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Model boats at Lake Seminole Park showcase creators' passion

Daniel Koch of Hudson puts in his tugboat, The Grip, to compete in the barge towing competition Sunday at Lake Seminole Park.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Daniel Koch of Hudson puts in his tugboat, The Grip, to compete in the barge towing competition Sunday at Lake Seminole Park.

SEMINOLE — One owned fishing trawlers for 30 years, so he built one. Another immigrated to America on a ship, so he built that ship.

The model electric boats at the Bay Area Electric Boaters boat show and regatta at Lake Seminole Park on Saturday and Sunday were more than replicas of ships, trawlers and tugs.

Many were reflections of their builders' lives.

Danny Koch of Hudson, 54, a member of Bay Area Electric Boaters, drives a freezer truck for Pasco County schools. But he once worked on a tugboat and owned fishing trawlers. He still owns one.

His Wild Bill is a model of an 88-foot stern trawler commercial fishing boat. The fully functioning model boat has bow thrusters for moving the ship sideways and a net with winches.

When the 5-foot boat is trawling, Koch can drop the net down up to 20 feet to catch small fish and crabs.

"This is the only actual working trawler that I've seen," he said. "Cost me $3,000 to build it. Took two years and it weighs 70 pounds."

The hull is fiberglass over wood, painted red and blue below, with gray on deck.

Hank Wagner of New Port Richey, 81, another member of the Bay Area Electric Boaters, is a retired machinist who once owned his own machine shop. He can still make a mean steam engine in his garage.

About 15 different types of steam engines that he made from scratch were on display at the regatta and boat show, including one in a boat with a boiler that powers the model boat.

Model boaters spun parts in engine after engine and pored happily over books illustrating Wagner's work.

Then it was time for the "stand off scale" event.

"They pick the one that looks most realistic in the water," said Bob Allison, 69, commodore of Bay Area Electric Boaters. "Oh, they're going to put that thing in the water — fantastic!"

It was an 11-foot, 1950s era freighter/passenger ship complete with crew, passengers and New Orleans jazz playing on deck. The builder was Hal Mather of Amelia Island, a member of Pirate's Flag Modelers.

Mather sent his ship around buoys, in and back out again until it rested in port and the crowd broke into applause and whistles.

"I emigrated from England on this boat with my wife and baby," he said. "It got me to North America and a whole new life."

They left Liverpool on Oct. 25, 1958, and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Nov. 3, 1958.

A depiction of his wife is on deck pushing a baby carriage, but Mather is not. If he were, he would be leaning over the railing in rough North Atlantic seas.

"Nine days, you forget rather quickly," he said. "I've been in North America almost 51 years."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes or (727) 445-4170.

Fast facts

The Bay Area Electric Boaters

The group meets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the second and fourth Sundays each month at Lake Seminole Park, 10015 Park Blvd., Seminole. Anyone with an interest in building and running model boats is welcome. The average boat is about 3 feet long, has a single motor and propeller, and uses a two-channel radio. It costs between $150 and $350 to build. For information, go to www.bayrcboaters.com or call Commodore Bob Allison at (727) 687-6513.

Model boats at Lake Seminole Park showcase creators' passion 03/22/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:25pm]

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