m, she scales out to @ 1/245-263-scale.  This’d make a figure @ 7mm tall.   If she was 1/350 –scale, the model would be @ 50mm/2” long.   


Just the instructions the boxart and info from Wikipedia.  

Trinidad, a 110-ton carrack

George Oh

August 2013 

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