View Full Version : A ukulele for the Merchant Navy

12-07-2017, 10:04 AM
Hi all,
I go off with the Merchant Navy in September and want a ukulele to go with me to pass the time. I currently play bass but its a little big to stow away so instead I'm looking at a concert size uke.

The models I'm looking at are:
Laka VUC30-Pretty solid sounding in the shop but not very attractive
Kala KA-C-Very pretty to look at and sounded decent
Kala KA-CEMG-Gorgeous to lok at and sounds nice but i'm worried the finish will damage far too easily
Snail C05- Sounds nice and is comfortable to play but I'm worried the light finish will show dirt too easily (not good for an engineer cadet).

The Laka seems the most robust but isn't adorned very much and the Kalas are pretty but every one I've looked at is marked/has glues marks/ wobbly tuners so this is putting me off them a little. Can anyone give their opinions on each one to help me decide?

Many thanks


12-07-2017, 10:08 AM
With the humidity encountered in shipboard life, would you consider a laminate or even carbon fiber uke? http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/archive/index.php/t-62051.html

12-07-2017, 10:22 AM
I had seen these but the price for a carbon fibre one is rather steep! The ships ill be on are fuel bunkers around the UK and France/Germany so luckily the weather is rather consistant

12-07-2017, 11:00 AM
Look at the Caramel CC-100 A laminate Zebrawood concert. Mine is very nice sounding, inexpensive, so if it get crushed or stepped on, you're not out a lot. builtin in tuner and equalizer so with a Honeytone amp you'll have a compact set up that sounds good and has enough volume to off set the sound of the thumping engine., all for under $100.

12-07-2017, 12:15 PM
Seems like your budget is $100-$140, is that correct. The Kala KA-C is hard to beat for the money. Laminate body, so it's robust with a decent sound. The dark mahogany color would not show the dirt and grime as a lighter colored uke would. If you played it in the shop and liked it that is the way to go.

12-07-2017, 12:28 PM
Thanks chaps for the advice so far. Yes Im thinking around 80-100 to spend on one (sorry im not sure what is in dollars). The KA-C was very nice but each one I looked at in different shops has been poorly finished/glue stains/wobbly tuners etc. Is this just vecause they are show models do you think theyre just getting beat up a bit?

12-07-2017, 12:30 PM
As a "value for money" instrument the Kala KA-C is hard to beat. I've had mine for several years and continue to be satisfied with it. An alternative might be a Brunswick, (from Barnes and Mullins). Probably in a similar class to the Kala (good quality laminate). I've got two, the tenor BU5T and the baritone BU5B. These are both "blonde", but the dark-wood version is as good. Again, owned both for several years and continue to be satisfied :)

Good luck :music:

Graham Greenbag
12-07-2017, 01:23 PM
I suggest to you that you consider a long neck Soprano (Concert scale on a Soprano body). They are somewhat more compact than a Concert - I strongly suspect that that will be advantageous to you - whilst giving a good volume and the slightly easier playing of a Concert over a Soprano.

It’s surprising that you have seen damaged Kala’s in the stores that you have visited. Perhaps they sell the good ones and keep Ukulele shaped objects for show / window dressing. Every Kala I’ve seem has been fine and I’ve never heard of poor quality ones.

I suggest that you just accept that finish will get damaged aboard ship, buy something of acceptable sound for 100 or less and play it in to the ground.

12-07-2017, 02:40 PM
Here is a link to a UK made uke used in the Merchant Marine to find out about from the BBC.


Very Cool, Thanks for posting!

12-07-2017, 09:00 PM
In case you might want to think about a bass, look at the Rondomusic.com bass ukes for around $160. I have a 21 inch scale acoustic and a few solid bodies, 21 and 24 inch scale that are very compact. Then get yourself the Blackstar Fly 3 Bass mini amp, $110, together they do very well as a bass rig. I added a strap to mine.

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Wearble Fly 3.jpg

Croaky Keith
12-08-2017, 01:19 AM
My vote is for the Kala, buy it from Southern Ukulele Store, I've bought several ukes from them online & they have all been good.

Also, I would suggest considering the long neck soprano KA-SLNG, it was my main uke when I started playing.

I'd also suggest that you change the strings to fluorocarbons, they have a nicer tone & feel compared to the Aquilas that come fitted on Kalas.

12-08-2017, 03:03 AM
I spent four years in the navy back in the early seventies during the Viet Nam war, back before there was anything but wood guitars and nobody I knew played the ukulele. There were three guys who had plain old wooden guitars that they would take out on the fantail every evening and jam. Those wooden guitars held up just fine.

12-08-2017, 08:22 AM

check / see Outdoor ukulele


12-11-2017, 03:20 AM
My recommendation would be a Flea. Robust, good tone, excellent quality. Worth stretching your budget for. I've taken mine abroad no worries.

12-11-2017, 06:33 AM
My recommendation would be a Flea. Robust, good tone, excellent quality. Worth stretching your budget for. I've taken mine abroad no worries.

They are great little instruments and with the plastic fingerboard you don't need to worry about fret issues when the humidity changes. A big sound for a small package. You'll need to be careful on the case front. They used to relatively slim wooden cases, but the more recent cases are foam and while providing great protection, are about double the volume of the old ones. Here's a place where they're selling the old-style case. http://www.ukeboutique.nl/product/custom-hardcase-for-flea-ukulele/

Here's a thumbs up as well for the Hadean Uke Bass that was mentioned earlier. The Musician's Gear baritone ukulele case fits the Hadean Uke Bass nicely (my Oahu baritone case does not - the tuners on the Hadean stick out too far)

12-13-2017, 12:56 AM
Hi, mac!


check / see Outdoor ukulele


Hemp guitar and ukulele are good for out door too.


12-13-2017, 03:56 PM
Does anyone have any more information or experience with these hemp ukuleles? They look super cool but there's not much info about them on the companies website. Anyone tried one? Know the price range?

Oh, it turns out there's a Canadian company that makes a Hemplele, though in this case the neck and headstock and still wood. Only the body is hemp.

12-13-2017, 05:02 PM
I'd be going for one of those plastic jobs. I tried one in a shop and was surprised by how awful it wasn't.

12-14-2017, 06:30 AM
Hi, mac!

Hemp guitar and ukulele are good for out door too.


But can you roll one up and smoke it?

12-14-2017, 09:09 PM
Thank you ladies and gents for all of your suggestions and help,

I have now bought a Laka VUC30 as I thought if it gets damaged I will not mind too much as the outlay wasn't very high. I hopefully will do a few voyages with this uke before upgrading/ changing in accordance with how the Laka performed. I now have my eye on a gretsch however! I'm wanting more ukes and I've only just started with this one!

Thanks once again,