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.

GM’s Log – November 2017

As summer rolls into Tasmania, we are all enjoying the bright sunshine and warm weather and of course we’re reminded that when the warm weather returns again in a year, we’ll be celebrating the 2019 MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival. A little more than twelve months from now, that is, and there’s much to be done between now and then.

Our featured nation in 2019 will be the United States and we’re already putting together an exciting program that includes some of the best-known names in the wooden boat world, including Jon Wilson (founder of the iconic WoodenBoat Magazine), Carol Hasse (legendary sail-maker from Port Townsend, Washington), Steve White (Brooklin Boat Yard, Maine) and Sean Koomen (chief instructor at the North West School of Wooden Boat Building). We’ll be shipping out some classic North American examples of boat design and welcoming a contingent of deeply experienced and committed people to celebrate our shared heritage in wooden boats. We’ll announce more names as they are confirmed over the next few months.

The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) continues its support for the International Wooden Boat Symposium in 2019, with noted speakers from Tasmania and interstate, as well as our international guests. There are exciting plans to cooperate with the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin to run a boat-building project similar to the enormously popular Dutch project that saw a beautiful 21’ sailboat created out of unique Tasmanian timber. The design of the new project is rumoured to be a Herreshoff Haven 12.5, once described by Brooklin Boat Yard’s founder Joel White as ‘probably the best small boat ever designed’. Anne Holst at the Wooden Boat Centre tells us that limited places may be available to join this building team – details to come.

The classic Tasmanian steam launch Preana is often skippered by Sam Yousofi, who is on the Hobart waterfront often enough to ask ‘Where Have All the Ferries Gone?’ Boat Manager Cathy Hawkins continues her story of high adventure in the Arctic with ‘Iqualuktuuttiaq to Nuuk, Greenland – A Bloody Long Way!’. (Any reader who can accurately pronounce the first place name receives a small prize from AWBF this month.) Mal Riley, master of the Lady Nelson weighs in with a good suggestion for the next festival and there’s more news from around the traps, including a respectful farewell to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival’s first Honorary Life Member – Meade Gougeon.

 

 

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.