"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul...I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. There is magic in it."
Herman Melville understood the allure of the sea and explained it beautifully within the first paragraphs of Moby Dick. Ishmael, our hero and Real Man by anyone's standards, chooses to go to sea not as a passenger, he tells us, but as a sailor. Men for hundreds of years have followed Ishmael's lead and joined the great (and not-so-great) navies of the world either for the pure air and exercise that Ishmael sought or for the money, which he didn't fail to mention either.
Aviators, though their eyes are usually turned skyward, are not immune to this longing for the sea, and many have chosen to fly aircraft off aircraft carriers -- and even from cruisers and battleships when naval aviation was new back in the 1930s and 40s -- rather than concrete runways. Those pioneers saw the practical and tactical value of flying aircraft directly off the sea, and they modified aircraft with pontoons and other technologies to exploit those capabilities. I'm fascinated by function over form, so it shouldn't be strange that I've been enticed to build models of seaplanes recently.
Over the last year or so I've purchased quite a few seaplanes, which are far from my usual interest in modern jet aircraft. How did this happen? Is the same longing for the sea that Melville wrote about applicable to scale modeling? Is it just a matter of time before I start buying ships?
My fascination with sea planes might have been sparked watching Kermit Weeks's in-cockpit "Kermie Cam" videos of his Sikorsky S-39, flying it off the lake on his Fantasy of Flight property in Central Florida.
Or maybe it was photographs of exceptional scale models of seaplanes, such as this scratchbuilt 1/72 Loening C-2H Air Yacht 1928 by Flikr user Franclab.
I know for sure why I bought an Eastern Express 1/144 Be-200. It was just after stumbling upon this video of a Be-200 performing at the Gelendzhik Hydro Air Show in Russia and being smitten by its unique, head-on profile.
To be fair, I've had a few seaplanes in my stash going back to my high school days. A couple of years ago, writing about the challenges of rigging, I mentioned my Williams Brothers 1/72 Douglas World Cruiser, which as some of you know can be built with either wheels or pontoons. I've also had an LS 1/144 Emily for nearly the same 30 years, which has called its siren song to me now and then.
More recently I've picked up an Airfix 1/144 Boeing 314 Clipper at Mosquitocon back in April, a fugly Amodel 1/144 Be-12NH, and a Sword 1/72 SO3C Seamew during my last visit to my LHS just last week. There are a few more on my informal wish list, so don't be surprised if you see one or two under my arm at the IPMS Nats next week.
I suppose it doesn't matter why we like what we like. What can we do but embrace these whims and see where they take us? I think they offer a pleasant distraction from building, in my case, yet another Hasegawa F-4 or Trumpeter F-105. An opportunity to stretch our skills, use different colors, and try new weathering techniques. In the meantime, if anyone has a Sword 1/72 JRF Goose they'd like to sell, give me a shout. I'll provide the water.