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jan kusters

The Crimson Mermaid (playing with pirates sets 31109 and 21322, and some other stuff)

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(note; this is going to be a very long post, with many pictures and lots of reading. I enjoy those kind of posts by others, so when I post myself, I try to do likewise…)

 

Let me spin you a yarn of fellow-rovers

A tale of briny yearnings on a grey Monday morning, and of building a Legoset known as the 3in1 pirates set 31109.

 

So get a drink and get a snack. Sit back, this is going to be a long one…

And while you’re at it, could you spend this old sailor a ration of rum too? Good boy…

 

This is the tale of…

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the briney brick 48: All Hands... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

I have not always been this salty dog you see before you now. Once I lived in a tread mill. Rising each day at dawn, sipping tepid tea while reading a news paper, pushed papers at an office, and going home for a meager meal and sleep. Day after weary day. Spilling tea from cup into saucer was the about the biggest adventure that could happen.

Than one grey day, while reading the same bugger and bore as always in the papers, and sipping my tepid morning tea, it hit me;

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The briney brick... (1) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

(The heyday of my Lego origins was way back in the sixties, when Lego wheels were new. It means modern Lego can easily baffle me with things that go together one way, but not another way. While messing with Classic Space, I learned that bricklinking lose bricks was a certain road to trouble. Brilliant ideas turned out to be impossible once I received certain bricks. And at the same time, often solutions – when found – turned out much easier than expected. Classic Space taught me a valuable lesson. For modern Lego; start with one or more sets to learn the tricks, and to get a bunch of Lego that works well together.

 

So when I decided to go into Lego sailing, I decided to buy a set. In fact, I had already done that, but that was still old Lego; set 398, the Constellation, was from 1978, and was mostly build from the kind of bricks I knew.)

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0147 b afd 27-4-2018 em5 2578 by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

It was a beautiful ship, very much along the lines of what I build as a kid, but better. And once I build it, I loved modifying it to give it a better rigging. (see  https://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/173194-uss-constellation-set-39810021-and-some-mods/&tab=comments for more on that build). It also taught me that I find it hard to build a set without at least some modifying. I tend to have my own ideas, even when guided…

 

But this set was still too old, nothing like the classic Pirate ships that came out during my dark ages. I had turned my gaze towards Lego Pirates at a perfect moment; by the time I decided I really wanted to build such a boat, Lego came out with two fantastic new sets; Pirates of Barracuda Bay (set nr. 21322) and the Pirates 3in1 Creator set (nr. 31109). I loved them both! With Corona hitting the world and sending us all into more or less of a lock down, I found myself spending less money on going out and travel. I had time, I had some money, lets get them sets!

 

I stashed away my 'old school' bricks, and my Classic Space bricks, bought 4 small drawer cabinets, ordered the sets for my birthday, and started…

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Entr'acte: work station finaly ready for action... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

Modern sets, in modern drawers... Set 31109, the 3in1 Pirate set from 2020, and the 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay set. I did not start with building those set right away.

I was determined to make the most of it, and spread the fun over a long time. So I opened up the sets and sorted all the bricks into the drawers (and one large box for the bigger pieces). The plan was (and still is) to slowly work my way up to building the ships, wrapped in a story that slowly unfolds itself on my display shelf. I would modify where I so fit, and bricklink parts I needed, but with these two sets, I had a solid collection of modern Lego that would get me a long way.

 

 

It was time to send Minifigme on an adventure…

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The Briney Brick... (2) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

With little money and even less experience, Minifigme did not quite start his nautical adventures as he had pictured it. No big boat and happy crew singing merry sea shanties. No one would hire an old inexperienced geezer as crew. And a small boat was all he could afford. A very small boat!

Small, but good enough to learn the ropes. And the friendly second hand ships sales man threw in even a sea chest for provisions. As kind of a life boat to go with his ship…

 

Last year, I had bought the 3in1 Deep Sea Creatures set 31088 and liked that a lot (I bought even two of them).

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Fish! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

I found many alternate builds for this set  online. More than enough to give Minifigme all the adventures he dreamed of when cooped up behind his desk.

 

 

A small boat is more than enough for adventure! Minifigme soon learned the sea is a big adventure alright.

 

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The Briney Brick... (3) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Not two glasses out at sea, treetops and high rise hotels sank behind the horizon, and Minifigme came under attack of a giant prawn! Fighting for his life and provisions, he came out victorious, but with new respect for the sea and what lies beneath.

