The theme of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in 2017 is Tasmania’s long Dutch history, starting with the visit of navigator and explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman some 375 years ago. With the close cooperation and support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, we will present a multi-faceted program involving Dutch boats, Dutch cultural history and Dutch boat builders coming here to help us celebrate our conjoined maritime heritage. One of the most exciting projects under this umbrella is the Dutch Boat Project, an ambitious plan to bring out a team of young Dutch boat builders with their instructor Bert van Baar from the HMC Vocational College in Amsterdam. They will be our guests to build, from scratch, a Dutch-design sailboat called a BM (Bergumer Meer class) first built in 1928 by Hendrik Bulthuis (1892-1948). In 1939 his BM was granted the status of a national sailing class by the Royal Dutch Sailing Association. Popular on the lakes and inland seas of the Netherlands, it’s said to be a fast and competitive racer and we’re eager to see it launched at the next Wooden Boat Festival.
How this is coming together makes a brilliant story of international cooperation and the Tasmanian ‘can-do’ attitude to practical projects. First, representatives from Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and from their Sydney Consulate visited Hobart to see at first hand what we had in mind. The Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin very kindly offered to provide a place for the team to work, at their well-equipped boat shed on the Huon River. The local Dutch community, and members of the Living Boat Trust at Franklin, are putting their hands up to find accommodation and hospitality for the young shipwrights. With our European associate producer Karen Meirik arranging things at the Dutch end, it was ‘game on’ for the project with funding from the Dutch Government and logistics arranged by AWBF.
Pioneering timber company Hydrowood came on board, sponsoring the primary building material: reclaimed Tasmanian celery top pine. The company donated two enormous logs from their Lake Pieman operation, where they are rescuing drowned trees from flooded valleys in the high and remote Tasmanian wilderness.
Specialist saw miller Dave Golding agreed to cut the logs at his Huonville location. Our team of shipwrights is due to arrive in Franklin in November and get started on the project straight away. We are looking forward to greeting them and adding another chapter in the long, and sometimes overlooked, history of Dutch-Australian connections.