Trinity House Vessel Vigia

Graham Buckton describes his model

Some years ago, whilst at the CADMA Show in Doncaster, I was offered a drifter hull and plan. I was not in the market for a fishing boat, but having inspected the hull I paid the £20 asking price. Although quite old, it was a well-made of fibreglass with above average wall thicknesses, but with some surface damage to the stern. The label was still inside, showing it was made in Aberdeen.

Whilst at another show I asked Scoonie Models if they knew of the hull and whether they made fittings for it. They did have suitable fittings, but they were not purchased, as I still had no desire to build a fishing boat. This is not, I must confess, a good attitude for someone who lives close to what used to be the two largest fishing ports in the world, i.e. Hull and Grimsby!

A slow start

The hull sat in my workshop [aka the spare bedroom] for a couple of years gathering dust, but occasionally I would put it on the bench and contemplate what to do with it. Each time it went back on the floor to gather more dust, but eventually I did make a start and repaired the damage to the stern, fitted a propshaft, skeg and rudder. It was then again consigned to the ‘to do list’.

A couple of years later, whilst trawling through back issues of ‘Model Boats’, I came across an article concerning the Trinity House Vessel Vigia in the January 1977 copy. She had entered service at Harwich in 1937 as a tender with the Trinity House Pilotage Service. After Ministry of War Transport service she returned to her original owners and in 1946 was licensed as Pilot Vessel No. 7 and continued in this role until sold out of service in 1962.

She was constructed on a drifter hull, which Fellows & Co of Yarmouth, built ‘on spec’ in the early 1930's. Interestingly she had a diesel/electric power plant, so an electric motor in the model would not be out of place. So, here was a drifter hull, but more importantly, not a fishing boat and therefore perfect for what I had in mind.


Although published nearly forty years ago, the plan MM1228 @ £12.50 is still available from MyHobbyStore, tel: 0844 848 8822 (UK) or +44 133 291 2894 (International), a phone call and cheque rapidly securing a copy. The printed article contained two photographs of Vigia which were small and not much help with detailing. ‘No problem’ thought I, as there were bound to be hundreds of images on the world wide web, but how wrong can you be, as the only ones were the two in the article. However, being on the Internet they could be enlarged, which did help a bit. Strangely, the web contained no more information than the Model Boats article and I was beginning to think that Vigia was a figment of the imagination of the author, L. W. Hawkins. Even so, it was decided that the plan and the two pictures did provide sufficient information to get started.

The hull

An early challenge was creating the freeing ports in the bulwarks. The article described them as ‘balanced door’, which meant absolutely nothing to me. After many hours trawling the web, I finally found a report concerning the sinking of a ship, the cause of which was attributed to the malfunction of the balanced door freeing ports. More importantly, there was a poor quality photo of the offending door. They turned out to be hinged horizontally in the centre and swung open with the rolling of the vessel, thereby freeing water from the deck on the downward roll but closing when they reached water-level. So the model received doors with a central hinge and mounting brackets, but they do not swing open as that would have been just too much of a challenge.

The foredeck of Vigia is a little sparse with just a few fittings, so I decided that with so much deck on view, the planking had to be correctly laid. Again a search of the web brought up articles and drawings of correct practice, which I followed, even down to joggling the joints between the planks and the margin board. It took a long time, but I was pleased with the result.


The original Vigia was covered with numerous brass ports and these and many other superb, and reasonably priced, fittings were ordered from Keith Jewel at Modelling Timbers. He had literally just moved from three miles up the road from me to the Isle of Man, but an email and online payment saw the fittings arrive within a couple of days.

Another issue to be settled was how the two boats were stored onboard, as one of the small photos suggested they did not sit on the deck, but were level with the top of the bulwarks. Living near Hull I was aware of the preserved lightship in the marina. Although this was built for the Humber Conservancy Board I assumed the arrangement would be similar. Having been able to get up close to the full-size boats, I was happy that the storage was practically the same, with the davits being made from parallel steel tubes, just like Vigia. Heat bent brass tube, with more brass rigging blocks from Modelling Timbers ensured the boats looked right. When it came to painting I followed the details in the article, so although additional information was at a premium, she should be in the correct Trinity House corporate scheme.

On the water

With a not particularly powerful motor and a large propeller, she sails at a realistic scale speed and is very stable, so much so that recently she was hit broadside by a model yacht running before a good wind and barely shuddered.

I now have a model that is somewhat different to the other Trinity House models seen at shows and I can honestly say I have not seen another version of Vigia on my travels. I hope the pictures convey the main features of the model and as I wrote earlier, it all came from that fibreglass hull bought for just £20.