Victor Yancovitch has always been in awe of old ships from past centuries. So much so, that he began making models of them by hand. Yancovitch spoke to Lakes District News about his passion and how ironic it was for a man whose been afraid of the water since he was a child to fall in love with Maritime history.
“In a previous life, I must have died in the ocean,” he said with a smile. “I was always just in awe of the people who not only sailed these ships, but built and designed them as well. The beauty of them is something that just amazes me.”
Yancovitch has been making stunning model replicas of ships dating back to the early 1970s, when he moved from Montreal to Vancouver. Over his life, he’s made two dozen of them in a variety of shapes and sizes including four that are radio controlled with electronic rudders and sails, and can be used with a remote control in calm water. They even have cannons that fire.
The ship he’s most proud of; the HMS Royal William, was featured in the book Shipwright 2013. He said it took him over five years to make and it sold for over $16,000 dollars. Another one of his favourites was called HMS Victory, which was purchased by Japanese businessmen for $9,000 and flown overseas in 1986.
Yancovitch said that most of his ships take between 1-3 years to make, and include a vigorous and tedious manufacturing process. What makes his skill so amazing, is that he’s completely self taught and has no engineering, mechanical background of any kind. The only thing he studied in school was piano.
“When I was living in Vancouver, I would make ships during the week, and play piano on weekends at the Pan Pacific Bar accompanying opera singers.” He told Lakes District News.
Yancovitch moved to Burns Lake in 2013, and has since retired from model ship-making. The last ship Yancovitch made was called La Couronne which he finished in 2018 and gave to a friend.
“My wife Lynn and I have gotten too old to make trips down to Vancouver to sell the ships, so now most of them I give away to friends and family,” He said. Yankovitch also mentioned that the monetary value of the ships has decreased significantly over the last ten years, another reason why he stopped trying to sell them.
Though he doesn’t make model ships anymore, Yancovitch said that he’s enjoying his retirement, and that Burns Lake has been a blessing for him. “It’s given me a place to be rejuvenated and become more introspective,” he said.
Though the value of the ships has gone down over the years, it doesn’t bother Yancovitch at all. “Monetary value doesn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “If you put your heart into something with honesty and sincerity, that’s the most important thing. These ships have value to me, and that’s ultimately what matters.”