Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2013

You don’t have to be a wooden boat enthusiast to enjoy the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. The Tasmanian government have seen the wood through the trees and cleverly made the festival a free event. This concept lifts the attendance levels and gives the festival a wonderful atmosphere.

Couta boat in the pavilion.
There were over 600 boats on display and the festival is a true celebration of both new and old wooden boats. Boats of a similar design are displayed together, this makes it easy to wander the jetties and pavilions and enjoy the eclectic mix of vessels on display. Each vessel has an information board which tells you her name, designer, year launched and the construction material. I’m particularly in love with Huon Pine and vessels built out of this material received a big tick from me. I couldn’t help spare a thought for the large number of boats that remained on the waiting list and couldn’t exhibit at the festival; there was simply no more room.

Landfall and Sirocco.
The festival is a four day event. When we arrived and saw the boats and the display pavilions before us I said to Steve “where do we start?” We wandered along the jetties of the Kings Pier Marina and Constitution Dock and it was a little overwhelming to gaze upon the selection of wooden boats. Landfall (1935) and Sirocco (1939), two historic Sparkman and Stephens design yachts, nearly brought tears to my eyes they looked so grand. These boats are lovely to look at, but it sends a shiver down my spine when I imagine the hours of work that are spent to keep them in such immaculate condition.

I was thrilled to catch up with Cartella; this old ferry is now a centenarian. I remember being onboard her in 1975 after the Tasman Bridge collapsed. Cartella helped move commuters back and forth across the Derwent River.

I particularly enjoyed the colourful display of Fazackerley Dinghies. It is estimated that Reg Fazackerley built over 100 of these dinghies and about 40 of them are known to be in existence because of the quality of their build and their collectability. One of the defining characteristics of the clinker Fazackerley dinghies is there are no ribs forward of the front seat.

The owners of Notorious, a full size replica of a 15th century Portuguese caravel (the type of ship that carried the early European explores to the Far East), were enterprising with their fund raising and for $5 you could climb aboard and take a look around. However the replica Viking ship Russich which had sailed all the way from Russia, had only a donation box on the dock and would have collected only a fraction of the amount.

We noticed that Sea Shepherd was also in port. Sea Shepherd belongs to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) which is a marine wildlife conservation organisation. Looking down at her from the dock Sea Shepherd has a mighty presence. A film crew were conducting an interview with Bob Brown (former Australian Greens leader). Bob is now actively involved with Sea Shepherd activities and he looked much younger and fitter than he looks on TV. I over heard him say “I am 67 years old.”

Over the four festival days we wandered along the jetties and through the exhibition halls and learnt about model boats, wooden canoes and boat building. Everywhere we went there was an unpretentious volunteer ready and willing to answer all of our questions. Whenever we needed to rest for a while it was easy to find somewhere to sit down and something delicious to eat. From Persian fair to a good Tasmanian scallop pie, everyone’s taste was catered for.

There was a good mix of talks and presentations to choose from and we particularly enjoyed Lynn and Larry Pardey’s presentation on storm tactics – how to hove to. Lynn is an expert presenter and she gained our full attention. I learned so much from her presentation.

The AWBF is a great place to hang out and we turned up every day. At times you would find us in the Wooden Boat Tavern listening to folk music and at other times we’d be in the pavilions again learning a little more about wooden boats.

In 1975, when I was just a child living in Hobart, my dad started to build a Hartley 17ft cabin cruiser. I can see him now using a hand saw to cut the ribs out of King Billy Pine. After attending the festival, dad’s boat project means so much more.

The festival was far and beyond any expectations we may have had. It is estimated that over 200,000 people attended the four day event which must have put a smile on the faces of the entire organising committee. I will never forget the sight of hundreds of dressed ships in the harbour and when the curtain finally closed on the 2013 Australian Wooden Boat Festival, I felt certain that one day the festival would lure us back to Hobart again.

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