Your web browser has JavaScript turned off.
The SDSMG menu and search systems are disabled.
Please enable JavaScript on your web browser to use this site.

 Established in 1971, the San Diego Ship Modelers Guild sails into her 47th year.
 For a deep dive into our history check out Past Newsletters.
A Beginning the following article was written by co-founder Bob Wright and appeared in the January 2000 SDSMG Newsletter

How Did Our Guild Get Started? With a Kit That Had Only Two Masts

The San Diego Ship Modelers Guild started simply enough.  It came about with the building of a cute little model of the brig Volante from a Model Shipways kit.

After helping to restore the STAR OF INDIA weekends for several years, I became intrigued with the idea of building a ship model.  The VOLANTE was my choice because it had only two masts.

While building it in 1971 with the help of my friend Al Hollie, the thought came to me that other ship model builders would benefit from the same type of assistance.

Captain Ken Reynard was most responsible for the quality of the restoration of the STAR OF INDIAand was at that time executive director.  When approached about the possibility of having a ship model club meet on board, he was in favor of it.  (At that time the BERKELEY was not in San Diego.)  With that assurance, I went to talk to Russ Merrill, who owned the Hillcrest Hobby and Craft Store on Fifth Avenue.  He too thought it was a good idea, and knew some ship modelers.  A short letter was drafted for the museum and approved.  It was quickly granted.  The date was 17 August 1971.

The first meeting was held in September or October of that year on the first Friday of the month.  We met in the aft cabin (sail locker) of the Star, which was at that time the museum’s office.  Some four or five fellows would attend.

The first year or so the attendance was very low.  A couple of fellows who were early members were Stan Tarantino and Bill Benson.  Al L’Heureaux started to attend.  He was into radio-controlled models.  Before that the Guild concentrated on static models.  By combining both types of models the membership grew.

Over the past 29 years, the number of members attending the meetings has fluctuated between 15 to 20 or more.  Now the meetings are held the second Wednesday on board the ferryboat BERKELEY.  The mailing list of the Newsletter has some 67 names.

Russ passed away about 25 years ago.  He would be very pleased to see the success of the Guild now, I am sure.

A Home the following letter was sent to co-founder Bob Wright

17 August 1971

Mr. Robert C. Wright
San Diego, Calif.

Dear Bob:

This is in confirmation of our conversation regarding your request to hold monthly meetings of the Ship Modelers Guild aboard the STAR OF INDIA.

At our Board of Directors meeting on July 20th, your proposition was presented to the Board for consideration.  As you know, the request was approved with the stipulation that the Ship Modelers Guild join the Nautical Research Guild.

Good luck in your endeavor!

Sincereley, Captain Kenneth D. Reynard
Master, Bark STAR OF INDIA

View the original letter.

Early Days
Early members included Bill Benson (owner Gray Whale Ship Shop on Shelter Island), Russ Merrill (owner Hillcrest Hobby and Craft Store on Fifth Avenue), Bob Wright, Robert Crawford, Al L’Heureux, Stan Tarantino, Doug McFarland, Bob Ross, Vic Crosby, Roy Neilson, Bob Pranka, and Dave Bash, among several others.

The Guild originally met aboard the STAR OF INDIA. Meetings were held on the first Friday of the month in the aft cabin (Captain's Office), but as membership grew it moved to the dining room and eventually to the orlop deck, before moving (semi-)permanently to the BERKELEY once she had been purchased by the Maritime Museum in 1973. Even aboard the BERKELEY the Guild found itself in cramped quarters due to the Museum's restoration efforts and contemplated shore-based meeting locations for a time.

Initial Guild dues in 1971 were 50¢ per year.

The Guild Newsletter started out as a simple postcard reminder of upcoming meetings sent by Fred Fraas, but grew in scope when it was later suggested to distribute information as long as postage was to be paid anyway.

Guild logo from March 1988 Newsletter

Membership comprised two strains of nautical enthusiasts: (static) scale vessel modelers and radio control (R/C) modelers. This union of interests eventually grew apart.

Member Robert Crawford remembers it this way...
" became a matter of them or us. The R/C guys said we were too many rivet counters and the scale guys didn't want to play with their toys. The R/C guys went to Santee Lakes and the scale guys went to the Berkeley."
Nautical Research Guild holds annual conference in San Diego
The Maritime Museum of San Diego and the Guild host the Nautical Research Guild's annual conference in October 1999.
Newsletter Goes Digital
Guild Newsletter Editor Chuck Seiler issues a digital version of the September 2004 Newsletter. Following a positive response from Guild Members the Newsletter is henceforth published in both paper and digital formats.
NRG Returns To San Diego

The Maritime Museum of San Diego and the Guild host the Nautical Research Guild's annual conference in October 2006.  Infamously known by some vendors as “The Great Monsoon”... who knew the decks of the STAR OF INDIA leaked?
Worldwide Presence
The Guild purchases the domain name and a website debuts on the Internet in October 2013, designed and built by Web Master Barry Rishel.
A New Look
In early 2017, a motion was made to update the Guild logo. Chaired by Gary Seaton, the commitee reviewed several different submissions. Having a working relationship with the Guild, the Maritime Museum's graphic artist, Julia Gomez, presented a striking design featuring the recently completed replica of the SAN SALVADOR, flagship of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's fleet that sailed into San Diego Bay on 28 September 1542.

The Guild logo, one of the proposed logos, the approved logo.

In the summer of 2018 the Guild membership votes on the proposed submissions, choosing to retain the original logo, stipulating however, that it should be made crisper, in color, and, per Guild Bylaws, depict the Maritime Museum's steam yacht MEDEA.
Website Re-imagined
Web Master Alex Roel introduces a refreshed and content-rich Guild Website at in March 2019. New features include sections covering Guild history, Member builds, Newsletter archive, Museum Model Shop, and Guild documents and presentations.