By Luke Hughes –
With around 300 beautiful wooden boats in the water and another 200 or so on display ashore, the 2017 MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival is Australia’s most popular wooden boat celebration – the biggest maritime event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Visiting tall ships included the James Craig, Young Endeavour, Enterprize and the UK-based Tenacious all gather in Hobart for the four days of the festival, along with Tasmanian-based tall ships Julie Burgess, Rhona H, Yukon, Lady Nelson and the brigantine Windeward Bound, celebrating her 20th birthday.
The Netherlands is the featured nation this year, paying tribute to the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, the first European to discover the island which now carries his name. An especially enthusiastic team from The Netherlands dispatched two containers of boats to participate in the festival, including four beautiful wooden Friese tjotters with their typical keels that drew the attention of onlookers, and two Nederlandse 12-voetsjollen (Dutch 12 foot dinghies).
The Regenboog Oranje, a wedding gift to the Dutch Royal Couple, has also been sent to feature at the festival. Oranje is the flagship of the Regenboogklasse (Rainbow Class) which, in 2017, will celebrate 100 years of racing in The Netherlands.
A team of young Dutch student wooden boat builders and their instructor arrived in Tasmania in late November last year to commence a nine-week project to build a traditional Dutch sailing dinghy from the finest Tasmanian timbers.
The students are from Amsterdam and Rotterdam and study at the Hout-en Meubilerings College.
The boat, built at the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin, is a BM Sixteen Squared which was designed by a Dutchman, Hendrik Bulthuis , for a competition in 1931 and takes its name from the fact that it originally had 15.9 square meters of sail area, which was just below the limit set back then to avoid a personal tax that was payable on pleasure boats.
The celery-top pine timber for this project was donated by Hydrowood and recovered from the flooded Pieman River. The precious speciality timbers include Tasmanian Myrtle, Sassafras and the legendary Huon Pine.
As well as the Dutch contingent, there was considerable interest from North American boating personalities from both East and West Coasts. Among the leading lights on the program for the ANMM Australian Wooden Boat Symposium was maritime photographer Ben Mendlowitz, designer Ron Holland and celebrated long-distance sailor Lyn Pardey. The Australian Wooden Boat Symposium has become a highlight of the festival providing a forum where wooden boat enthusiasts can learn from experts from around the world.
Along with these attractions there was the ever-popular Maritime Market Place, a wonderful choice of Tasmania’s finest foods and beverages, including a display by the Tasmanian Fishing Industry Council and heaps of entertainment catering to people of all ages.
The design of the JII Ness Yawl (above) is drawn from the Shetland Yoals. Initially, these boats were imported to the Shetland Islands from Norway, and then adapted by local builders. They were of lapstrake construction that dates back to the Vikings.
The Ness Yoals became a popular boat for inshore fishing, averaging 21 feet over all, with a 5 foot 5 inch beam. They were rowed by a crew of three men with a pair of oars each, hence the name Sixareen. When the wind was right, they raised a single lug-rigged square sail.
Designed by Jack van den Berg and built by Berend de de Jong in in 1953, “Wink” is a traditional Frisian working boat known as a Tjotter, constructed from oak using the carvel method. Tjotter’s are flat-bottomed vessels which have two distinctive retractable leeboards mounted either side of the hull which function much like a centreboard, reducing sideways drift and digging into the water as the boat heels under the force of the wind.
Couta boats are a traditional fishing vessel developed in Port Phillip Bay in the late 1800’s to work the waters of Bass Strait. The Couta boat is named colloquially after its quarry – the barracouta fish – which was the mainstay of the fish and chips trade supplying Melbourne at the time. These handsome, gunter-rigged boats were built locally and designed to be sea worthy in the treacherous waters of the Bass Strait, and also fast under sail in order to make it out to fishing grounds first and back to port for the best position at the jetty.
The MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival closed with a special event: the Sail Past that salutes our ‘elder statesman’ of maritime events, the Royal Hobart Regatta, now in its 179th year. The AWBF fleet departed Sullivans Cove, past Regatta Point, turning before the Tasman Bridge, proceeding downriver.
For more information visit: www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au
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