Down at the Mill
Down at Dave Golding’s sawmill on the Huon River, we’ve seen the first steps taken to transform reclaimed timber from the highland lakes of Tasmania transformed into a thing of beauty: a sleek and lively little sailboat called a Haven 12 1/2. A classic American design by Nat Hereshoff, modified by Joel White the Haven 12 1/2 has been described as ‘the perfect small boat’. We will have a chance to find out, as a hand-picked team from the North West School of Wooden Boat Building under the direction of Chief Instructor Sean Koomen gets underway at the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin, later this year.
In the meantime, it all starts with the timber. Celery top pine, native to Tasmania, has long been regarded as a prime boat building timber. Now classed as rare (and expensive), boat builders have been pleased with a remarkable project to reclaim thousands of submerged trees in the Tasmanian highlands, lost when hydro-electric schemes drowned river valleys and created new lakes. The company is called Hydrowood and it is donating this resource so that skilled boat builders can get to work on it and prove the value of this remarkable wood.
“We are creating history by delving deep below the waters of Lake Pieman to resurrect the precious timber below. This project will unlock supplies of specialty timbers so scarce they were thought almost gone forever. Species such as Tasmanian Myrtle, Sassafras and even the legendary Huon Pine will once again be available in quantity. This isn’t reclaimed wood, salvaged from some previous structure – already worked and full of bolts and nails. Nor is it a lonely log found years dead and scavenged from the leaf litter of a musty forest floor. This is real timber…timber that master builders dream of working with, harvested in a way you wouldn’t believe and in quantities the world thought it would never see again.” – Andrew Wood, Managing Director, Hydrowood
The build is expected to take around 9-10 weeks and the team plan to display two boats – one finished product and one under construction, at the MyState Australia Wooden Boat Festival in February. ‘It’s a really exciting project,’ says AWBF general manager Paul Cullen. ‘It opens the connections between people in different countries who love the tradition of wooden boats. And this particular idea marries design from one tradition executed in the materials from another. That’s pretty unique, we think,’
The timber is now stacked for air drying in the cool climate of a Tasmanian winter, ready for spring and the next steps.