Model watercraft mirrors state’s maritime history


Jerome Morris’s boat, the Kathryn A, looks just like a lobster boat, from her pointed bow to the square hull and bearded figure behind the wheel. There’s just one problem: a large lobster might be bigger than the watercraft. That’s because the Kathryn A is a model boat — she is 48 inches long, weighs 15 pounds and is operated via remote control.

Morris, who owns Marine Models in Union, is versed in the craft of model boat building. A native of Port Clyde, he says he started building models from kits at age 6. In his adult life, he has worked on lobster boats and an oil tanker, but for the last two decades has devoted himself full time to making and restoring smaller replicas.

It’s a waning art. In 2004, the Kathryn A was named the world’s fastest radio-controlled model lobster boat after beating out about 10 other contestants at the Rockland Lobster Festival. Now, Morris rarely finds her racing competitors.

“Just in the Midcoast area, there were half a dozen of us,” he said. “Some have passed away. Some have moved away.”

This summer, the Kathryn A isn’t quite so alone — model boats have popped up at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, where the exhibition “Sailing Small: Small Boats Big Ideas” explores the inspiration behind the creation of miniature watercraft. As part of the show, which runs through Oct. 21, the museum set up an 18-inch-deep artificial pond, where visitors can see the diminutive vessels in action.

The time it takes to make a model boat varies widely depending on the craft’s size and quality. Morris once encountered a 20-foot model of a United Fruit Co. banana boat, though most are smaller than that. Historically, models were built from scratch, but these days it’s possible to make one using a kit.

Earlier this summer, the Kathryn A beat out the Penny, a kit-made boat belonging to the Penobscot Marine Museum, at a race at the Searsport town dock.


For a model to work on the water, it must be equipped with a motor and battery. The Kathryn A, for example, uses an old motorcycle battery, which weighs roughly seven pounds. While buoyancy is important, Morris explained that model boats shouldn’t be made too lightweight, as they will be susceptible to winds and tides.

While lobster boats such as the Kathryn A honor one of Maine’s longstanding industries, Morris’s collection also includes a tugboat and a fishing dragger, among other models. Although he may be among a shrinking number of model makers, he has no intention of stopping.

“I have a number of other boats I’d like to build,” he said.

The Penobscot Marine Museum is located at 2 Church St. in Searsport. Tel: 548-0334. Website: https://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/.