Private Armed Schooner Lively

The Lively is an example of a type of vessel that was fitted out for privateering early in the war. She would have been a typical Virginia-built pilot boat of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. She is a common type of that appeared early in the war, armed with a single long gun mounted on a swivel mount amidships. This gave her just enough firepower to cause an unarmed merchant ship to surrender. Meanwhile her speed and maneuverability, kept her away from the larger, more heavily armed, but slower warships of the British Navy.

There was no actual vessel known to have been named Lively, but rather she represents a class of ship. Originally built as a pilot boat, she would have been roughly 50 long with a low freeboard and a hull shape that is optimized for weatherliness and speed. There was little room for cargo as she originally carried perhaps a dozen pilots and crew. As a privateer, she would have likely been very cramped aboard with extra crew to man the main gun and to board and possibly man captured vessels.

The U.S. government granted over a thousand licenses and American ports sent out hundreds of armed vessels, backed by commercial investors, to prey on British commerce which suffered tremendous losses. These efforts were fueled by the hopes for profits from captured ships and cargo.

The Model

The model is currently under construction with deck details wrapping up and rigging about to commence. The model itself is a plank-on-bulkhead Class “A” model. This classification, created by the Mystic Seaport Museum, means that the model has been built completely from scratch. The only commercially fabricated parts allowed on a Class “A” model is cordage, chain, and belaying pins.

The Lively is based on model plans that were originally created by the late Jim Roberts and sold by North River Scale Models. It is a fore topsail schooner rigged vessel. It carries a single long gun on a pivot mount located amidships between the mainmast and the main hatch. Because of the relative simplicity of her rig, I plan on adding sails to this model.

Construction of the frame of the model is birch plywood, with most of the natural finished wood being American cherry. The hull was planked in holly, but painted over. The deck planking is made from Maricaibo boxwood. The mast and spars are all turned from American cherry.

Detailed features include the 12 pdr. pivot gun, whose built-up carriage rests on a copper track. The cannon barrel, as well as the anchors, began as a wooden pattern, which was used in the process of casting the final item from britannia pewter.

The cloth sails were fitted with reef bands and corner reinforcements to give a proper scale look.

With sails mounted, it seemed only right to put a figure at the tiller, which also provides a sense of scale. The figure was sculpted using polymer clay and painted in the garb of an early 19th century sailor.

This model now resides in a private collection in San Jose, California.

Those interested in building a model of the Lively should visit The Lumberyard for Model Shipwrights. Although my model was built from scratch, the company produces the kit whose plans formed the basis for my model.

During the War of 1812, the American navy was tiny in comparison with its adversary, the British Royal Navy.

With only 17 American ships facing a fleet of over 600 British warships, most of the threat to British commerce came from the American privateers – private ships licensed and fitted to prey on enemy shipping.

The Lively model is a 1/4” scale (1/4” = 1’) scratch-built plank-on-bulkhead model constructed with a birch plywood frame, Maricaibo boxwood deck planking, and hull planking in holly and cherry with most other details made from cherry. It is a Class “A” model based on Mystic Seaport Museum system of classification. The model measures about 22” long and 17” high overall.

2015 Nautical Research Guild Photographic Ship Model Competition Blue Ribbon and Bronze Medal Recipient