 

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The Briney Brick... (4) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

An antennae, knocked from the giant prawn, made for an excellent fishing rod, nice to add to his provisions. Although the first catch was not very inviting to eat. Raw swordfish, anyone? The sword might come in handy though...

 

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The Briney Brick 6 (a) Sea life... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Not everything in the sea turned out to be monsters and trouble. Minifigme’s first whale sighting was cute enough…

 

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The Briney Brick 6 (b) and more sea life by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Until mommy dear showed up in a protective mood.

 

The big whale was a known Lego alternate build with instructions online. The baby whale came from a Youtube channel (https://youtu.be/kWajNobR2Uo). The Giant Prawn is based on something I saw online, but build in my own way.

 

 

Then one fine day, Mini-me spotted a lonely little island. Land Ho and all that!

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The Briney Brick 8 (a) Land Ho! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

Greetings from... Uhm.. Err...

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The Briney Brick 8 (b) Land Ho! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

There was a lot of driftwood on that Island, and Minifigme started to expend his little boat. Life on a deserted Island, with fish, coconuts and driftwood, what more could one want? Some proper tools perhaps.

 

Of course the ocean is big and empty, but once you find a sweet spot, you’re bound to get company. And so one morning, Minifigme woke up to the sight of this…

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The Briney Brick 9 (a): PIRATES! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

Pirates!

 

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The Briney Brick 9 (b): PIRATES! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

A whole bunch of one legged Pirates – and one rather weathered looking castaway – had invaded his little island!

 

(here's where I started modding stuff. Just little bits. After all, them pirates had been on their raft a long time, and they were pirates, not fishermen...)

After the first shock, they turned out to be quite a friendly bunch. And once Minifigme was willing to share the driftwood and the fish he caught with them, they soon became best of friends.

The Pirates were not lazy and pretty handy with a lot of things. They quickly started to make the island a lot more inhabitable.

 

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The Briney Brick 10 (a) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The Briney Brick 10 (c) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The Briney Brick 11 (a): Done... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

And so life became pretty easy going on their little tropical paradise...

 

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The Briney Brick 11 (d): Done... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The Briney Brick 12 (a): by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The Briney Brick 12 (b): by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The Briney Brick 13 (b): going native... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Minifigme has even gone native by cutting the sleeves from his shirt and by getting some ink done.

 

Now this was all nice and dandy, but I have to admit, once everything was done, them pirates and Minifigme turned rather lazy and boring, almost like a bunch of Pensionados lazing about on a tropical island.

 

Luckily one day Pip, the youngest mate, noticed a something in the sand, when the quartermaster removed some shrubbery.

 

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The Briney Brick 23 (a): X never EVER marks the spot... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

X never EVER marks the spot! Except when it does of course.

 

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The Briney Brick 23 (b): X never EVER marks the spot... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

There are not many things that get Pirates fired up like a hint of some hidden treasure, so they burst into activity right away.

 

 

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The Briney Brick 23 (c): X never EVER marks the spot... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

The resulting dig did not bring the expected loot, but it did point into a direction that Pirates can never resist. Skeletons? Maps? Thaddaway? There must be booty beyond that horizon!

 

CAST OFF FORE AND AFT! MAKE SAIL!

 

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The Briney Brick 24: The fleet sets sail... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

And so a small armada packed up, cast off and set sail. Each in or on his own craft…

 

And then, one foggy morning:

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The Briney Brick 30 a: as the fog slowly clears... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

'Driftwood ahead! Lots of driftwood! Oh, uhm, and some sharp pointy rocks too, by the way…'

 

As the morning fog cleared, it turned out to be more than just driftwood.

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The Briney Brick 30 b: as the fog slowly clears... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

And thus our intrepid crew came across a ship, wrecked on a small rocky island.

After a careful check and some deliberations, It was decided to try and fix the ship up again.

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The Briney Brick 31 c: Them poor sods... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

With the wreck came 3 new crewmen. Good honest traders by their own admission, but willing to join the Pirates if that would get them off the rocks.

Meet the brothers Port and Starboard, and Big All.

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The Briney Brick 34 b: Heave Ho mates! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

The ship’s hold turned out to be a treasure trove of tools, paint and other useful stuff.

 

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The Briney Brick 33 c: What do we have here? by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Deep down in the hold of the wreck, the quartermaster even found a couple of canon barrels, perhaps used as ballast, or else for sale. Apart from the wreck itself, these were the best finds!

 

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The Briney Brick 34 c: Heave Ho mates! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Heave ho! Lining up parts of the hull and pulling her together again.

 

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The Briney Brick 35: Men at work 1 by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Remind me Port, how was it again? Measure once, cut twice?

