SSM takes an exclusive look at Dwight Brooks’ latest behemoth, a 285-pound 8½-foot-long deep sea trawler that is his finest effort yet…
By Martin Grish with thanks to Jim Parsons
To those that know him Dwight Brooks is a true raconteur, a man’s man whose many accomplishments set him in a notch well above the average jet pilot, real estate developer, businessman entrepreneur and hobbyist—each of which, depending on the time of day, he adeptly is.
Readers of SSM know Dwight from many of his earlier modeling efforts, most of which were broadly featured in previous issues. His beautiful yacht Atlantic and gargantuan USS Cree fleet tug were models that inspired a host of other equally ambitious modelers to try ‘large scale’ models never before dreamed of. Yet, despite the many models that come close to his in size and electronic wizardry, none seem to have quite the same panache, the same extra something that sets them apart as truly unique one-of-a-kind masterpieces. His latest effort—the North Sea trawler Nordkap is no exception.
The Nordkap came about as part of Dwight’s ambitions as a professional modeler. He likes the idea of renting models to the movie studios and keeps them interested in the potential of R/C miniatures by designing each new project with ever more sophisticated working features. In selecting a trawler as the basis for his latest project he felt it offered the most pizzazz by way of gadgetry and style in a working vessel. Indeed it does, for this giant eight and a half foot long 285 pound model not only looks like a not so miniature North Sea fisherman, but actually fishes like one too. That’s right. The Nordkap actually trolls like its full size prototype. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
After finding a suitable trawler plan Dwight had it scaled up to 1-1/2” = 1 foot scale [1:8 scale] and began designing the model hull. Construction was straightforward plank on frame with a stout marine plywood keel and frames over which a small forest of balsa planking was applied. The hull was then fiberglassed, the deck finished, the superstructure fitted and then the real imagenuity begun. I use the word “imagenuity” because this is precisely what Dwight excels in—
designing working features that are not only fun to see in action, but mind boggling by way of execution.
Not that Dwight pretends to do it all himself. He doesn’t. To design the complex R/C systems circuitry he enlisted the aid of veteran electronics expert Dail de Villeneuvre. Dwight told Dail what he wanted and left it up to Dail to figure out how to make it work. (Dail designed the working innards of Star War’s™ R2D2™ robot.) The results are not only full normal speed and directional control, but an elaborate working troll winch, which, if it hooks onto a fish too large, automatically releases the net and line. And that’s not all. In the bow is a fearsome walkie-talkie remotely operated from the shore by Dwight so he can sail the Nordkap up to a boat full of unsuspecting fishermen and ask them if their licenses are current! If the fishermen show any hostility the Nordkap backs off with a deep howl of its whistles and reveals some other surprises like a working water cannon and firing rocket launcher.
In addition to the working deck apparatus the model hosts full running and interior lights, a working boom to handle the net or lower a diver overboard and a variety of claxons, bells and whistles calculated to astound anyone who has the audacity to question who really is in command of this fearsome vessel.
Indeed, Dwight may be the only hard breathing crewman of the Nordkap, but he is ably assisted by a host of “helpers” aboard who are truly old salts. Captain Sven Swenson and his madcap Nordkap crew are the personification of the old-time Norwegian fisherman they emulate in miniature. Each is fashioned from a doll and apparently dressed in “downeasters” to fit the rigors of the choppy waters of Brainerd, Minnesota’s Gulf Lake where Dwight usually operates in the summer.
All of this colorful action and activity happens on a single command of any of the RIC unit’s nineteen channel transmitter designed at a cost of over $2,500. Dwight claims the uniquely complex system works flawlessly and from newspaper reports and TV coverage it seems his claim is most conservative.
But if the soul of the boat is electronic the heart of it is all Dwight’s. He hand fashioned over two hundred detail items in the pilot house and cabin and used another two hundred pieces of doll house furniture and bric-a-brac to create a highly detailed interior that defies description. The handcrafting is up to his usual high standard—meticulous and eye-catching down to the cups and saucers on the galley table.
As for the work involved, Dwight claims the Nordkap took nine months to build with an estimated bench time in his twenty by eighty workshop of 1,500 hours. A bachelor who makes his home in Santa Monica, California, Dwight likes to take care of his business activities in the early morning so he can devote his afternoons to modeling. “Sometimes I go until two or three in the morning,” he told me, “and sometimes I get so involved I forget what day it is as well.”
A modeler to the core, Dwight plunges into each project with a dedication that makes him use every element at his command. Fortunately, he has the financial resources which lets him indulge hiring out those elements of engineering and electronics which supersede his own abilities. Each of these systems, as with real vessels, are welded into the framework which is all Dwight’s creation so, while he can liberally compliment the efforts of those who assist him, he can still take justifiable pride that his models are all his—one of a kind masterpieces that are truly distinctive miniature ships.