The first ship of this class of small seaplane tenders was the USS Barnegat AVP-10 which was commissioned in July of 1941. In general, the ships of this class were named after small bodies of water like inlets, bays, and harbors such as Cook Inlet, Biscayne Bay, and Bering Strait. There were thirty-five ships of this class built.
The Barnegat class seaplane tenders were 311' 8" long, 41' 1" at the beam, had a draft of 13' 6", and displaced 2,750 tons when fully loaded. Their top speed was rated at 18.6 knots and their crew compliment was 215 officers and crew.
The initial purpose of these small ships was to provide supplies, fuel, armaments, maintenance, lodging and meals to seaplane squadron aircraft and their crews in forward, and sometimes remote, operating areas. The shallow draft of these ships allowed them to service the aircraft in sheltered waters such as small inlets, harbors, atolls, and even rivers.
The ships of this class were variously armed, from ship to ship and from era to era, with two 5"/38 enclosed gun turrets on the bow and one 5"/38 open mounted gun on the fantail; one Quad 40mm gun mount aft and at times with one replacing the second 5"/38 gun turret, two Twin 40mm gun mounts amidships, and four to six Twin 20mm gun mounts, and at times with single 20mm gun mounts and/or .50 caliber machine guns.
Although not very fast ships, the Navy and Coast Guard favored them for their shallow drafts and seaworthiness and versatility. Some AVPs were modified as PT-Boat Tenders (AGP), Oceanographic Research Ships (AGOR), Oceanographic Survey Ships (AGS), one was modified to train seaplane pilots, Amphibious Forces Command Ships (AGC), and Command Flagships (AGF). Many were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard and served as WAVPs and high endurance cutters (WHEC).
Many ships of this class were sold to, and served in, foreign navies after being decommissioned and stricken from the US Navy's list. Some foreign service included Italian, Greek, South Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Philippine navies. The USS Barnegat, herself, was purchased by a Greek cruise line company and was modified and served as a small cruise ship re-named the MV Kentavros.
My father served on the USS Duxbury Bay AVP-38 in 1952 and 1953. He was an Interior Communications Electrician and serviced the ships communication systems, navigation systems and various instrumentation. Dad reported aboard the Duxbury Bay while she was in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, Virginia in the summer of 1952. It was at this time that the Duxbury Bay's only 5" gun turret was removed, air conditioning equipment was installed, and she received her first coat of white paint in preparation to serve as flagship for the Commander Middle East Forces, a two-star admiral who's headquarters was at Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf. My father's cruise started in October 1952 from Norfolk Naval Base and he returned from the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf in April 1953.
The Duxbury Bay shared this flagship duty with her sister ships, USS Greenwich Bay AVP-41 and USS Valcour AVP-55, until her decommissioning in 1966. The three ships were fondly referred to as “The Little White Fleet" by their crews.
Obviously, it is the USS Duxbury Bay that I have chosen to depict using the 1/350 USS Mackinac AVP-13 resin model kit from Commander Series Models, Inc.'s Iron Shipwright Signature Series.
I am so, very grateful to Commander Series Models, Inc. for creating a model kit of this obscure and little known class of little ships. Their resin model is a very nice one and is a terrific base from which to create any of the USN, USCG, and foreign navy variants.
On my conversion of the Mackinac kit from ISW I have had to modify or scratch build the following listed items in order to more accurately portray the USS Duxbury Bay AVP-38 in her 1952-53 configuration:
Since the Duxbury Bay lost her 5" gun turret in 1952, I scraped off the round turret base that was molded into the deck on the forecastle as well as on the fantail. I did this on the forward O2 level, too, for the Duxbury Bay never had a 5" gun turret there, just a Quad 40mm.
Both Quad 40mm gun tubs were scratch built. Both gun tubs were rather unique on these ships. The forward gun tub having a raised “lip" on the front and the aft one being raised off of the main deck and having a hand rail around its rim.
The fire control shack (carved from balsa wood) and range finder above the pilot house were scratch built as was the fire control shack on the fantail. Commander Series Models, Inc. sent, to me, three Mk52 gun director radars that replaced the Mk51's that came with the kit.
