The United States Coast Guard's smaller river and inland buoy tenders are probably the most unknown and
unrecognized part of the fleet.  These tenders play an important role in maintaining safe waterways in U.S. rivers
and lakes.  Like all Coast Guard vessels, these small tenders are capable of carrying out a multitude of tasks.  
Primarily, they are designed to service the aids to navigation in inland waterways. In addition, the perform law
enforcement, environmental, icebreaking, and search and rescue operations. The latter duty is frequently carried
out during flood relief efforts.

The 115 foot USCG Tender
Sumac (WLR-311) is one example of this fleet of inland vessels. The WLR
designation means she is a river tender.
Sumac was built by Peterson & Haecker, Limited, in Blair, Nebraska.  
Her keel was laid on March 13, 1944, was launched into the Missouri River on October 14, 1944 and
commissioned on November 1, 1944.  Throughout her  almost 54 year career,
Sumac serviced aids to navigation,
conducted search and rescue and broke ice when needed on thousands of miles of the Ohio, Mississippi,
Kentucky, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and their numerous tributaries. She was decommissioned on July 9,
Battlefleet Models has made a name for itself with its line of auxiliary and merchant ship kits in 1/700 scale and the
Sumac fits right into this focus. To navigate the shallow waters of the rivers she served, the Sumac is essentially a
barge with a superstructure and funnels. Now I do not usually build in 1/700 scale but the subject matter appealed to

The kit itself is a simple, straight forward affair. In 1/700 scale this model is tiny, measuring only about two inches.  
The larger resin pieces comprise of the waterline hull, the main deck housing, upper cabin and pilot house with deck.
These parts are well cast and require only a little bit of sanding along some of the edges. The level of detail is
adequate:  doors are represented by raised rectangles and the windows are a mix of frames and what looks like
sections of railing. One can choose to apply photo-etch doors to the face of the rectangles. I would have but I did
not have any on hand so I left them as is. The parts stack up well with only a little warping on the aft part of the
pilothouse deck which went away when glued down.

The next largest parts are the twin funnels which are cast on top of a pair of circular bases that are part of the
runner. You must carefully remove them using a razor saw. The funnels are recessed just enough on top to make
them look realistic. The rest of the resin parts comprise of the pusher plating and support bracings, ship’s boat and a
pair of searchlights also cast onto a runner. The support bracings are cast as a solid piece but actually they should be
open. The parts are cast in a way that you can easily correct this with an Exacto knife.  
Twin bitts in two sizes are also provided which need to cut from casting film. The smaller parts are also well cast
and require little or no cleanup. The bottoms of the bitts should be thinned down with some sandpaper before
removing them from the casting film; otherwise they will stick up too much.

Two lengths of photo-etch railing are provided with the kit and it is just barely enough to use along the edges of the
upper and pilothouse decks. Some railing is needed to the pilothouse roof and I took some from a 1/700 scale
Medal Models
merchant ship set that I have. The GMM set was also my source for both inclined and vertical
ladders which are not provided with the kit. Brass rod is included to use as the two posts that are fitted to the front
of the deck housings. I used thinner brass rod and wire to make the mast and pilothouse deck supports. I also used
thin wire for the exhaust pipes that come out of the funnels which are visible in photos.

Decals are not provided but a 1/700 scale US Coast Guard decal set is available separately from
.   If you wish to build the model with the more modern USCG markings (racing stripes and funnel
emblems) then you will need this decal set. If you wish to build the
Sumac in a 1940s/1950s fit then you can
probably get away with generic white lettering but I would still recommend the USCG decal sheet because it would
make life easier. I did use generic white lettering for the name on the transom.
The kit instructions are very basic with a simplified assembly diagram. The Sumac is a rather simple ship
structurally, so detailed instructions are really not required and the assembly diagram shows the locations of the
major parts. It does not show the location of the bitts and other details. To supplement the instructions I
download plans for the
Sumac that are on the Historic Naval Ships Association website (http://www.hnsa.
org/doc/plans/wlr311.pdf). Also there is a slide show of color photos of the
Sumac taken by a former crew
member which is on YouTube. I used screen capture software to print out some images. Both supplemental
sources helped with the locations of the bitts and ladders. The painting instructions are provided and they
accurate if you wish to model the Sumac as first commissioned. I wanted to build her with the USCG “racing
stripe” and more modern colors: black hull, white housings and buff funnels.   

The model is so small that I was able to use a small display box normally used for Matchbox cars that I picked up
at Michaels craft shops (they come 3 or 4 to a pack). I cut some basswood to fit inside the bottom of the box
and used acrylic gel to make the water base. I added some extra green to my pre-mixed base color of Liquitex
Phthalocyanine Blue and Phthalocyanine Green to make it more river-like.

Overall it was a fun build and it is something different in terms of scale on my display shelves. The only short-
coming is the lack of a more inclusive photo-etch set. If you build a lot of models in 1/700 scale you can probably
raid the spares box for the items you need.