Combrig has recently produced a 1:700 scale kit entitled "British Harbor Set. Subtitled "British Tug-boat, Launch and Boats set 1890-1918", the set is unusual even for Combrig. Just from reading the name, the modeler has to wonder what is included and why Combrig chose to produce the kit/set. The answer is really quite simple. The tug included in the set is not generic but is a 1:700 scale model of an actual tugboat that had a significant role in the history of the Russian Navy.

Vice Admiral S. O. Makarov is one of the major figures from Russian naval history from the late 19th to early 20th century. Most modelers will remember Admiral Makarov from his role in the Russo-Japanese War. On February 23, 1904 he arrived at Port Arthur to take command of the 1st Pacific Squadron from ineffectual Admiral Stark. He quickly raised the squadron’s morale and instituted a heavy training program designed enable his squadron to fight their way past the Japanese Fleet to get to Vladivostok. Admiral Makarov was by far the most energetic, efficient and skilled major commander for the Imperial Russian Navy during the war. Unfortunately for Russia, Admiral Makarov was lost when on March 31, 1904 his flagship Petropavlovsk struck a mine and sank with heavy loss of life. It is entirely possible that with Admiral Makarov in charge, the 1st Pacific Squadron could have escaped the trap of Port Arthur and made it to the safety of Vladivostok.

Ioann Kronshtadsky
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However, Admiral Makarov was well know before the Russo-Japanese War. He was an innovator and explorer. The northern coast of Russia stretches thousands of miles from just east of the North Cape to the Bering Straits, at the furthest eastern tip of Asia. However, because it was almost continuously ice locked, it was largely unexplored in the 19th century. Makarov was the key figure in the development of purpose built icebreakers for the Russian Navy. One of the first steps in the process was the purchase of a British tug-boat. In 1889 the Scottish yard of Alley McLellan in Glasgow built a tug which was subsequently purchased by a Siberian merchant named Nernchinov in 1894. The tug was renamed Ioann Kronshtadsky. Makarov used the tug as an experiment to examine her efficiency in steaming through ice along the northern Russian coast. The voyage was from Varde, Norway to the Yenisei River mouth in Siberia. His observations were used in formulating the optimum characteristics for a icebreaker, which culminated in the Yermak. (Click for review of the Combrig Yermak). Later the tug was transported by rail to Lake Baikal, where it was used for ten years. She was later used in the Neva River and Northern Sea, until finally scrapped in 1948.

Ship's Boats
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The tug included in this set is the Ioann Kronshtadsky. Although small, this Russian vessel is historically important and as such, has a place in the Combrig lineup. However, because of the small size of the tug, Combrig also included a large variety of steam launches and oared boats in the set to make the set more commercially viable. The tug is a fascinating little model. With a prominent pilothouse and single thin funnel, the tug does have a raised forecastle and two masts. The masts could be further enhanced with photo-etch ratlines. Since no photo-etch is included in the kit, generic ratlines, rails and inclined ladders will add more snap and fineness to the completed model. The tug does have other significant detail with open bridge atop the pilothouse, boats, davits, reels and other fittings.

Steam Launches
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The other boats included in the set appear to be launch and boat designs used in other Combrig kits. There are twelve steam launches in four designs, ten of which have separate funnel pieces. The detail is quite fine on these launches. Thirty-eight oared boats and two rafts are also included. These boats are of eight different patterns and also have very good detail. These are ideal substitutes for other manufacturer’s ships’ boats, which do not have the level of detail of the Combrig pieces. The instructions are in a modified Combrig format, which uses only one side of the sheet. Only Ioann Kronshtadsky has any significant number of parts and it is easy to build. The instructions are more than sufficient for this purpose.

Box Art & Instructions
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Combrig has produced a unique set centered around the tug Ioann Kronshtadsky. As if this historic vessel was not enough because of its small size, Combrig has included 52 launches, boats and rafts to further enhance the appeal of this product for the modeler.