Model of the Tugboat Altsu Mendi

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How I got fascinated by this former Spanish tugboat, once stationed in the Spanish city of Bilbao?

I’ve been fascinated by tugboats since I was a little kid. I was impressed by their beautiful designs and huge amounts of horsepower’s. They’re powerhouses on the water so to say. For that reason, I’ve always had a similar fascination for their counterpart on land: the locomotive.

Of course, not all tugboats are the same. Tugboats used in open seas and in harbors differ greatly from tugboats used for inland shipping on rivers and canals. But I love them all.

The main cause for this fascination is my grandfather Geerard, who took me to the harbors and lockes of Vlissingen (Flushing) on a regular basis. Little tugboats like the ‘Van Woelderen’ and ‘Rammekens’ took the giants of the see into the harbor or aided ships on the Westerschelde. Impressive steering skills! And for me, a toddler of just 5 years old, a very impressive sight. I’ll never forget it.

Meanwhile, I built many models, like the ‘Zwarte Zee’, the ‘Smit Rotterdam’, the ‘Ulises’, the ‘Utrecht’, the ‘Smit Nederland’, de ‘Bugsier’, the ‘Banckert’ and lately the ‘Altsu Mendi’. All wood of course. I hate plastic hulls, because they take the fun – building the hull – away from the build.

Putting the keel together and gluing the trusses on them is the most fun thing to do. And to build the hull from thin slats that have been in a container with water for a while to make them more bendable.

I found the building kit for the ‘Altsu Mendi’ through Google in a shop in Pijnacker. Unfortunately, the quality was not all too great. Especially the fittings. Which meant that I had to repair or build stuff myself. Luckily, I’m an experienced builder with a lot of patience, an eye for detail and, not to forget, perseverance.

Eventually it took me 7 months of tinkering to create this beautiful and special model. For me, the blue colors make this tugboat very special. As a reader of this article, you won’t be able to see that some parts are not entirely original. But who cares?

The real ‘Altsu Mendi’, later renamed to ‘Altsu’, was built in 1913 in Olaveaga under the build number 28. The ship was 28,35 long with a pulling power of 450 hp. Her cruising speed was 9 knots, which was impressive for the time. The ship got demolished in 1974.

My model has, standing in a plexiglass box, found a suiting spot in one of the nursing homes in Etten-Leur, to pay homage to this once so great tugboat.