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Australian Wooden Boat Festival - on its way again

by Michael Goodwin on 11 Oct 2010
Kings Pier; a major attraction for festival goers. ASA
Held every two years since 1994 the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, scheduled to happen again 11-14 February 2011, is now recognised as one of the top wooden boat events in the world.

Staged on Hobart’s historic Sullivans Cove waterfront docks the festival regularly attracts over 500 wooden boats of all shapes and sizes ranging from majestic tall ships to the smallest row boats.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the world congregate in this perfect setting to enjoy the spectacular celebration of our maritime heritage and craftsmanship. Dockside music, theatre, fabulous Tasmanian foods and beverages, boats ashore and afloat, the maritime marketplace, shipwrights village are some of the many attractions that bring the waterside to life.

The Tasmanian Government, the festival’s principle sponsor has acknowledged the enormous significance of the festival and its major role in promoting tourism intrastate, interstate and internationally, as well as in preserving and promoting our maritime culture. In recognition of this it has provided significantly increased funding for the 2011 festival enabling the event to be free of entry charge to the general public.

Not only will the 2011 festival be free of entry charge it will also be much bigger. Plans are in hand to expand the site to almost twice the size of previous festivals. This will include the massive Princes Wharf number one shed which will house the Maritime Marketplace and a huge display of fully rigged boats.

2011 Festival highlights.
Starting with the magnificent parade of sail, a large flotilla of boats led by six of Australia’s much admired tall ships including Enterprize, James Craig, Lady Nelson, One and All, Windeward Bound and Young Endeavour will sail up the Derwent River on Friday afternoon ending at the Sullivans Cove docks. This will be followed by the official opening of the festival in the evening after which boat owners and visitors will enjoy dockside entertainment and, no doubt, a couple of quiet sherberts and a few yarns.

International attractions include; from Yaizu in Japan, a replica Hachoro fishing boat based on an original 17th century design. This vessel, which is powered by both sail and special oars, will be accompanied by a full crew. It will be the centre piece of a Japanese village featuring traditional dancers, music and food. And from Indonesia the Australian Wooden Boat Festival has commissioned the construction of a Lipa Lipa outrigger sailing/ motor canoe, a Sandeq double outrigger sailing canoe and three scale models of traditional trading vessels. These will be accompanied by some of the original boat builders who will be demonstrating their craftsmanship in the Indonesian village which will also feature local culture.

Australian born internationally acclaimed small boat designer Iain Oughtred will be a special guest. Iain has lived in Scotland for the past several decades where has devoted his life to designing and developing many small boats that grace many waterways around the world. Iain will be a guest speaker as well as demonstrating his special boat building techniques.

Australia’s latest and youngest record achieving solo around the world sailor Jessica Watson will be visiting the festival as the special guest of MyState Financial the new naming rights sponsor of the festival. Jessica will hold a question and answer forum as well as working alongside the young boat builders as they prepare their boats for the Quick ‘n’ Dirty race which is traditionally the closing event of the festival.

The ever popular Maritime Marketplace will once again be a major feature. In 2009 17 exhibitors were present at the time of writing festival organisers had received more than 40 bookings and enquires for the 2011 festival.

Followers of the Sydney – Hobart yacht race may recall the name Westward; she was built in Hobart in 1947 by Jock Muir and is the only Tasmanian yacht to have won two Sydney- Hobart races in 1947 and 1948. She was recently gifted to the Maritime Museum of Hobart by Stan Field who has owned her since 1958.Westward will be alongside at the festival.

Another Tasmanian built boat Princes Iluka will be a feature vessel at the festival. She was originally launched in 1979 from the Woodbridge yard of the late Ray Kemp. Her hull is Huon Pine and the keel is a single piece of spotted gum thought to be 750 years old. At the time of her launch she was considered to be the largest boat ever built from Huon Pine. She was purchased Robert McVicker in 1999 and over the next several years was transformed beyond recognition, while retaining its original heart, into an amazing luxury super yacht.

Remember Captain Bligh and his remarkable feat of seamanship and survival following the mutiny on the Bounty 221 years ago? Adventurer Don McIntyre was inspired to recreate Bligh’s voyage, so he built a replica open boat and together with his intrepid crew sailed it from Tonga to Timor equipped with only basic navigational equipment, the journey took 67 days. The Talisker Bounty Boat will take pride of place at the festival, fully rigged and with a comprehensive display of memorabilia from the voyage.

One of the feature boats on display at the 2009 festival was Admiral, a 28’ huon pine eight oared rowing ferry built in 1865. At that time she was under restoration. Restoration work has been completed and she is once again a proud seaworthy historic boat. Admiral will be a major attraction for anyone or organisation who is contemplating rescuing a part of Australian boat building heritage.

Space does not permit me to cover all of the many wonders of the festival, to find out about them you will need to come on down to Hobart and enjoy a great weekend of discovery on the historic waterfront. Why not stay a while longer and spend some time exploring the pleasures and treasures of our wonderful island state.

Some useful sites:
Australian Wooden Boat Festival – up to date program and general festival information.

Travel and accommodation – Tas Vacations
Free call: 1800 030 160

Michael Goodwin

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