 

 

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The Briney Brick 37: Men at work (4) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Heave Ho again! Moving wood. Moving so much wood! With all the rafts taken apart, and shortening the ship a few feet, there was more than enough wood to rebuild her.

 

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The Briney Brick 37: Men at work (3) by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

The ship had no gun ports, it had indeed been a harmless merchant. With the canons found in the hold however, it could become so much more. If only some gun ports could be cut…

 

Modding time: I added a deck. Simple; the original open deck had an 8x10 stud hole, so a 8x8 grill plate with 2 2x8 plates on the sides would fill it nicely.

 

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Entr'acte: the ship from set 31109, and some small modifications. by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The briney brick 43: heave ho once more by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

I also added a capstan to the centre of the grill plate, so my poor crew no longer had to dangle like a bunch of grapes from a rope to haul something. It also makes it easier to take out that deck part and reach the guns below.

 

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The Briney Brick 40: The downside of good ideas... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

The only downside to the added deck is more deck to swab.

 

Pip had been pretty impressed by the figure head. Of course it had lost some of its charm, with a lot of wood weathered and silvering.

Time for a touch up!

 

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The Briney Brick 33 a: What do we have here? by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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The Briney Brick 39: a ship taking shape 2 by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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Intermezzo 2: adjusting the Ginger Mermaid... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

(more slight modding; from left to right from original to what is now the figure head (number 4) and one beyond)

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The Briney Brick 39: a ship taking shape 1 by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

Quartermaster in a bosun’s chair, giving the captain’s quarters on the original just brow ship a lick of fresh paint. (thus restoring the wreck to original 31109 colours).

 

And more modding time.

 

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The Briney Brick 42 (c): Adding a closed forcastle by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

I wanted to close up the front of the fore castle. That in itself was easy enough, although it took me a time to decide on windows or a door to access the galleon. And I wanted to change the bow sprit a bit…

 

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The Briney Brick 42 (a): Adding a closed forecastle by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

A wall in the fore castle was simple enough, and much to my delight, the shutters in the arched windows can swing out like this! Who knew! I had spend weeks agonising over windows or door in that wall...

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Entr'acte: the ship from set 31109, and some small modifications. by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

I also altered the Capstan on the fore deck a little. Set directly on the 1 layer higher frond deck.

Stud shooters with a 1x1 round brick instead of a plate make excellent swivel guns... And if closed studs are used, they will even shoot that brick...

 

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The Briney Brick 42 (b): Adding a closed forcastle by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

The forecastle is now Baldies domain, the galley. With a good stack of rum of course.

 

Most of my mods to the ship are based on a replica 17th century ship, de Halve Maen (the Half Moon in old Dutch). It is a replica of a Dutch small(ish) seagoing ship. The original was from 1609, a sailing replica was build in 1989 in Albany, New York.

That replica spend some years in the Netherlands, which gave me a chance to visit it. In my view the lines of the ship from set 31109, with its high fore castle and high stern, remind me of a late 16th or early 17th century ship. So it might be something like this, a fast ‘Yacht’, or a small galleon with a smallish crew.

Staysails and the gaff-mizzen are from later date, when ships also became less ‘curved’.

The only things really missing from the 31109 set are lateen sails on the mizzen and a Bonaventura masts at the back. I could not figure an easy way to fit them (the masts of the Lego set are actually too far back) and they would make the cabin at the back less accessible (the entire poop deck flips up).

I could, however, add a bowsprit-mast with square sails instead of stay sails. The gaffed mizzen stays furled up on my ship. Most fore- and aft sails on these ships were more for steering and balancing the ship on course than for going faster.

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The full ship...

 

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Galley in the fore castle...

 

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The briney brick 44: Raising the masts by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

Raising the masts…

For now I would like to keep this ship pretty much as brick build as I can. I am curious about how it compares to the 'specialize parts' ship from Barracuda Bay.
For that reason I am also using the Technic-part build masts, although I think the one piece masts like the Barracuda Bay has looks better (and I can find those even in brown).


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Entr'acte: the ship from set 31109, and some small modifications. by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

I did change the masts a bit with bricklinked parts. I made them ‘stepped’ like real masts would be, and I replaced a bunch of grey ‘washers’ with brown half tubes.

 

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Entr'acte: the ship from set 31109, and some small modifications. by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

I also changed the way the sails are attached a bit, they are now all on pins with a ball, and a ball cup at the spar, so I can move them about more easily.


