Setting Sail

TinyTophy reconstructs the HMS Victory!

One of the very first things I remember doing in Minecraft is answering the call of the sea. I crafted a boat and decided to probe the depth and breadth of the ocean. Unfortunately, that puny nutshell of a vessel was anything but a sailor’s dream come true. Unless a sailor dreams of sinking to the bottom of the ocean, I suppose.

Fortunately, some shipwrights in the community have taken it upon themselves to show us how one sails the seas in style. One of these builders is TinyTophy, who discovered an obsession with shipbuilding some years ago:

“One day, a friend and I decided to build a ship on a world we had. It took us about two hours to finish the entire thing and it certainly wasn't up to my current standards. But that got me to search a lot of videos on YouTube on shipbuilding and it snowballed from there.”

He recently launched his third, and latest, version of his interpretation of the HMS Victory; the ship of the line that gained its fame under Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. What draws TinyTophy to recreating a historical object like this? “I remember first seeing the HMS Victory built by people like Defroi,” he tells me. “There was just a sense of awe that I got from seeing how smooth and real they looked.”

Besides their convincing look, breathing fresh life into historical objects has other benefits too. “I think the allure of doing something that actually exists is that you can use it to practice a lot of skills,” TinyTophy says. “Since the thing is real, you can look at pictures and models and try and recreate what’s there. Then when you get to make your own designs, you've got more skills that you can use.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How does one go about building something as complex as the HMS Victory? First, there’s a fair bit of research. “I look at a lot of pictures of models, plans, paintings, etc. And since there's some variation between all those different media, I tend to take elements from each. Sometimes, aspects from the paintings look better in Minecraft than it would if I took it from an actual plan or photograph.”

Of course, this is just the beginning. “The first step in planning is actually making a plan from reference images,” TinyTophy continues. “Usually, I find a ship plan and trace it in Photoshop. Then I scale it down to the size I want and transfer that 2D plan into Minecraft. And that's really all the planning that goes into it. From there, I do everything else by eyeballing it.”

This is where the real test of a shipwright’s skills begins. “The biggest challenges for me tend to be the small details. The hull and sail construction are actually very similar. Getting the curvature right takes a bit of time, but it's not too difficult. But it wasn't until recently that I was able to work out decent-looking captain's cabins and beak details.”

A sneak peek at a very early stage of Version 4. Probably not quite ready to hit the seas just yet.

TinyTophy doesn’t shy away from taking the time needed to perfect his craft, and his Captain Ahab-like determination shows in his work.

“I built the third version over the course of a month, but the total build time was probably much closer to around 48 hours. I've been working on HMS Victory builds for years. It was actually the first real ship I built and I became kind of obsessed with getting it perfect. It's the only ship I've done more than one version of. I use it as a kind of practice run. If I like the way something looks on the Victory I put it on other ship builds.”

And so the cycle goes on. The tireless TinyTophy certainly doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘Avast!’ and I’m sure we can look forward to more ships and even better renditions of the HMS Victory in the future.

Written by
Andreas Inderwildi

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