Ahoy there! Handcrafted Nonsuch model for sale

The owner of a handcrafted model of the Nonsuch is looking for it to be berthed in a new harbour.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/12/2019 (1004 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The owner of a handcrafted model of the Nonsuch is looking for it to be berthed in a new harbour.

Stuart Swanson, grandson of the model ship’s creator, Jack, is hoping to sell his grandfather’s work to the right buyer for $5,000. He has it posted for sale on both Facebook and Kijiji.

“I remember running around it when it was being built, and being told not to touch it,” Swanson said Monday, looking at the model currently moored on a table in his living room. “I remember when it was just ‘a below (deck)’ piece.

“I’ve probably touched it more in the last five years than the first 40.”

Detail of the Nonsuch model replica made by Jack Swanson. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Swanson said his grandfather became interested in the Nonsuch when he saw the replica of the 1650s merchant ship sailing in the Strait of Georgia in 1972. It had been built to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Hudson Bay Company in 1670, and became a permanent display at the Manitoba Museum in 1974.

Swanson’s grandfather, who joined the Canadian Naval Reserve in 1930, and later served with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, went on to help move the ship into a gallery in what was then called the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature.

He worked at the museum as the ship’s first “husband” — a term given the person in charge of a vessel’s security while berthed and its crew was on shore leave.

But his hobby — which he began before the war — was building model ships, specializing in ones from the late 1600s and early 1700s.

In a 1991 Winnipeg Free Press article, he called his roughly one-metre long, one-metre tall model of the Nonsuch “my pride and joy.”

A photograph of Jack Swanson on the model. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Swanson said his grandfather started building the Nonsuch model in the early 1970s, and it took him more than three years. For a time, it was exhibited at the museum, but after it was damaged, his grandfather took it back.

After Jack Swanson died in 1996, the model went to his son, Donald, who passed it to his son, Stuart, after he died in 2014.

“Everything on the ship is built from the plan for the replica at the museum,” Swanson said.

Swanson has put the Nonsuch model on Facebook Marketplace and is asking for $5,000. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

“It is built like a real ship. It is all held together with wooden dowels, called trunnels on the ship. Everything is handmade. There are no production parts not made by my grandfather’s hands, except the cannon balls which are actually birdshot covered with brass black.”

Swanson’s grandfather even built a rope walk in his basement so he could turn thread into the nine different sizes of rope needed for the rigging and other areas.

Below deck, there are details you can only see if you open the doors or take the hatch cover’s wooden strips off: bunks, cupboards, and other items.

Swanson said he would like to keep the model — and pass it on to his children — but there’s no space to display it in his house, and his children don’t know where they’ll be living some day or if they’ll have room for it.

“When this sells, I will be very sad,” Swanson said.

“But if it goes to the right person I will be more than happy for them.”


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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