My ship Catalogue

Classic Ship Model 4


Contemporary water colour of La Amistad


"La Amistad" was a 19th century two masted schooner of about 120 ft (37 m) built in the United States as the "Friendship". She was renamed after being bought by a Spaniard, living in Cuba, to run mainly sugar industry products from Havana to her home port of Guanaja on the Islas de la Bahia off Honduras. She took on passengers and, on occasions slaves, for transport.

On July 2nd 1839, whilst carrying a number of Africans from Havana, who had been illegally transported to Cuba on the slave ship "Tecora" (with the importation of slaves being prohibited by the USA since 1808) the captives revolted and took over the ship. Custom built slave ships had half height "t'ween decks" where the slaves were chained down in a sitting or lying position.The "Amistad" had no such accommodation and the captives were placed half in the main hold and half on deck.  This gave them much more freedom of movement which aided their revolt and the commandeering of the vessel. There were 53 Africans involved (49 adults and 4 children, led by one Sengbe Pieh). They demanded to be sent home but the navigator deceived them and set a course for Long Island, New York.

The schooner was taken into custody by the US Navy and the Africans taken to Connecticut to be sold as slaves. A widely publicised court case ensued.  Various circumstances of their capture and transportation were at issue which became the focus of the famous Amistad case. This figured prominently in abolitionism in the US. In 1841, the Supreme Court ruled the Africans had been illegally held and the United States arranged for them to be returned to their homes in Africa, as they wished.

The "La Amistad" was auctioned off by the US Marshall and became the "Ion" owned by Captain George Crawford of Newport. She carried general cargo around the Caribbean until sold in Guadeloupe in 1844.  No further records were found nor any other particular specifications..


19th Century two masted Schooner

"La Amistad"

The kit for this model was of German manufacture and had been in the possession, for about 25 years, of Jim Buckland (a friend, yachtsman and maker of my perspex model covers) without being made. As a consequence, he offered it to me to make. This occurred in 2004/5 and was built, as best as I can recall, about the same time as HMAV "Bounty".

The challenge, in the main, was due to the age of the kit and the relatively sparse instructions.  The timbers had suffered from age and the plywood sections were stamped but not laser cut.  Consequently they were prone to splitting and so had to be substituted from my stock and fashioned by hand.

However, regardless of the fact that it was made substantially from my spare timbers, plus plywood and fittings accumulated over the previous years of model making, it resulted in a very attractive model. It now resides in Jim's business office where, he tells me it is much admired by his clients.

As can be seen, the vessel itself is another of the schooner designs that were so popular in the US at the time - with the hull shapes similar to the Baltimore Clipper. I failed to keep the statistics of the model size before giving it back to Jim but she was about 550mms overall and 70mms wide with height to the masthead of around 450mms.