At Greg Gutchigian’s Harvey Cedars house, model ships of all shapes and sizes dot the shelves. But in his workshop, the one he is most proud of is a replica of a new maritime training ship, which he presents as a gift to SUNY Maritime College.
“I graduated there in 1970,” he said. “We were hoping to present it around the time (2020), but then COVID came along and everything got pushed back.”
He said SUNY Maritime, located in the Bronx, is the oldest of five state maritime academies in the country, with the others located in Maine, Massachusetts, Texas and California.
Gutchigian had worked on the model with his classmate Robert Gault. Gutchigian graduated as a deck officer and Gault as a shipping engineering officer.
Gutchigian later operated passenger ferries from Cape Cod to Nantucket, and it was these trips to Nantucket that began his interest in building model ships. He then forged a career in the marine insurance industry, retiring in 2011.
“Our hope is that the model will be displayed at the Fort Schuyler Museum, which is part of the Maritime College,” he said.
Gutchigian said the training ship model is built based on artist renderings and basic line drawings.
“The current ship is still under construction at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard,” he said. “It should be scheduled for delivery in 2023.”
The vessel is known as the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel, or NSMV. He said the college’s current training ship was built in 1962 and has been used to educate and train maritime students since 1989.
“But now is the time to replace him,” said Gutchigian, who was also an ensign in the Naval Reserve. “The ship’s technology is aging and strict environmental regulations are coming which will limit the ship’s voyage plans.
“This will be the seventh training ship in the college’s history. All five maritime colleges will have this new training ship, but the New York college will have the first. The last one will be finished in 2026 and will go to California.
He said the actual ship is 524 feet long, 88 feet across and 55 feet from bottom to top deck. It also contains radar, containers, foremast, deckhouses, among others.
The miniature version at his house is only 25 inches long, which creates quite a bit of a challenge.
“A sixteenth of an inch equals 1 foot,” Gutchigian said. “The man you see on top of the bridge is only 3/8 inch tall.”
He said the model’s base was made of high-density foam, which he says is much more stable than wood. The blue ocean surrounding the model is created in epoxy resin.
Gutchigian, who grew up in Cherry Hill, said he started coming to the island when his father bought a house in Brant Beach in 1957.
“My first interest was oceanography. but then I started moving into the shipping business,” he said. “Coming to the island for the summers has always been a great experience. I really fell in love with the ocean.
Gutchigian said he bought his East 76th Street home in 1995. He was active in the Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association.
“I’m staying here until the fall, then I’m going to Florida for a chance to play golf,” he said.