, Salem, MA

October 17, 2013

An armada comes to Peabody

Model ship builders showcase their work at Torigian Center -- and insist anyone can do it


---- — PEABODY — The fleet’s in.

Just don’t expect any sailors bigger than your thumb.

This is the annual model ship show at the Torigian Center in Peabody. The vessels to be showcased on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20, are often painstakingly built, with every line researched, every spar and every capstan fashioned to scale.

If all that sounds daunting, fear not, says Rich Royer of the George Sippel Modeling Group (named for the late founder). “I’m one of the two instructors,” Royer explains, along with Marcy Consalvo. “And it’s not as hard as you think.”

A retired engineer at General Electric, Royer is confident he can have anybody making realistic models. And the weekend show, with as many as 100 models expected, is designed to bring people into the fold.

“We’ll have models in progress. We’ll have guys working on stuff,” he says. “... I’ve looked at the quality of the ships now in, and this is better than anything in a museum.”

While you might think the hobby attracts a certain type of person, in fact there are a variety of enthusiasts with a variety of reasons for wanting to create the perfect miniature boat.

“I build them because I used to be a sailor and I just love sailing,” says Royer. You can see that in his model yachts, which are sometimes set on surfaces fashioned like a rolling blue ocean, sheets seemingly billowing, tiny sailors bent to the work of catching the wind.

“And there are some who just like the look of square-rigged ships,” he continues. That’s something evident in the painstaking lines — actually tiny threads — frequently strung for these sailing ships, often with the tiniest details in the rigging, every board of the deck delineated and the fierce mouths of cannons peeking from the gun ports.

“Some people are really into the history of the thing,” he adds. “One guy just loves Civil War ships. He keeps coming up with the odd boats that no one ever heard of, boats that did something in the Civil War.”

More recent history is reflected, too, in the sharp angles and gray cast applied to replicas of iron U.S. Navy vessels, part of the fleet that swept the sea of our enemies in the 20th century.

You don’t need to be obsessive to create a model ship, Royer insists, but that doesn’t mean some of the builders aren’t. In fact, he concedes, there are some models so carefully crafted they include interior cabins — which can never be seen.

“Some of us are crazy,” he nods. “Even the guys who do that will admit they’re crazy.” He wouldn’t do it himself, he smiles. “I’m too lazy.”

It’s all for fun, Royer stresses as he invites anyone interested to “come down, sit with us and learn.” The Torigian Center has all the tools. “It’s not a club. There are no dues. Some people just come in and kibitz. That’s fine.”

And as if to prove it’s a hobby that can capture the devotion of all sorts of people, he proudly shows a simple yet cunningly accurate reproduction of a typical New England lobster boat.

It was built by Mrs. Royer.

IF YOU GO ... What: Model ship exhibit When: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Where: Torigian Community Life Center, 79 Central St., Peabody Admission: Free Information: 978-531-2254 or