Seacrest – It Started with a Log

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.

 

Dutch BM16m2 Goes to Auction

Isn’t She Beautiful?

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The lovely ‘sixteen metre square’ sailboat Seacrest sold at auction in under 15 minutes to a very happy new owner – retired Victorian fisherman Mr Gerhard Wilmink from Apollo Bay.

He takes home a hand-built, elegantly designed and beautifully finished small yacht, ready for the water and keen to sail.  It’s been the closely-followed program for the Dutch Project at the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival.  Crafted by a young team of boat builders under the direction of veteran boat builder Bert van Baar, the sleek keelboat is made from Tasmanian celery top pine donated by Hydrowood and was built at the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin.

Dutch boat builders at Franklin with associate producer Karen Meirik and AWBF Chairman Steve Knight © Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

The boat went under the auctioneer’s hammer on Sunday, February 12 at 4:00 pm on the festival site at the Shipwright’s Village in Mawson Place.  The hotly contested auction, introduced with a few words of Dutch by local auctioneer Mr Hank Petrusma, drew a large crowd to Franklin Wharf where the BM16m2 has been admired by the tens of thousands of visitors attending the festival. All proceeds go to the not-for-profit AWBF, Inc. to keep our festival free!

The boat was built from celery top pine, reclaimed from the bottom of Lake Pieman by Tasmanian company Hydrowood and donated to the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival.

Ironically, Mr Wilmink emigrated from Holland at the age of 12, along with the many Dutch who did so after World War II.  Having Seacrest is like reclaiming a little piece of Holland and its culture for the Wilmink family. The visiting Dutch boat builders were also delighted with this outcome.  Mr Wilmink retired from fishing after 44 years in the industry and sold his boat, the Johanna Cherie, in February 2016. In another twist of irony, the Johanna Cherie was also constructed from celery top and Huon pine. She was built in 1983 in by renowned Port Fairy boat-builder, Garry Stewart.  Other examples of Garry Stewart-built boats were on display at the festival.

Johanna Cherie still operates as a fishing boat, and now is based on King Island.

 When asked his intentions for Seacrest , Mr Wilmink said he was looking forward to taking his grandchildren sailing at home in Apollo Bay.

Seaquest (foreground) races a Dutch tjotter at AWBF 2017. © Mithun Rajshekar | BALLANTYNE Photography

 

 

Back to the Future in Wood

Imagine for a moment a drowned forest, deep in the cold tannin-dark waters of a Tasmanian highland lake.  Hundreds of silent trees, still firmly rooted into the floor of the lake have been left where they are for decades.  When the water rose behind the new dams and turbines of the Hydro Electric Scheme, these trees, many of them hundreds of years old, were laid to rest in a watery gloom from which they would never emerge.  Until now.

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A Tasmanian forest management company called SFM has launched operations at Pieman Lake, using modern techniques and equipment to reclaim drowned timber from as deep as 28 metres below the surface.  The low oxygen, dark and cold conditions have seasoned this timber in a remarkable way.  Reaching a moisture content suitable for boat building and fine furniture making in a matter of months, these rare timbers include Huon pine, celery top pine and black sassafras – highly valuable treasures for builders of traditional boats.  We have yet to hear reviews from Tasmanian shipwrights using the resource, but if the company has the science right, this is the tip of a very large iceberg.  Operations, under strict environmental controls, are already underway at Pieman Lake, but the company has explored Lake Gordon and Lake Burberry for potential harvesting there.

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The timber, which will be marketed under the name Hydrowood, could extend the viability of the Tasmanian boat building industry, already threatened by a dwindling access to special species timber.  The company says that it is ready to release its first parcel of boat grade celery top pine in the next few weeks.  We look forward to hearing more about this as our shipwrights get the wood onto the bench and take the plane and handsaw  to a future resource reclaimed from the past.  More details can be found on the company website: www.sfmes.com.au