Born and raised on Kauai and educated at Kauai High School, Cecil Gates (1924-2011), assisted by his wife, Pat Gates, designed and built seven scale model, outboard engine-driven ships at their Los Angeles home between 1974 and 1991.
The models included four 18-foot battleships, one 20-foot aircraft carrier, the 23-foot RMS Titanic and the 36-foot battleship USS Arizona.
Made principally of fiberglass and marine plywood, each miniature ship was navigated from within superstructures containing room for a captain, usually Cecil, and one passenger.
Their USS Arizona was powered by two OMC Sail Drive engines capable of 9 knots, while the 18-foot battleships — USS Alabama, USS South Dakota, USS Indiana and USS Bicentennial — were equipped with Johnson outboards, as were the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill and RMS Titanic.
For several adventurous years, the couple sailed their ships upon thousands of miles of America’s inland waterways and along the U.S. East Coast.
A notable highlight of their travels occurred in 1991, when Matson Navigation shipped their USS Arizona to Honolulu for the commemoration ceremonies of the 50th anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, in which they were guests of honor of the Pearl Harbor Surviver’s Association.
Ultimately, Cecil and Pat — who both retired as Los Angeles public school teachers — donated or sold their ships to military veteran organizations or individuals.
Today, USS Bunker Hill, renamed USS Lexington, is a museum anchored off Corpus Christi, Texas.
The USS Alabama is also a museum in Mobile, Alabama, while USS Indiana and USS South Dakota are exhibited in museums in Auburn, Indiana and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, respectively.
RMS Titanic makes appearances on the East Coast. USS Bicentennial was purchased by the American Legion and is being used in Sacramento, California. And USS Arizona is seen at Veterans Day parades in Arizona.
Most recently, in 2011, USS Arizona was displayed at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center in Pearl Harbor in observance of the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.