The Tao of Woodcraft



photo: Doug Thost

Among the woodcraft luminaries coming to the Australia Wooden Boat Festival in 2019, the latest to confirm is Jim Tolpin, an acclaimed woodworker, teacher and author who has published a dozen books and sold 750,000 copies world-wide. Jim is co-founder of the Port Townsend School of Wooodworking and a member of that thriving community of shipwrights, sail makers, artisans and craftspeople in the Pacific Northwest. Jim takes a naturalistic, reflective approach to shaping wood to a purpose and his beautifully crafted projects are a joy to the eye.

photo: Doug Thost

The connection to Tasmania and the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is clear – our island state is home to some of Australia’s finest boat builders, restorers and furniture makers, and to quality centres of learning including the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Tasmania, Alex Jerrim’s Wisdom Through Wood south of Hobart and the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin. Coupled with a long history of heritage skills and craftsmanship, Tasmania has a great deal in common with North American centres of excellence like Port Townsend.

Australian bush joinery at the AWBF with Alex Jerrim

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) is committed to preserving traditional wooden boat building and to passing on the skills that make it possible. Even for the amateur enthusiast, there will be a feast of woodcraft on the program at AWBF 2019. And best of all, these presentations are entirely free to the public. Stay in touch through the AWBF news blog to get the earliest news of what you can see and do at the festival, February 8-11, 2019.

‘Early Dutch Explorers’ exhibition travels abroad.

At the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival earlier this year, we produced a special exhibition marking 375 years since Abel Tasman and his crew on board the Heemskerck, visited the island that would one day carry his name. The exhibition, presented at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, was the result of an international collaboration between Dutch journalist Kaeren Meirik, Tasmanian graphic artist Julie Hawkins, New Zealand researcher Dave Horry and Tasmanian cartographer Henk Brolsma.

Who would have thought then that this exhibition would travel on to both the Netherlands and New Zealand? We are delighted to see that this extraordinary story is of interest all over the world.

At the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum in Groningen everything is ready to open Dutch version of the exhibition of the exhibition that we mounted in TMAG some 9 months ago. It will open on November 24th, exactly 375 years after Abel Tasman first sighted the west coast of Tasmania.

The English language version will be on display in New Zealand at the Maritime Museum in Auckland on the weekend of 2-4 December, 2017 and at the Golden Bay museum in Nelson at their commemoration of the First Encounter between Maori and Europeans.

Find out more about the Dutch exhibition at their website:


R2AK – The Race to Alaska

photo (c) Liv von Oelreich


It doesn’t come any madder than this, and fair warning, they are coming this way!

The Race to Alaska (also known as the R2AK) is a boat race, but no ordinary boat race. To quote from their own publicity, it is:

A boat race, with a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or eaten by a grizzly bear. There are squalls, killer whales, tidal currents that run upwards of 20 miles an hour, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

The lunatics who run this event have their eye on Hobart and the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival, because this is the sort of environment (remote, wild, cold, dangerous) that they feel most at home in. They also suspect that any place where other lunatics go 26 kilometres offshore to surf some of the biggest waves on the planet at Pedra Blanca are probably nuts enough to participate in the R2AK. People who go rock climbing in the remote South Western Wilderness of Tasmania, where there are no roads, no towns and no help if something goes wrong might give it a go. Divers who go hunting abalone in freezing waters commonly occupied by great white sharks are also eligible.

photo (c) Liv von Oelreich

The rules, such as they are, are simple. You must have a boat or something that resembles a boat, with no motor. You can push, pedal, row or sail however you like, but you can’t have a support crew, food drops, safety boat or any other assistance along the way. You can stop and buy a hamburger, if you can find a store somewhere along the 750-mile course through the remote Alaskan watery wilderness known as the Inside Passage. Next stop? Ketchikan, Alaska. About half the contestants never get there at all. The water sits around 10 degrees C. If you fall in, you could be in serious trouble. One guy made the trip unassisted on a stand-up paddle board.

photo (c) Liv von Oelreich

First prize goes to whoever gets there first. It’s $10,000 US dollars. There are no classes or divisions or handicaps. It’s whoever gets there first, that’s it. Second prize is a set of steak knives.

If this sounds like your cup of salt water, keep reading. We are talking to the race organisers about coming to the 2019 Australian Wooden Boat Festival to show you what they do. They are recruiting, sort of. There have been a handful of Aussies in the race before, but we think they might have just drunk too much beer in the pub at Port Townsend the night before and set off by mistake. Last year 41 teams started and 27 finished.

Stay tuned: we’ll let you know once we’ve confirmed arrangements with these nutters and invited them to our party.