The second large-scale model ship built by a South Surrey retirement home resident has finally been unveiled, grabbing the attention of nearly every one of his neighbours. The Dutch builder’s efforts drew a crowd of around 100 spectators at the Friday (Jan. 13) afternoon reveal.
Kees ‘Case’ Koster’s replica of the Witte Swaen (White Swan) is now displayed in the lobby of his Chartwell Crescent Gardens home, next to his grandest model ship – Irene, formerly known as Grasshopper.
When his work on the first vessel was featured in Peace Arch News in August 2022, Koster’s relatives back home were immensely proud that he was representing his homeland from more than 7,500 kilometres away.
“My cousins in Holland were thrilled,” Koster told PAN.
This even prompted a local newspaper in the Netherlands, the Harlinger Courant to reach out to PAN to suggest a little bit of a trade: a photo of Koster’s model in exchange for a photo of the larger replica ship, Witte Swaen, moored in the harbour in the city of Harlingen.
Set atop Koster’s own version of Witte Swaen is the flag of Amsterdam, standing tall next to the Dutch flag. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is represented because the city financed the voyage that was ultimately unsuccessful, due to ice, which prevented the journey from continuing.
Two Dutch explorers – Willem Barents and Jacob Van Heemskerck with 15 crew members – had a goal of finding a Northeast passage from Europe to Asia, through Russia.
Although complete, the Witte Swaen that Koster hand-made still has an “unfinished” feel to it, which the Surrey resident was looking to achieve. Through gaps left in the flooring, one can easily peer down and see all the little details that would have been in the actual ship in 1596.
This includes a stick that moves like a pendulum, which was the original steering tool for ships before the wheel was used. Because of the stick’s limited motion, ships from that era did not sail as well with the single tool, which is why triangular- shaped sail cloths were used as an added feature.
The direction the wind blew could be judged by the triangular sails and, therefore, which direction to steer the ship could be better inferred.
“That’s how you know, if you see a ship with a triangle sail, it’s from that era,” Koster said.
A black yarn-covered cylinder shape can also be seen higher up on the model, made from a wine bottle cork that Koster filed into shape. The piece would hold a look-out person — a wooden figure on Koster’s boat. They would communicate with the person steering the ship, who had limited vision.
“I’ve already started another (model),” Koster shared with a laugh. His next project is a ship used in a voyage that also included Dutch explorer Jacob Van Heemskerck, which took place shortly after the voyage of the Witte Swaen.
Although still in its early stages, what is known is that the finished project will be larger than the Witte Swaen but still smaller than the Irene.
Each piece, big and small, in the third ship is being made by hand by Koster, just as with the first two, but everyone will have to wait a few years to see the finished product, he estimates.
“It helps me get up in the morning,” Koster explained of his hobby, noting many seniors he knows struggle to find purpose once they’ve reached a certain age.
“I hope it inspires others to find something that helps them get up in the morning.”