In 2015, we presented the Australian Wooden Boat Symposium as part of the festival program, with great success. Generously supported by Philip Myer and the University of Tasmania, expertly managed by AWBF board member Chris Palmer, the symposium drew together international, interstate and local speakers to deliver a fascinating series of lectures and talks on the world of wooden boats. Every session was well attended and we had to disappoint some latecomers when the Dechaineaux Theatre was filled to capacity.
Veteran sailor, designer and boat builder Mead Gougeon was our keynote speaker, introduced by Her Excellency Professor the Hon. Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania. Mead Gougeon, best known as the inventor of the West System for building small boats with epoxy adhesives, gave an excellent presentation on ‘Wood as a competitive engineering material in a composites world.’ The noted Rockport shipwright and restorer Taylor Allen spoke about the restoration of the 1924 Fife schooner Adventuress. Tom Jackson, Senior Editor of WoodenBoat Magazine, gave two talks on his experiences as a sailor, journalist and boat builder. The Women on Water group from Franklin, Tasmania presented their own story of building and competing in a 22-foot St Ayles Skiff called Imagine, all without any previous experience in boats. Master rigger Brion Toss of Port Townsend, Washington had the crowd following every word he spoke about rigging and tuning wind-driven boats. Craig Carlstrom and Bruce Stannard told the remarkable story of Varg, the international 8-metre yacht built in Tasmania to an original 1924 design by Anker and Jensen. Well-known journalist and adventurer Kaci Cronkhite spoke about her continuing love affair with the sea and her boat Pax. Local sailing identities Cathy Hawkins and Ian Johnson gave a presentation on their successful racing career with the self-built multi-hull Bullfrog, winner of 32 consecutive ocean races. From Sorrento and the popular world of couta boat racing, Tim Phillips gave a well-attended talk on classic fishing smacks of Tasmania and Victoria. Yachtsman and author Russell Kenery made an excellent historical presentation on the open boat voyages of 19th century British explorer Matthew Flinders. Project manager Ross James brought us up to date on the ambitious plan to restore the magnificent 1912 Tasmanian steam ferry Cartela.
Guest of Honour Praises the Australian Wooden Boat Symposium
All in all, it was boat heaven for serious wooden boat enthusiasts, and a tremendously social gathering for people from all over the world. The spirit of enquiry, the generosity of so many superb craftsmen and sailors and the good-natured hospitality of their Tasmanian hosts put a smile on everyone’s face. Guest of honour Meade Gougeon said it best:
“I’ve been involved in wooden boat festivals for quite a long time now, including about 15 years of running the skills demonstrations at the WoodenBoat Show (at Mystic Seaport). I’ve been to Brest/Douarnenez twice, and I’ve been attending the Port Townsend festival since 1979, plus numerous other shows and festivals here and there. All festivals have differences, based partly on their geography and the reality of their purposes and the interests of the people putting them together. In general, I would say the Hobart festival stacks up most favorably against the best of them.
Hobart compares (to Brest and Port Townsend) by being generally very accessible to those attending, as opposed to participating. You could get up close to almost every boat. I think it seems particularly strong for participants, with a lot of visiting back and forth, but casual conversations and questions from the dock seemed to be well received by participating boats, when people were aboard. The shoreside exhibits were strong, among the best I’ve seen. The small craft in the buildings, for example, were well displayed, and on-subject. In general, the quality of construction represented in the boats, both afloat and ashore, was very high. I saw some wonderful examples of small craft, built both by professionals and amateurs. The range of boats was very impressive, and I have to say the presence of the workboats was very strong as well. The limitation to wooden construction I think makes the cohesiveness of the fleet very strong.
For me, the festival environment and the spectacle is enough to get me there, but it is the opportunity to speak directly to boat builders and events like the Symposium that would keep me coming back… I was very impressed with how open, and really eager, the Australian people are about outside views, and obviously this has been going on for a long time—I saw American and European designers represented from the early 20th century right up to now, in staggering variety, with no one influence dominating. That is a great, great strength of the Hobart festival, and I believe the Symposium reinforces it.”
The International Wooden Boat Symposium at the 2017 festival will build on this success with a new line-up of speakers and topics. The MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival remains free to the public because of generous support from state and local government, corporate sponsors and more than 400 volunteer staff. We welcome new ideas and suggestions for presenters and contributions from around the world of wooden boats. Contact us HERE.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]