Of the many remarkable treasures housed in the Albert Lowe Museum, some of my favourites are the model ships. Most were built by Albert Lowe, for whom the museum is named.
Just inside the museum’s front door is this model of the four-masted schooner, Marie J. Thompson, the largest sailing ship ever built in the Bahamas.
At nearly eight feet long, with masts greater than four feet high, it’s the largest model Lowe ever built. The model’s hull is carved from redwood and the decking of knotty pine and mahogany.
Lowe, who completed the model in 1976 when he was 75 years old, estimated that, had he worked on it full-time, it would take about three months to complete.
People familiar with native boats are amazed at the accuracy of Albert Lowe’s models, which were created strictly from his imagination without plans or blueprints. Everything on his ships, from the steering wheels and rudders to the hatches and sails, actually works.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Albert Lowe would become a renowned model ship builder, since the two common themes that show up in his life story are woodwork and the sea. From early childhood, he displayed an interest in carving, and by the time he was a young adult, he was fashioning models of the sponge boats and schooners on which he sailed.
During his early twenties, he worked as a crew member on schooners transporting freight, primarily lumber from Norman’s Castle on the Abaco mainland to Cuba. He also worked on crawfish and sharking vessels and captained a large ship for Shell Oil.
Later, Albert went on to build a variety of full-size vessels, including the Betty Ann, the first motorized boat built on Green Turtle Cay.
These days, those of us fortunate enough to have Abaco-built model ships treasure them and keep them for display.
But during Albert Lowe’s time, they were a source of fun and entertainment. “When I was a boy,” his son Vertrum told me, “Daddy and the other men would race their models. Daddy had one, Uncle Charlie had one called the Two Smiles. That boat could almost fly!”