Sargeant brothers build masterpiece
July 9, 2004
Sargeant brothers build masterpiece

A Caribbean national receiving the Queen’s admiration is rare.
And for one’s work to be acknowledged by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II it must indeed be a masterpiece.
Over the years I’ve heard many stories of the beautifully designed model boats that are built at Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop. {{more}}
But it was only on Friday, June 25, when I got the opportunity to visit the shop on the Grenadine island of Bequia at O’car Reform, I realised the stories that were often told were factual and the great admiration expressed by those who had the opportunity to view these miniature boats was warranted.
I saw for myself why in 1985 Queen Elizabeth, reflecting on her official tour to Bequia and a present of a model boat of her once private yacht the HMY Britannia, requested that her appreciation be conveyed to Lawson Sargeant for his “superb” and “outstanding” piece of work. Before the HMY Britannia was sold, Lawson’s model of it had occupied a place of pride in the Royal Yachts Drawing Room.
Royal recognition did not come overnight to Lawson and his brothers Timothy and Winston. Neither did they have the opportunity to learn their skills at the world finest architectural schools. The art was mastered after several years of building coconut boats in their father’s little woodwork shop that is now renamed the “Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop: The Original Makers of Model Boats Since 1966”.
I had the opportunity to chat with Lawson, who took me down memory lane as he spoke of the genesis of the brothers’ involvement in an industry that they created on the island. I would have loved to speak with Timothy also, but he was not around and Winston was in no position to accommodate me since a few years ago he suffered a stroke. Unlike his brothers who lead a team of 10 building the world-renowned model boats, Winston now passes his time building the lovely coconut boats.
It all started 38 years ago when as teenage boys Lawson and Winston constructed their own coconut boats to race each other on the tranquil waters that bathe the beach at Admirality Bay.
“We’d build the boats before we go to school and sail them in the sea. I can remember tearing our shirts to make sails,” Lawson told me as he fondly reminisced.
Lawson noted the day some tourists asked him and his brothers if they could build them a model of their boat. While he admitted not being able to recall the names of the tourists, in his mind the name of the boat remains clear as ever. “It was the Maverick, a schooner,” he sighed.
So impressed were the brothers with this first job that they started building model boats and sold them to tourists.
To this day the brothers are still building schooners, miniature whaling, power and sailing boats and endeavours.
Lawson pointed out that these days few tourists come around and when they do they seldom purchase a model boat.
I suggested to him if that’s the case with the rich history the shop holds, i.e the only shop to build a model boat for the Queen, plus the many miniatures of schooners, whaling boats and ferries that sailed the waters of the Grenadines, why not turn a section of the shop into a maritime museum? This idea Lawson acknowledged seemed good. He said this might one day materialise.
While the Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop would like to tap into the regional market, Lawson stated that they will not be able to supply an outside market. Only hand tools are used during construction and each model takes at least two months and at least 10 hours a day to be built with perfection.
“You have to cherish it. You learn to feel the wood and cherish it when building, that sometimes when that boat is finished you don’t want to let it go,” Lawson said with a measure of intensity.
These days instead of using gumwood to make the boats the builders now use mahogany wood and white pine to add more quality.
Lawson is of the opinion that the business still has the potential to do well and to improve.
“I have no regrets entering this field; that’s why I’m still in it.”
Lawson expressed that parents have a splendid opportunity to add more fun to their children’s lives. He suggested that they can do so by buying them a coconut boat to sail at sea when they go to the beaches.
Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop can be contacted at telephone number (784) 458-3344.