RC Boat USCGC Shelby

Gallery Article by Keith Diamond on Jan 8 2010

Silly Week 2010


This is my custom painted radio controlled boat named after our pet turtle, Shelby.  There's a nice lake nearby where I like to run sometimes, or spend time with the fiance either walking our dog or feeding the resident turtles.  I never had a radio controlled boat before, so I thought it might be nice to have one to bring to the lake sometimes.  But let me tell you more about its namesake.

My girlfriend at the time (now fiance) was a preschool teacher.  It was suggested by the preschool director that every class have a classroom pet.  Her class decided upon a turtle, so she and I went out to the local pet store and picked at a red ear slider for her class.  The preschool paid for the turtle, tank, basking lamp, food, filter and other basic supplies, and I volunteered my time to build a makeshift island for it.  The class took a vote and named the turtle, Shelby.

The first island I built was made out of wire and plastic.  The plastic was stacked in two layers, with faux stone paint on top to replicate a sandy beach.  A fake plant bought in the arts and craft section represented a small tree, and the wires were used to prop the island at a reasonable level.  I would come into the classroom every now and then to help clean the tank or make sure the island was still ok.

After a few months, a parent complained about a pet in another classroom, so the director wanted all of the pets to be moved elsewhere.  Shelby was taken home to us, and I started work on a new island. 

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I found an acrylic stand at work that was about to be thrown away and brought it home.  An acrylic box was attached to the stand, so I glued wooden popsicle sticks around the surface to create a "shack."  I painted the shack with craft paint and attached some craft palm trees to the side.  Inside, I placed a small table with a personalized craft surfboard (I've seen Shelby sleep on it before!)

Part of the acrylic stand was heated to soften the material and to create a dip for the new island to dip into the water.  The island was again painted with faux stone paint to replicate a sandy beach.  To complete the beach scene, I added a plastic Jack Sparrow figure (she liked to sleep next to it as well) and a wooden sign out front that said "Shelby's Shack."  The island was suspended over the water using suction cups attaching the acrylic to the aquarium sides.

As you can tell with the pictures, Shelby was a cute turtle who enjoyed swimming, basking, and chasing after her food container (she would follow it all the time).  She loved Jack Sparrow, her island, and a plastic plant she would hang onto and sleep on.  Unfortunately, last February (2009), Shelby passed away.  We miss her still, and continue to feed her distant cousins at the lake.

I finished the RC boat before she passed, but I wanted to give some background information on its namesake.  The RC boat is one I found online for around ~$35.  I bought it because it was reasonably priced, had good reviews and looked like a warship.  The gray plastic and markings were boring and too toylike for my tastes.  I was considering repainting it in camouflage or some other gray pattern, but I eventually settled on a high viz Coast Guard scheme.

The customizing process is pretty straightforward involving a lot of masking tape and some custom decals.  I wish I had taken more pictures before I took it to the lake for the first few times, since some of the decals smeared after a while.  On the front of the superstructure, I made a decal for its launch date, and on the stern I added the ship's name. 

Just recently, I finished a stand for it and too more pictures.  The stand was made from wood bought at Hobby Lobby, which was then stained and given a polyurethane coating.  The letters were also from a craft store and spray painted gold.

Hope you guys enjoy it.  Every time I take the USCGC Shelby out to the lake I think of our late pet turtle and how any miniature drug runners had better beware.

Keith Diamond

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Photos and text by Keith Diamond