Every Picture Tells a Story

Doug Thost’s beautiful detail shot gave us the cover of the 2015 ANMM International Wooden Boat Symposium brochure

There’s nothing like a good photograph to tell a story and over the years, there’s been many a story to come out of the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival.  In fact, that is one of the greatest assets we’ve got – a wonderful searchable library of stunning photography collected by the AWBF’s amazing cohort of professional and semi-pro photographers.  You can have a look at the catalogue HERE courtesy of tireless work by Photography Manager Rob Oates (who gave us the hugely popular feature image for this article) to tag and catalogue tens of thousands of images in the AWBF archive.  At each festival, as many as 40 volunteer photographers set out on a mission to capture every aspect of this sprawling event, over four days and 1.2 kilometres of waterfront.  The results speak for themselves and have helped carry the message about their remarkable event all around the world.

US photographer Ben Mendlowitz joined us in 2017 to capture images for his celebrated Calendar of Wooden Boats

Rob’s own business, as a travel photojournalist and professional photographer, is Ballantyne Photography.  Rob makes a special effort to travel to Hobart for every festival, riding his trusty (and often dusty) 1200cc BMW motorcycle on and off the Spirit of Tasmania.  When he gets here, he hooks up with the Hobart Photographic Society to plan the meticulous operation.

In 2019, we’ll be taking a retrospective view of that extraordinary collection of images, looking for the best of the best for a thrilling exhibition at the Brooke Street Pier.  There will be prizes awarded by an expert panel of judges and, it’s rumoured, an important new sponsorship from a national company that may be able to help you see these stunning pictures a little bit better.  The contest will be open to both amateur and professional photographers and all images remain the property of the photographer for copyright purposes .  We’ll be announcing terms and conditions for the competition in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, have a look through your collection for the best image you have ever captured at the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival.  We’ll be looking all the way back to the first festival in 1994, so nothing is out of the running.

yukon mallana ketch review
Yukon and Mallana, battle in 30 knot winds and 2 metre seas during the Historic Ketch Review, at the 2015 MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Photo courtesy of Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Cathy’s New Adventure

Cathy Hawkins, one of the founders of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, has never been shy about adventuring.  She’s been an offshore ocean racer, an Antarctic expeditioner and is now carving out a new career as crew aboard a high-latitude sailing vessel currently in Newfoundland, bound for north of the Arctic Circle.
Here’s the latest excerpt from her fascinating tale. You can follow Cathy’s adventures on her blog site:


As we slowly recover from our 44hr flight and jet lag, this ‘alien world’ of Newfoundland and Lewisporte harbour is frozen; fishing boats are stuck in ice alongside the marina; patterns of crystalised ice on the hatches above our bunks are our first awakening sight; snow is either streaming vertically in soft dollops or flying through the air horizontally pin-pricking our faces; our steps away from the boat sink into knee deep power or skid over icy puddles.

The good news is that the diesel heater is keeping us tropically warm below decks where we complete jobs and familiarise ourselves with all the nooks and crannies aboard. Newfoundlers, Peter & Carolyn Watkins, have taken us under their wing with experienced high latitude/local waterway advice, meals in their cosy home, Wifi, lifts to the shops and more. On Day 2, just as the wind whirred another octave higher in the rigging, they scooped us up and took us home ahead of an easterly gale and a 25cm dump of snow! The next morning we had to dig our way into the cockpit.


Leaving a late Australian summer and landing in a punitive Newfoundland Spring has taken some head spinning acclimatisation. The harbour is still iced over but it doesn’t have that impenetrable look about it anymore – it now looks shiny, slippery and vulnerable. Foreshores are thawing and ute drivers aren’t as cocky about driving on the “water” anymore to get to their boats. Today, the marina looks like a peaked and cracked Pavlova after being attacked by fishermen with chainsaws, who cut an escape route through the ice to set their boats free.

“We feel the need to book ourselves into a firearms course to build confidence in aiming and firing at boat-boarding polar bears”

Lewisporte is tucked up in the head of narrow sheltered Burnt Bay, which is a choke point for ice. Just 4nm to the north is the broader waterway of Indian Arm, which is virtually ice free and the darkest royal blue water I ever remember seeing.

So we have just a handful of ice miles to break through, hopefully before April’s end, to reach Indian Arm. A few days of offshore winds has reshuffled the Arctic sea ice along Newfoundland’s north east coast.

New experiences abound in high latitudes – doors blow off hinges even when you’re sure you closed them properly; minks are expert fishers on the water’s edge; we feel the need to book ourselves into a firearms course to build confidence in aiming and firing at boat boarding polar bears; guns – of every type imaginable – are sold over counters to any random person; when locals introduce themselves they don’t venture out of their cars – greetings transpire from wound-down windows with a prerequisite gap big enough to be heard through; no one goes for walks per sé – exposure to the elements is minimised by short dashes between heated buildings and vehicles; you get offered a lift when your destination is only 25m away; boat paint sticks like glue when you paint in temperatures around 5°c; it’s freezing crossing the boatyard to the yacht club toilet at 3am but sort of beautiful and uplifting in the same moment – a bit like going for a winter swim in Tassie and Antarctica and you’re not sure whether to cry in pain or scream with exhilaration.

The things I’m loving about being here are the generosity and hospitality of locals like Newfoundlanders Peter and Carolyn Watkins – nothing is too much trouble and they are a mine of information about everything Newfie and nautical.


Mal’s Panels Tell Stories

Sometimes even old friends can surprise you.  Who knew that Mal Riley, meteorologist, journalist and master of the Lady Nelson here in Hobart, was also dab hand at graphic design?  We’ve been reading Mal’s column on meteorological phenomena in AFLOAT Magazine for years.  His descriptions of waves and wind and tide are essential reading for yachts.  He’s well known around the Hobart docks as a popular skipper on the replica Lady Nelson, and since retiring from the Bureau of Meteorology, he’s been travelling the world chasing adventures on tall ships.

Mal came up with a fine idea for the next MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival – a series of display panels featuring some of the extraordinary wooden ships that have gone before us.  And who’s going to research the stories, track down the illustrations and lay out these panels?  Well, Mal is of course.

We are expecting to have as many as a dozen of these historical panels ready for display at the next festival.  Look for them in different locations around the festival site. And if you are impressed, give Mal a clap on the back – he won’t be hard to find!