So far the rigging is my only real departure from the 'brick build' style. The rubbery string rigging from set 31109 looks fine, and fits better than what I am using now, but I like how I can pose minifings in the old style one piece rigging. It is also easier to partly disassemble things quick for posing figures or taking pictures…

 

It is possible that, at some point in the future, I might decide to do my own rigging in real rope, and sails in paper or cloth. That is what I did ad a kid; I would build a (rather rudimentary) ship in Lego (not much else was possible in the sixties) with wooden dowel masts and spars, and spend days on making a rigging from darning wool and cutting sails from old handkerchiefs mom would give me after enough begging. But that would only be once I decide to change the ship into display instead of active play use. Which might be a while or never…

 

 

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The briney brick 47 (a): launch day... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Finally it was time to launch the rebuild ship. With the new shiny figure head, the ship practically named itself. ‘The Crimson Mermaid’, what else could it be?

 

 

 

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The briney brick 47 (d): launch day... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

The launch party would have been even better had one man remained on board to drop the anchor. As it was, after the launch there was a mad scramble and swim to get the ship before she drifted off. Luckily Monty (the weathered looking castaway) had made friends with a shark, and that proved handy to catch up with the drifting ship…

 

 

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the briney brick 49; Pip at the steering wheel... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

Another small mod, and very much not historically accurate for a ship this age; a compass binnacle with steering wheel and compass light. An actual ship this age would have been steered with a whipstaff  or even a tiller below deck, and commands shouted down to the helmsman. But I have a bright crew who comes up with great inventions… And I have a steering wheel…

I have even added a working compass-brick I found on Bricklink.

 

Final modding: I did make some changes and extra’s in sails. For all sails I added spars with furled up sails, to use when the ship is anchored. For sailing conditions I added one fully deployed large sail, to be used on the foremast or mainmast, and I added a spritsail (on the bow sprit) and an furled up upper spritsail instead of the stay sail of the original set. The mizzen sail is also usually kept furled up.

 

And so here she finally is, in all her sailing glory...

 

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The Briney Brick 54: dead calm... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

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Entr'acte: the ship from set 31109, and some small modifications. by Jan Kusters, on Flickr

 

The Crimson Mermaid!

 

 

 

Edited by jan kusters
checking photo's

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A very nice story of your own life and road to Pirates. Hope to see more stories from The Crimson Mermaid and her crew in the future. :pir-sweet:

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Very nice display of vignettes ! And this story is great !

Special mention to the picture 12a ( I like this cook with the chopper and the fish)

The pics 39 1 and 2 about painting the castle and figurehead are trully exceptionnal and escpecially well thought ! Great job overall !

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On 5/4/2021 at 3:29 PM, Jack Sassy said:

A very nice story of your own life and road to Pirates. Hope to see more stories from The Crimson Mermaid and her crew in the future. :pir-sweet:

Thank you Very much!

It is a work in progress. I am still working on the surroundings like one or more islands. I already have some Islanders with an old set to inhabit one of the Islands ( probably the (Big Island'). And I want to include something with Imperial soldiers or guards as well... Since I live small and only have one smallish display shelf (about 48x160 studs in total) it is a bit of a puzzle...

I have also skipped some stuff that might get its own post, like several small Islands that were already visited in this part of the Sea of Studs In the pictures above we see Driftwood Island and Shipwreck Rock, but of course there is also Rum Tree Island, Advent Island, Two Tree Island and the most recent discovery of my intrepid crew, Easter Egg Island.

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The Briney Brick 28: seasonal break... by Jan Kusters, on Flickr (Two Tree Island...)

And of course looming in the background is still an unbuild Barracuda bay. Grin, I am just not that fast; getting the Crimson Mermaid build has taken me about 8 month due to all the adventures leading up to her build. No idea when the Barracuda set will be done...

 

 

3 hours ago, Professor Thaum said:

Very nice display of vignettes ! And this story is great !

Special mention to the picture 12a ( I like this cook with the chopper and the fish)

The pics 39 1 and 2 about painting the castle and figurehead are trully exceptionnal and escpecially well thought ! Great job overall !

And another thank you very much! Grin, the cook (Baldie) and his shopper seem inseparable; I am pretty sure it will be his favourite weapon when boarding another ship... He even used it to carve the wooden legs everyone needed after arriving on driftwood Island.

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The Briney Brick 9 (c): PIRATES! by Jan Kusters, on Flickr (foreground right, Baldie happily hacking away at a peg leg).

Edited by jan kusters
typo's

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You built a lot of great things to tell the story. Super history and great photos. Reading was fun.

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