If you own a wooden boat (or if you used to own a boat and you’re all better now), this little story might ring a bell:
Once upon a time there was a log. It was a very nice log of celery top pine and along with a slightly smaller log, it was donated by the clever people at Hydrowood, who are reclaiming valuable boat-building timber from the Tasmanian highland lakes. Here at the AWBF, someone said ‘Hey, free wood! Those logs would make a great boat, wouldn’t they?’ So the log was milled by local wooden boat enthusiast Dave Golding and the lovely clean timber was brought to the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin.
But of course if the timber was ever to be anything more than a stack of wood, we would need a team of boat builders to knock it into shape. We were lucky to find a team of six student shipwrights and their instructor who were willing to come out all the way out from Holland to build our boat. Well, they needed somewhere to stay and somewhere to build the boat, so the kind people in the town of Franklin helped to find them places to live and the Wooden Boat Centre gave them a workshop to build the boat in.
Sure, the air fares and the accommodation and the tools and the extra materials and the transport all cost a few dollars, but hey, it was free wood and volunteer labour, right?
And then one day, it was done! We had a beautiful Dutch-design sailboat called a BM16m2 and it was christened ‘Seacrest’. We hired a truck and a crane (oh, we had to build a cradle for it to sit in) and then we shipped it up to the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival, where it was a big hit and everyone admired it.
In fact one man, a retired rock lobster fisherman from Victoria named Gerhard Wilmink, liked it so much that he pointed it out to his partner, Cherie. ‘Look, that’s a lovely boat and it’s up for auction today and I bet it will go for a good price and wouldn’t the grandchildren love it?’ (If you have ever watched a patient partner listen to the ravings of a wooden boat lover, you can imagine the eye-rolling and the resigned expression). Gerhard bid carefully in a lively auction and soon the boat was his!
But, of course it would need a final coat or two of varnish, so it was back to the Wooden Boat Centre for a little more loving, while Gerhard sorted out a a very sturdy twin-axle trailer to transport the boat back to Apollo Bay in Victoria (and yes, the fares on the Spirit of Tasmania can make your eyes water). Soon, it was ready to go. But as it happened, the boat and the trailer were a little too much for Gerhard’s car, so he had to go out and buy a new truck to tow it.
Which is the story of how a couple of free logs turned into Seacrest, a Cinderella of a sailboat, ready for the warmer weather and some excited grand-kids to go sailing.
Of course, we are teasing a little. The project that built the Seacrest was a wonderful example of international cooperation and the community of wooden boats. Gerhard Wilmink is a highly respected skipper and a repeat visitor to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. His previous boat, the 50′ rock lobster boat Johanna Cherie, was built by renowned shipwright Gary Stewart at Port Fairy, Victoria. The Johanna Cherie is still in the industry, operating out of Currie on King Island. Gerhard and Cherie have become welcome friends in the community at Franklin, Tasmania. Many thanks to photographers Rob Oates, Daryl Peebles and Barbara Murphy for their contributions.