The Andrea Gail, the ill-fated fishing vessel lost at sea during the “perfect storm” of 1991, made many trips during its time on the water, but possibly none as long as the one a replica of the fishing vessel has taken from Israel to Gloucester.
Paul Gran, an American who has lived in Kfar Saba, Israel, for the past 30 years, worked on his model of the Andrea Gail on and off for a year, completing it a couple of years ago with the intention of having it displayed at Gloucester’s Cape Ann Museum.
Gran and his wife, Brenda, have spent the past several summers in Rockport, after stumbling upon the area during a road trip from Philadelphia to Maine.
Gran, 71, said that he has been a hobbyist since he was a teenager, but he started building model ships, including the U.S.S. Constitution and the Titanic, shortly before retiring a few years ago. He said he chose to build the Andrea Gail because it was a local modern ship that stood out as important and newsworthy. Six crew members, including three Gloucester men, were lost in the tragedy that was the subject of a best-selling book and an Academy Award-nominated movie.
Gran said that he is most proud of the accuracy of his model.
“The overall look of the model and the accuracy of it is really good,” he said.
One challenge of building an accurate model from scratch, as Gran does, is getting plans and line drawings of the original vessels, he said. A Danish company that makes ship models provided some plans, but they contained inaccuracies. Gran contacted the Florida shipyard where the Andrea Gail was built, but no one responded. Finally, he used information he found on the Internet: Coast Guard reports of the sinking that described details of the ship and photos of the ship at sea and in port.
“There are very few photos available,” Gran said. “You have to use your imagination, to some degree.”
Gran also incorporated changes made to Andrea Gail that made her unlike her sister ship Lady Grace, which was used in the movie “The Perfect Storm.” One modification was that Andrea Gail’s port side bulwark was altered to be higher than the starboard side, to prevent crew members from being washed overboard. Another change to Andrea Gail was a cover over the three reels for lines in the stern, again to prevent a crew member from being caught in the lines and thrown overboard.
Because he’s “one of only about four model shipbuilders in Israel,” materials are hard to come by, Gran said. While he can get glue and wood there, he has to order more detailed items from the United Kingdom or the United States. He typically builds his models from wood, but, because the Andrea Gail was a steel boat, he had to use different materials.
“The Andrea Gail (model) is a really strange mix of plastic and wood of different types: beech plywood, the hull is formed from ABS, and the trimming is wood,” he said. “Even the wood parts are clad in polystyrene to make it look more like metal.”
When Gran’s model was finished, he contacted Martha Oaks, curator of Cape Ann Museum, to donate his model.
Oaks was initially hesitant to display his ship.
“We always like to look at things before we take them because they will be here forever as part of our permanent collection,” Oaks said. “That was our only concern: We hadn’t seen the actual piece because it was in Israel. We wanted to make sure we really wanted it before it came all that way.”
Oaks sent photos of the model to Erik Romberg, a local expert in the field, along with a list of Gran’s sources. After Romberg confirmed that it was a good replica, the museum agreed to pay for half of the $700 shipping costs to get the miniature Andrea Gail to Gloucester, Gran said.
Gran built elaborate packaging for the model and sent it by UPS. The model, which was built on a 30:1 scale and measures 29 inches long with a 8 ¼-inch beam, sustained minor damage. But Gran repaired that on his next trip to Rockport.
Shipbuilding is not new to Gran. In the 1970s, he was the chief engineer of a yacht-building company in Korea. While there, he built a ketch, the Brenda Lynn.
“Before building it, I read a book titled ‘Away From It All,’ by Sloan Wilson,” he said. “This book inspired me to go sailing and to build our yacht. In the book, the main character, a boat owner, suggested that if one named his boat after his wife, the boat would never be the cause for a divorce. I can testify that it works.”
Gran sent his yacht by freighter to Los Angeles in 1974 and set sail from there with his wife, Brenda, and two daughters, Gail Audrey and Margot Andrea. Coincidentally, both of Gran’s daughters share a name with the Andrea Gail.
After a nearly five-year journey around the world, the family ended up in Israel, where they settled. Gran, who has an electrical engineering degree from Penn. State and a master’s degree in computer science from UCLA, founded companies there, mostly start-ups producing electronic medical equipment.
“I always liked building things,” Gran said. “Even when I owned my own companies, I always built the first prototype by hand. It gave me perspective and understanding of the products.”
Even though Gran has dual citizenship and served in the Israeli Air Force Reserves for nine years, he said he loves the United States, which is so different from Israel. He’s particularly fond of Rockport and the Patriot Cottage, owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, that he rents on Granite Street.
“We discovered Rockport by accident and sort of fell in love with it,” he said. “I love the weather, the seafood and the people. People say hello on the street. It’s not like a big city where you’re anonymous. If the weather weren’t so harsh in winter here, I’d spend more time here.”
Building models gives Gran a creative outlet, he said.
“I consider building boats a form of art. I’m not an artist. I can copy a painting, but I don’t have the imagination to come up with one myself,” he said.
Gran is already in the process of building his next model ship, a replica of the Evelina M. Goulart, one of seven surviving Essex-built fishing schooners, whose remains are housed at Essex Shipbuilding Museum. When he’s finished, he hopes to display it alongside the Andrea Gail at Cape Ann Museum.
“Building an accurate model ship is not that much different from building a real one,” he said, “and I’ve done both.”
Dove Morrissette can be reached via Dmorrissette@gloucestertimes.com.
Paul Gran can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-325-3122.
A Model Display What: Andrea Gail model on display at Cape Ann Museum Museum hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays, major holidays and during the month of February. Museum entry cost: Adults $10, seniors, students and Cape Ann residents $8. Children under 12 and Museum members are free For further information, call 978-283-0455, ext. 19 or email email@example.com.