By Bert van Baar
“Could you build a Dutch design Boat in Tasmania?”
On the other end of the line was Karen Meirik, the European producer of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival.
A few years ago she had asked me a similar thing for a festival in Brittany (France), the ‘Semaine du Golfe’. There I had been working with some students on a homebuilt clinker boat, in a big tent on the harbor front of Vannes. We drew a lot of attention and had lots of fun with the locals.
So, when I heard her voice again, asking the same question, only with Tasmania at the other end, my first reaction was: “Yes!” How could it be different? Wow, building boats ‘down-under’!
Our aim in Tasmania is to exchange knowledge on shipbuilding and materials and to create, with a Dutch-Tasmanian team, the first Tasmanian built Dutch mono-type. We have selected the 16m2, an enlarged version of the BM. BM stands for Bergumer Meer, a lake in Friesland, but could also be short for ‘Bulthuis Method’. It was a Frysian hairdresser, Hendrik Bulthuis, who first applied this method of batten construction in 1928. The hull of the vessel is formed by thin battens nailed together in a tight construction. This 16m2 design is an improved and enlarged version of the BM, dating from 1931 and because of its sailing qualities got very popular in regatta racing. But many cruising sailors have also learned their skills in a 16m2, as they are widely used in sailing schools. More then 20,000 have been built; about 5,000 for racing and 15,000 just for fun and sail-training. The first ones were built in cheap pine, as it was in the middle of the 1930s Depression. Today they are being built in beautiful mahogany. Now, for this project, Hydrowood has supplied us with some beautiful celery top pine logs to build the first Tasmanian 16m2. It feels like a boat builder’s dream…..
So, who are the ‘we’ in this story that is about to begin? We are one teacher and six students of boatbuilding, from HMC Amsterdam and Rotterdam, a “Wood & Furniture College” on furniture-making and other crafts.
By working closely together with the Franklin Wooden Boat Centre, we also hope to forge long term relations between our students and their Tasmanian counterparts. This is more and more important in wooden boat building and something the HMC College encourages actively.
It is also a way to motivate students to actively look for sponsors and partners. In this case there is the class organisation that sponsored the sails (16m2 club: www.16m2.nl), a Dutch shipwright who helped us out for the spars (Ventis: www.ventis.nl) and a keel (Siebe van der Zee) and shoes and workboots (Blundstone: www.blundstone.nl)!
Now the tickets are booked. The wood and other materials are taken care of thanks to some enthusiast sponsors and volunteers. Our partners in Tasmania, as we, are anxious to meet up and get started. Just a little paperwork to finish and off we go. The project starts auspiciously on the fifth of December, when the Dutch celebrate Saint Nicolas-day, Patron of travellers, sailors and children!
Curious to see how we are doing? Just follow our blog at http://www.tasmanian16m2.wordpress.com.
Cheers! The Dutch Project gets a great send-off at The Drover’s Dog, an Australian pub-restaurant in Amsterdam. The crowd was treated to best quality Australian wines, beer and food.
Australian Ambassador H.E. Dr Brett Mason was at the launch to welcome the Dirk Hartog celebrations in Western Australia and wish the young boat builders a safe journey and good time on their way to Franklin, Tasmania to build their BM boat.
Principal sponsor of the Dutch Boat Project, the Tasmanian company Blundstone made certain that the boat builders will be wearing the very best in fashionable safety footwear.
The Dutch Boat Project is supported by a remarkable joint effort with sponsors at both ends of the line. From Australia comes significant contribution from Tasmanian companies Hydrowood (who supply the boat-building timber), Blundstone (travel and project costs, footwear) and the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin (workspace, access to tools and supplies). The local Franklin community has allowed AWBF’s Elsje Steen to arrange warm hospitality and lodgings for the young crew and their tutor.