10 February 2013


A disclaimer: although I live on an island, my ignorance of things nautical is abysmal. However, I can't pass up a good party, so as soon as my drawing lesson finished this morning I launched (pun, folks) myself into this year's Wooden Boat Festival. Not for the first time I felt smug about being gainfully employed right there in the thick of it at the Salamanca Arts Centre.

I am not sure when it first happened, or who made the decision, but the Festival is now timed to coincide with the annual Hobart Regatta, which has been held somewhere about the first weekend in February for rather a long time. Better still, there are no admission fees, so the waterfront was definitely the place to be, with crowds enthusiastically roaming the usual Saturday morning market at Salamanca Place and hurrying around the wharves from one attraction to the next.


I am constantly amazed by the dedication and perseverence of people who take the time to discover and restore beautiful old things, whether it be furniture, machinery, vehicles or whatever. Historic boat enthusiasts are out in force at the Wooden Boat Festival.

Admiral is claimed to be Tasmania's oldest boat; this is what she looks like today, and here is a photo of her being launched in 1865 .

Preana (the name is an aboriginal word meaning "spear") is one of my favourites. She is a luxury steamer, built late in the nineteenth century for the Gibson family, who owned a large flour mill in Hobart. 

The Gibsons built a house on the Esplanade at Lindisfarne, where they had their own jetty.

Preana was always flagship at the Lindisfarne regatta and Mr Les Gibson used to dress up in uniform, with plenty of gold braid on his captain's cap, and gallantly escort guests aboard. Alas, she was eventually sold, allowed to fall into disrepair and there was little more than the hull left when she was finally rescued.

I liked the contrast here with a few less elegant vessels. The Preana.org website will give you  more information

Another miraculous rescue is Terra Linna, built as a racing yacht (28ft class) in 1880 at Sandy Bay, and the ninth yacht registered with the Derwent Sailing Club (later the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania). 

There are some big gaps in her history, but in 2001 she was rescued by members of the Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania in a very sorry condition.

Now she is looking beautiful again.


Boat builders and boat building displays are an important part of the Wooden Boat Festival. 

There are competitions for school children to build their own boats; this year they experimented with fabric over a lightweight skeleton.

The ancient British coracle was constructed from animal hide stretched over a wicker framework; it was practical, portable and easily repaired. Now Peter Ingram-Jones of Otago Bay uses synthetic fabrics and hand-crafted Huon pine in a modern version of this very ancient technique. His tough, useful but seemingly ethereal vessels double as lampshades, if you are short of storage space.

Here he is with one of his boats – weighing only six kilograms. Yes, he really is lifting it up with just his little finger.

You can see some fabulous photographs of his creations on his website.


If you can't find an old boat to rescue, you can always build a reproduction of one.

Teepookana is a reproduction of a west coast Piner's punt built by members of the Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania. Piner's punts were used to harvest Huon Pine; for this a short, easily-manouvered boat without a keel is required. According to the Wooden Boat Guild this specific design is unique to Tasmania, and probably appeared in Port Davey before 1890.

Of course, there are people who are not satisfied with something this small.

How about your very own Viking longboat?

This is Russich, built in Russia and working her way around the world. 
It looks pretty good, but on closer inspection -

Since when have Vikings politely asked for donations, or raised some extra money painting souvenirs for tourists?

Now THIS is Notorious - an amazing reconstruction of a fifteenth century Portuguese Caravel.
(You can see some much better photos of it on their Facebook page)

Its builders, Graeme and Felicite Wylie from Western Victoria, were inspired by the legendary Mahogany Ship said to lie beneath the shifting sand-dunes of Warrnambool. 

They spent many hours and much money and built Notorious over ten years using only salvaged timber.

That really is impressive.

Yes, she looks like a pirate ship, and there were plenty of pirates to be seen around the waterfront.

Other entertainments

Some of them were pretty good singers, too:
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society perform a Pirates of Penzance/Pinafore mashup

There was plenty of music about:

Gamelan 101 in the Indonesian display marquee

One small audience member couldn't resist the foot-tappin' tunes of the Hobart Old Time String Band in Mawson Place
Sailor's Hornpipe - Gangnam style

Other stuff (in no particular order)

don't mess with Sea Shepherd, OK?

the Navy's there to look after us

who hasn't always wanted a photo of a seaplane taking off in front of a  bouncing castle?

or a young chap playing noughts and crosses with a
submerged  diver?

An old sea-dog. No, I don't know why his paw is
bandaged, what his name is or why he's there 

Landlubbers can content themselves with reading about it

in the end, I think that says it all.

About the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, 2013

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