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Orange County Digest

Dana Point : Model of Schooner Was Tall Order for Its Builder

September 27, 1986|Gordon Grant

A 2 1/2-foot model of the state's official tall ship, Californian, left Friday--not by sea, but in an automobile--for a rendezvous with the full-sized topsail schooner herself, docked temporarily at Ventura.

The exquisite model was built by the son of the man most responsible for the $2.5-million project that produced the Californian--a recreation of a 19th-Century revenue cutter that patrolled the waters off San Francisco in the Gold Rush days.

The full-sized Californian is docked in Channel Islands Harbor, recently returned from a cruise to Hawaii. The model, complete with everything but sails, will soon be part of the decor in a restaurant overlooking the harbor.

"It took me about 300 hours, over a period of a couple of months, to make the 1/4-inch scale model," said Eric Christman, 23, son of Steve G. Christman, founder and president of the nonprofit Nautical Heritage Society.

The society raised funds to construct the Californian, an undertaking that had been the elder Christman's dream since 1952. The dream came true when she was launched in 1984.

Eric, now a professional builder who also restores models of heirloom ships, works in a shop at his father's Nautical Heritage Museum in Dana Point.

"I spend about half my time here and the other half on board the real Californian," he said. "I made one cruise to Hawaii, part of the cruise to Mexico when we delivered supplies to earthquake victims, and several trips up and down the coast."

The Californian, 145 feet long with seven sails totaling 7,000 square feet, will take part in the Oct. 4 tall ship race from Newport Beach to San Clemente, competing with at least five other square-riggers, brigs and schooners.

Eric, now finishing restoration work on a model of an old New Bedford whaler, said he will soon begin construction of another miniature Californian. This one will be made from leftover scraps of the same woods used to build the full-scale ship. It will have a complete set of sails.

"And this one will stay in the family," said Steve Christman.

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