Whatever floats your boat

Fred Kelly looks up, pauses for a moment as a flash of emotion creases his face, returns to working on his model boat parked in the recreation room of Bupa Aged Care in Modbury where he resides.

"If I could find somewhere in Adelaide to get the timber outside of a kit, I'd build more of these."

Every part of his boat, from the hull to the smallest pole, are made entirely by hand, from scratch, showing his attention to detail and love of history.

"Building a model boat can be a real challenge. How did I start? A friend of mine got a kit years ago and built a Viking ship. I thought ‘oh yeah’, I'd like to have a go at that and I did," Mr Kelly said.

"This boat (pictured) is a HMS Victory from the 1800s’," he said.

Fred hasn’t always been a modeller though, he turned his profession of cabinet making to boats after retiring. When health issues and a lack of tooling prevented him from machining cabinets professionally, he decided to scale down his operation.

"It is just one of those things, I never really was interested in boats but I’m using my skills, keeping busy and challenging myself."

The recreation room serves as a makeshift workshop, as well as a storage space for all the tools he needs to create model boats.

I usually do my work in the main room and even though the other residents wouldn’t give it a go themselves, they still enjoy watching the boat take shape while sipping on a cuppa’.
Fred Kelly, resident at Bupa Aged Care in Modbury.

"I couldn't tell you how many pieces are in the boat but there are a lot."

"This boat has taken me about 12 months so far, although I have to admit that I'm not consistently working on it."

Fred says scale modelling is not only about size, but about representing the past.

"You need patience to tackle a project like this and it is also a good teacher in that regard."

“I enjoy researching the models that I make, you can learn a lot from history and I try to use old methods such as soaking the wood in water so it can be shaped to the curvature of the hull.”

He has no intention of selling the models. Instead, he keeps them as a reminder of his old profession and his new found hobby.

"Really all you need is a Stanley knife, super glue, a ruler, paint brushes and some paint. You need a tub to soak the wood in water so you can curve and shape the wood and that’s about it."

A pioneering initiative recently unveiled by the British Health Secretary has enabled doctors to prescribe therapeutic hobbies for ailments.

Bupa Modbury General Manager Rajiv Chand shares the opinion that there is a real benefit in filling your time with a hobby.

“These days, it’s rare to see people with a hobby. Everyone is so busy, right?" Mr Chand said.

"But whether you’re busy with your career, spending time enjoying your retirement or engaging in some other activities at an aged care home, Fred is living proof that making time for a hobby can have positive benefits,” he said.