Even when he was stationed in Virginia to serve in the Navy, Minzie Leister Jr. had a piece of York County with him.
Leister, 69, of East Prospect first stepped on the USS York County in 1965, when he was 20 years old. The boat was named in honor of the counties in Pennsylvania, Maine, Virginia, South Carolina and Nebraska.
He worked on the deck as a boatswain's mate until 1967 and afterward revived the ship by building his first model: a right-to-scale version made from scratch.
The ship was commissioned in 1957 and decommissioned in 1972. Throughout those years, Leister said he's the only Navy vet from York County, Pa., to serve on it.
"It felt pretty good, building something that you served on ... It means a lot, really," he said.
Showing off his three years of work in a huge glass case, Leister was one of dozens of model boat enthusiasts who took their ships to Lake Redman for Task Force 50's 23rd annual Regatta of Radio Control Boats on Sunday.
The regatta featured a course on the lake, which is created each year by club members, that required ships to maneuver through obstacles like makeshift mine fields, icebergs and islands with precision, said Tom Foller, who in 1988 co-founded Task Force 50, a model boating club.
About 80 people attended the event, and participants came from as far as North Carolina and New York, he said.
There aren't as many model boating clubs around anymore — the nearest ones are in Philadelphia and Annapolis, Md. — so people from other areas hear of the club's events from the Scale Ship Modelers Association of North America or word of mouth, he said.
Jerry and Esther Kirk of Wellsville, N.Y., said they first came to the regatta in 2002 after hearing about it through the Buffalo Model Boat Club.
"And we've been back several times ... I like the people in the club," said Jerry Kirk, 67, noting that the husband-and-wife duo has come back at least six times since then.
Esther Kirk, 64, did most of the building for one of this year's ships, which is called Dinner Time because it's a lobster boat, she said. Her husband made his first ship in 1969, and she took up the hobby in the late '80s, she said.
She made the ship from a kit, she said, which is the preferred way for beginners to get started.
And people can get started early: Foller, 75, of Springettsbury Township started building model ships when he was 10 years old, he said. The hobby teaches valuable skills, such as how to read blueprints, work from scale and make computer-assisted designs, he said.
"There's a lot of really positive things that you can learn from model boating," Foller said. "It's a neat hobby, and there are rewards to it. I've met a lot of people because of it."
Task Force 50 has about 20 members who meet monthly, and the club welcomes model boat enthusiasts of all experience levels, he said. To learn more or get involved, contact Foller at (717) 751-2135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at email@example.com.