Building the Heller Chebec
The Chebec is a sleek lined sailing vessel used by the Barbary pirates in the late 17th century. The vessel could also be propelled by oars. To be able to combat the pirates on equal terms Spain and France eventually built their own Chebecs. The hull design suggests great speed but would have provided little crew comfort or shelter from the elements.
I first ran into a model of a Chebec when I was at the nautical college in Den Helder in Holland about 35 years ago. It was one of the legendary Imai models made of that beautiful wood like polystyrene and included cloth sails, metal pad eyes and for some strange reason a wooden bowsprit. I built her and loved the fine flowing lines of the finished modelís hull and the beautifully raked masts. Somewhere along the line, moving from town to town over the years the Chebec disappeared.
I was completely unaware until about 4 years ago that Heller had made a gigantic 1/50th scale Chebec until I ran into an article online in which someone mentioned buying one on E-bay. From that moment on the hunt was on for my own Heller Chebec. After 3 botched attempts to get hold of one on E-bay I finally managed, in the autumn of 2007 to get hold of my Heller Chebec in the USA for the eye watering price of $170,-, (that is including postage to Europe and import duties in Holland). The model is long out of production so if you see one on E-bay go for it. This Heller creation is a joy to build and if they ever decide to reissue this model Iíll be in line for a second.
The model I bought had been produced in 1977 and rolled off the Heller line when I was still an apprentice learning the ropes at sea. I must admit that it was with great trepidation that I started this build of a 30 year old model. I didnít realize starting the build that this vessel would consume nearly all of my modeling time in 2008.
The model was in excellent condition with crisp moldings, little flash and nicely executed carvings on the panels for the stern castle. The wood texture on all the planking was realistic enough to make me decide to do some further experimenting with oil paints to add a realistic wood look to my build. The obligatory plastic sails were included but I binned them right away. The only problem during building the hull and fitting the main deck was that the plastic had become very brittle and tended to split when it came into contact with super glue. Another sign of age was the amazing collection of ejector marks on the inside of the bulwarks that had me scratching my head for a solution at first; fill with putty or Mr. surfacer and risk losing the wood texture or leave them alone and hope that they would fade into the background when all detailing was added, (check the photoís to see what I finally did).