Fine weather creates a perfect Hobart Wooden Boat Festival
Ever since the first Wooden Boat Festival was held in Hobart in 1994, Jude and I have dreamt of attending. Where else would we see hundreds of classic and historical timber vessels gathered in a city renowned for its natural beauty and deep connection with Australia’s past. Inspired by delivering the 76 foot timber cutter Nam Sang to Coffs Harbour from NZ, our visiting the festival remained an elusive dream while we worked long hours, often seven days a week, to establish ourselves after a youth sailing around the world on a bag of rice and an ever handy fishing rig.
Then last year in the hazy lazy hours just before dawn my mind saw a vision. The night before I had written the final sentence of Reflections, a new book dedicated to our many grandchildren. Reflections was written to not only rekindle long ago memories in our sons, now fully grown and busy with the responsibilities of raising large families, but equally important, as a legacy for all little ones to show that there is adventure and wonder waiting.
In my dream, the book’s completion saw Jack and Jude at Hobart’s Wooden Boat Festival surrounded by like minded soul mates, offering our volume of stories, hoping to encourage them and their young ones in their quest. For we are just ordinary folk inspired by others who have fulfilled many a dream.
To make this new dream a reality we had to battle high seas to Tasmania from Adelaide where our dearly loved veteran had wintered. Unseasonal storms had forced several other vessels to turn back as we attempted the last leg from Portland to Hells Gates in near gale conditions. With aging bodies rather out of touch after a six month break we took up the challenge to brave the heavy conditions with our usual caution and good preparations. Then, hey presto! Reaching the green mountains of Tasmania magic happened. As if carried south aboard the good ship Banyandah, the long awaited summer arrived.
Hobart shone under brilliant sunshine blasting down from a faultless blue sky. Buntings flew gaily in the warm sea breeze as hundreds of sailing vessels paraded in unparalleled pageantry upon the Derwent, dazzling the crowd that would number more than two hundred thousand.
A collage of colours blazed around the enclosed Constitution Dock where the colony’s first stores were landed more than two hundred years ago. Just outside, every finger of Kings Pier displayed medium sized timber vessels with even more bunting flying, fascinating the huge throng of people strolling the docks snapping photographs and engaging with boat owners. Information was exchanged. Stories were told. History revealed. Dreams created.
Victoria Dock, the fishing boat harbour, berthed the larger wooden vessels, many of which had worked long lives providing fish for our tables. Freshly painted, their scars covered but still visible allowed the careful observer an insight into the important role these craft played in the development of one the world’s best places to live.
Tall ships lay alongside Elizabeth wharf, their gangways inviting all to inspect for the small gold coin donation. Here the long ago history of sailing ships unfolded. Touching tarred ropes, fingering wooden blocks that had known brute forces under harsh conditions conjured images of faces straining against the power of the sea to reach faraway places.
In addition to the more than five hundred vessels on display, in just about every open space, small wooden craft, engines, and accessories were on show. Thousands of happy people of all ages wandered freely in the lovely warm weather blessing Hobart during the Festival’s three days. All of it totally free of charge.
Part of our time we spent at the Boat Books stand in the Princes Wharf shed near the end of a huge display of sailing dinghies and ancillary equipment. The dinghies were a perfect backdrop for greeting folk we had corresponded with over the years. Loving every second, we took immense pleasure in signing copies of our latest book, Reflections in a Sailor’s Eyes, as well as our other three volumes. Jude’s illustrated Practical Boat Bits and Tips proved a hot favourite, and rightly so for within it are many simple secrets that make our vessel so livable and easy to manage.
We would like to thank our hosts in Hobart. Barry and Wendy are kindred spirits seeking the dream. Their vessel Pharos took many long years to reach fulfilment, and while not exceptionally wealthy in coin, they are rich in kindness and have always made our visits memorable. We love you both.
All good dreams should have happy endings. Ours certainly did. We were invited to crew the Jane Kerr, a 49’ Huon Pine cray fishing vessel built in 1981, to bring her around Tasmania’s south coast to Strahan where we had moored our own vessel. What an honour to voyage with Garry Kerr, her original owner. Under fine weather making the voyage even better, we chugged along upon flat seas closely examining the isles and bays that normally see huge seas, enjoying a lunch-stop at Maatsuyker Island, visiting Clayton’s Corner in Bathurst Harbour, all in company with Storm Bay, a 1925 fishing smack built for couta fishing. Garry’s fifty years of cray fishing south-western Tasmania provided us, not only a hugely enjoyable informative voyage, but many hours of his stories of past trips. An amazingly multi-talented man, Garry’s intense desire to record living history has driven him to interview and record many of the old timers who forged our history upon the sea. We had the great pleasure to be a part of his crew filming his latest video “Two Men in a Punt,” an entertaining and informative documentary about the Huon Piners. This beautiful production was released at the Wooden Boat Festival and is now available at many outlets.
Here is A link to another 75 photos of Hobart’s Wooden Boat Festival
Here is A link to another 70 photos of our voyage home around the bottom of Tasmania.