Wasa - Royal Swedish Warship

The Wasa was built in 1628 as the largest warship of its time, being equipped with 60 guns, and was one of the most ornate wooden ships ever built by any nation. The Wasa is infamous, however, because it (a) sank on its maiden voyage without ever leaving the harbor and (b) it was recovered almost completely intact 333 years later. After 30 years of restoration, the entire ship is now on display in Stockholm. All aspects of the Wasa story are compelling and the reader is encouraged to seek out the many books and articles written about it.

The model pictured here was begun in 1995 by Frank Pittelli after he marveled at the real ship in Stockholm. The model measures 46" LOD and is about 70% complete, requiring standing rigging and the installation of guns. When complete, it is hoped that the Wasa model will sail better (and longer) than the original.

The Wasa model was built using plank-on-frame construction, with plywood frames, balsa planks below the waterline and cedar planks above the waterline. All planks were ripped to proper width, bent as needed in a steam bath and fitted into place by hand. The hull took approx. 3 months to build.

The bow section, pictured here, was very ornate on the original ship, including over a dozen carved figurines that were gilded with gold leaf. Provisions have been made on the model to accept such ornamentation when and if it is done. The model does include a carved lionhead which denotes this as a royal warship.

The stern section of the Wasa is the most challenging to model. The Wasa was one of the last warships built with the high stern area (which was designed to impress the opposition). In reality, the stern stands 90' from the keel to the top of the sternboard. Two levels of cupolas adorned the sides (which were used by the marines when coming alongside another ship), all of which had a lot of ornamentation.

As pictured here, the model displays a relatively modest carved sternboard and relatively plain cupolas awaiting future carvings. (A salvaged piece of boxwood from a neighbor is being seasoned for that very purpose.)

The Wasa model was built with the intention of sailing it under radio control. The model has been floated on a number of occasions to determine its stability, with favorable results. In order to prevent any occurrence of the problem that sank the original ship, a weighted keel can be added to the bottom of hull using two stainless steel rods that all it to be easily removed when not sailing. Furthermore, since even the real rudder was too small to adequately steer the ship by itself, an oversized rudder can be added below the aft section of the ship for sailing.

All of the yards on the ship are operational and can be turned by a set of sheets that run between them. The sheets form a continuous loop from one side of the yards, down the mast, around a sail winch, back up the mast, and back to the other side of the yard. In this way, all of the yards can be turned at one time to tack as necessary. Initial tests have been promising, but a number of rigging and control problems must be resolved before success can be claimed.