The companionway enclosures, or spray shields were scratch built. I used Evergreen channel styrene and 1/350 PE vertical ladders which I cut off every other rung and one side's hand rail in order to emulate the supports underneath.
I extended the O4 deck a little aft along with the O3 level compartment.
I filled the gap that existed on the model between the after O2 level compartment and the compartment fore of the stack. I cut off the pre-existing signal flag bags and angled them to the proper position and using Yankee Modelworks white metal flag bags.
I scraped off some fire hoses, lockers, and gas cylinders that were on the front of the O1 level compartment and put some GMM watertight doors and proper lockers on in their place.
The model came with an O2 deck that extended too far aft of the crane, for my Duxbury Bay, with a Quad 40mm gun tub on it. I cut this gun tub off and shortened the aft O2 deck and constructed a small boat support structure aft of the crane. This is where the Dux carried the admiral's barge when he was aboard and traveling on her.
I added a platform to the front of the stack and mounted whip antennas atop of it. I had to modify the mast and added two yardarms to the crane mast. The SATCOM dome on the mast is a CIWS dome. The “Bedspring Radar" array is from L'Arsenal.
I added inclined ladders to the starboard side of the forward Quad 40mm and on the starboard O2 level. (There was not a corresponding ladder on the port side on the Dux, which I found to be rather odd.)
I trimmed down the sponsons on the upper twin 20mm guns and inserted single bar railings on them. I added the square support stanchons under the upper Twin 20mm gun sponsons.
The sponsons on the O3 level were too, big and too, far aft for the Duxbury Bay, so I had to cut them off and make new smaller ones from Evergreen tubing and positioned them correctly. It is in these sponsons that the saluting gun cannons were located and I used 1/700 single 3" guns for these. From a distance, they look pretty close to the real thing.
I drilled holes and inserted plastic rod to make all of the bits on the main deck. I left off the chocks. I found nothing suitable in 1/350 for this size of ship. Most were too, big.
I added the anchor brake hand wheels on the forecastle. I even put some hand wheels on the crane pulleys to make them more realistic looking.
Some of the after market pieces that I used were the radar (L'Arsenal), the floater net baskets (L'Arsenal), the life rafts (L'Arsenal), the whale boat (L'Arsenal), the 40mm and 20mm guns (L'Arsenal and Tom's Modelworks). The Mk52 gun directors were specially molded for me by ISW. The railings are from ISW and GMM.
The admiral's barge came from an old broken DML Ticonderoga CG kit and the captain's gig is from an old broken REVELL USS Pine Island seaplane tender model. I drilled out and carved open the rear seating area and the coxswain's cockpit in the bow on the admiral's barge. I painted it to replicate the barge that my father had taken pictures of.
I made my own decals for the stern ship's name and the "Dux-Bay" decals on the small boats.
I made and rigged small boat handling booms, port and starboard, and added an aviation fuel supply pipe to the aft starboard hull.
I added torpedo handling booms and a scratch built winch forward of the pilot house. The torpedo loading hatch in the deck behind the forward Quad 40mm was already molded into the deck.
For the rigging lines, I used two-pound test monofilament fishing line for the mainstays and backstays; and invisible thread for the halyards.
I am finished with the model, however, I plan to add the ship's radio call sign signal flags to the port outboard halyard and a two-star admiral's flag to the main mast (crane mast) when a smaller, and more correct, size of 1/350 miscellaneous flag sets are created by Resin Shipyard / Hawk Graphics. I hope that they will be available by the end of the year.
This was my first attempt at any scratch building, except for my remodeled living room, and my first major try at photo-etched parts. Before this, I hadn't researched and studied references of the item that I was building. I found this build to be quite challenging, frustrating, and yet very, satisfying. It was a labor of love, really. After discovering that a model existed of this class of ship, I just had to make it. And I just had to make it the Duxbury Bay.
I envision a future project of building the Duxbury Bay in her final 1966 configuration as well as models of the USS Greenwich Bay and USS Valcour. I'd love to see all three of them on one display base. I'd also like to build one as the USS Mackinac just as Commander Series Models, Inc. intended the kit to be.