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Scratchbuilding the NRP Alvares Cabral

  • NRP Alvares Cabral
Project genesis...

One issue that portuguese ship modelers have, that most of you don't, is to portray our recent Navy (read XX century) ship in scale form!
Our Navy ships are of own design or are bought/ordered from US, England, France, Germany or Holland (like the new Frigates that are going to be delivered this year). Of all these ships, there are only a hand full that can be made out of available models, and some of them can reach a fortune, like the Heller 1/400 Comandant Riviere and Daphné SSK (which I am fortunate to have), and even those that are available in kit form need some work on them - there is almost no "out of the box" for us!

Having a couple of chats with Mike McCabe on this particular issue, Filipe Ramires borrowing me an old portuguese naval magazine with 1/700 plans, evergreen stock enough to start this project and being tired of USS Cassin, on one night I decided to take the plunge and after three hours of sanding I had the hull made! So... my next project is scratchbuilding a Bay class frigate in portuguese navy use.
The real "Alvares Cabral"...
"The Frigate Burghead Bay, former Loch Harport, built in the Charles Hill & Sons, Ltd shipyard in Bristol (same as the portuguese aviso Nuno Tristao). The keel was laid in September, 21st 1944, launched in March 3rd, 1945 and was comissioned in September 20th, 1945. It received the name Alvares Cabral and when itr arrived Lisbon the number F336 was painted in black in the hull. (...)"

"Starting in March 20th 1960, Alvares Cabral and Pacheco Pereira, start a long carreer of tours in the Portuguese African colonies (Angola and Mozambique), which didn't happen since WWII, when Afonso de Albuquerque, Bartolomeu Dias and Goncalves Zarco departed from Mozambique to regain Timor and Goncalo Velho to Macau (note: all of these were Avisos)."

All of the Portuguese Bay Frigates were bought with the intent to use in the African Colonies, because of NATO limitations of usage of the NATO assigned material below the Tropic of Cancer. Some of the Bay Frigates, before arriving here suffered some refits and updates at the John Tornycroft Shipyard , Southampton, and other updates and "modernizations" in Lisbon and docking (small repairs and maintenance) in Durban, South Africa, apart from general maintenance, also in the crew comfort areas, since these ships weren't made for tropical / subtropical climates, making the bridge wings area superstructures different, as were the masts. There's even a story that, a well seasoned sailor could tell which is which just by looking at the mast top!

Ship Details:
Beam: 11,7m
Draft: 4,7m
Armament: 2 double 102 mm open shielded guns (5 inch)
6 40mm Boffors (2 single, 2 twin);
1 Hedgehog;
4 depth charge throwers and 2 depth charge racks
Propulsion: 2 Triple Expansion engines of 5 500 h.p. - 2 shafts
Maximum speed: 19,5 knots
Radars: 1 combined type 293; 1 surface; 1 fire control radar type 285
Sonars: type 165 and 147 F
Complement: 168

NRP Alvares Cabral was decommissioned and scraped in 1971.
Help is on the way...
Although I had already scratchbuilt one tug and one chinese junk boat, these were accessories to other dioramas, not the center point of them...
I was pretty satisfied with the result of this sanding evening, and decided to start checking references for minute detail, color schemes and paint references, all the things that could turn this project into a success or a disaster.

So a couple of visits were made to the Museu de Marinha (Navy Museum) and Arquivo Central de Marinha (Navy Central Archives) to see if they had any plans or photos of the ships class that could help me. No plans were available at the time, but some photos were! Most of the photos show the Alvares Cabral and the other three ships of the class from Port or Starboard, but no detail shots that could solve my problems!
An old friend of the Family, now aged 82 was kind enough to give me the negatives of some of his photos of his sailing Navy days (he was a Medic) and surprise, it included two shots of NRP Vasco da Gama F-478 another ship of the class... These and also the three part article that now I was able to buy, made me realize that all ships of the class had differences between them, even at the same time frame! So I had to choose carefully and bearing in mind what I would need and what could get! I decided to go with the version that was drawn in the plans: Alvares Cabral when she arrived at Lisbon, in 1959.
Filipe proved very important, when he shared my scratchbuilt project to Lawrence Batchelor (also a good friend that I met in 2006 at Telford!) and all my doubts were satisfied with scans from his records and advices on PE sets.
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral
  • NRP Alvares Cabral

About the Author

About Rui Matos (skipper)

Hi all Crew Members!
Rui Matos, 39 years old (in 2006), married, former Portuguese Navy Fire Control Radar Operator , and "owned" by two cats - James, Stripes (Riscas in portuguese, now deceased) and Moon (Lua)!
I've been modeling since I was 6, but only have turned to Submarines in 1991 o...


Hi Guys The writing is updated - THANK YOU SO MUCH FRANK Skipper
FEB 01, 2008 - 05:51 AM
Great read Rui. I look forward to your next build. Frank
FEB 01, 2008 - 03:27 PM
Hey Skipper, You and gunny just got me talked into doing a 1/700 build with water base and now you want us to try scratch building......I'll get brain fry for sure......LOL! P.S. Great build skipper and great article.
FEB 01, 2008 - 05:24 PM
Hi Frank (wildspear) I think that you should try it - not now, without stress - when you feel comfortable and confident, you will It's a different level of scale modeling, and it doesn't mean that you will stop buying/building "branded" plastic/resin models. It's just pushing to the next level what we usually make, when you have to build "corrected" parts To Frank Portela Glad you liked it - again, Thank you for reading it and pointing the missing text part (I haven't noticed it) Cheers, Skipper
FEB 02, 2008 - 08:29 AM
Rui, RE: NRP Alvares Cabral, wow! I mean WOW-WOW! It looks like a much larger scale, you have included so much fine detail, so well done, an awesome project. Excellent photo documenting too, really shows the progress form idea to gorgeous miniature ship! Top stuff.
FEB 02, 2008 - 11:46 AM
Superb job indeed and splendid and detailed article. What follows the Alvares Cabral???
FEB 04, 2008 - 07:39 PM
Ahhh - after our meeting today and the "discovered treasure" God only knows!!! Thanks Filipe Thanks also Wink - I guess my next one is going to be more perfect - after all this was my first one Cheers Rui (aka Skipper)
FEB 05, 2008 - 12:23 AM
Rui, having just started my first ever 1/700 ship build (HMS Liverpool) I am truly stunned a what you have created here. It really is a fantastic build! Please accept my apologies for my cheek but may I humbly, humbly make one small observation? I really hate to do this as I am a total newbie even in comparison to this but, the Davit the port boat is hanging from should be forward (towards the hull and lowered in line with the ships side) to launch the boat. At the moment it is in the stowed position and the lines and boat are at an angle to the hull. I really feel bad for mentioning this but I noticed it almost straight away. This is lovely, cracking build Skipper and one you should be very proud of!
FEB 05, 2008 - 04:26 AM
Hi Murdo Don't need to apologize That was a "repairing" situation because I didn't scratch the boat - and I had the davit already in the proper position. When I went to fix the boat in place (a spare part from the box) it didn't fit - that is why I have made it in that situation. You don't need to feel bad - it's something I am aware and only because of my "clever idea" of using a similar boat You were paying attention - never be afraid of telling your thoughts! I appreciate it Cheers mate Skipper
FEB 05, 2008 - 04:36 AM
"first one" - even MORE WOW, because that looks like it took about 25 practices. If you ever do a larger scale scratch, you'll have folks buying tickets for a ride! The documentation you did was also excellent, it really was a part of the project, too, becasue we readers get to learn about the model and the subject, and it really adds a lot. Best, Wink
FEB 05, 2008 - 03:44 PM