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Sunday, June 17, 2012 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.

Northwest Wanderings: All hands on deck at model regatta

By Alan Berner
Seattle Times staff photographer

46th in an occasional series

Model-boat builders are drawn to the challenges that come with attention to detail.

Lee Stewart's 1/12th-scale Edwardian river launch, the Topaz, "is steam-powered just like the original." It is propane-fired, with a young captain at the helm (a doll ordered online) and an engine and boiler built in England.

The passengers have a tea set and an actual copy of a newspaper of the day, The Dispatch, in miniature, along with a box of cigars and a copy of "Gulliver's Travels."

There's also a sink and a loo.

Stewart's large hands barely fit in the space above the boiler where tiny knobs have to be turned as the boat is prepared for sailing. He is retired from the microcomputer business, so this passion is a perfect fit.

One of his models is of a Japanese whaling ship, and a fellow member of the Northwest R/C Ship Modelers has threatened to make a Greenpeace boat to attack it.

But while motoring the Topaz at South Lake Union Park in Seattle, the unintentional hazards of boating came into play when a sailboat with no rudder or radio controls clipped the stern, sending the aft cover, the British flag and a brass pole into the pond.

That ended the Topaz's day.

Alan Berner: 206-464-8133 or


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