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Half block model of 18-foot skiff AJAX

Date: 1920-1950
Overall: 88 x 656 x 146 mm, 1 kg
Medium: Wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Bruce Stannard
Object Name: Half block model
Object No: 00000032

User Terms

    This half block wooden model was used to build the 18-foot skiff AJAX.
    SignificanceThis half model not only showcases the skill and ingenuity of the model maker, it illustrates the historical progression of the technical achievements in boatbuilding. The model offers a smaller scale representation of an important vessel of Sydney Harbour’s past; a vessel that today is often only accessible through replicas, reconstructed to honour the skill and craftsmanship of Sydney’s early boatbuilders.
    HistorySailing races have been an intrinsic cultural element of Sydney Harbour since the early days of colonial settlement. In the early 1800s, challenge races were held for risky financial ventures by seaside workers. Over time, this culture of racing became increasingly popular until it reached a crescendo between the 1890s and 1930s, where it drew enormous crowds and developed an almost mythical status. Bruce Stannard colourfully illustrates this atmosphere and culture in his book, ‘The Blue-water Bushmen: The Colourful Story of Australia’s Best and Boldest Boatmen’:

    ‘In the mythology of Australian sport there are few legends more colourful or enduring than those that surround the great sail-carrying open boats. Throughout the 19th century, long before cricket and the turf became obsessions in the infant colony, vast crowds, often hundreds of thousands strong, jammed every vantage point about Sydney Harbour and packed aboard fleets of steamers to gamble and to gape at the incredible antics of the men who dared to race the big boats.…In many ways the open boatmen might be described as blue-water bushmen…the rough and ready Sydney Harbour sailors did embody many of the characteristics which were so readily ascribed to their country cousins….’

    The museum holds a range of half models of skiffs, launches, dinghies and other larger vessels. Half models were fashioned by the boatbuilder before constructing a wooden ship. These are accurate models of larger vessels and the dimensions can be discerned from the lines of the half model. These models rarely survive as the names of the ships they represented are usually lost or they are often mistaken for scraps of wood. In addition to the rarity of these objects, many of the vessels they were modelled for have been lost. Today, there are no surviving 24-footers, 22-footers, 10-footers, canvas dinghies, 8-footers or 6-footers. Only ‘Wee Georgie’ Robinson’s 18-footer BRITANNIA survives, a mere shadow of its former glory, but a testament to both early boatbuilding techniques and an ethos that dominated maritime culture in Sydney Harbour.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Half block model of 18-foot skiff AJAX

    Primary title: Builder's wooden half block model of the 18 foot skiff AJAX

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