I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the NSW Fishing Monthly, Visit the Shire, Fisho App & Tackle Tactics.
I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published May 17th 2016
Learn more about the boating history of Australia
In my early years at school all I wanted to do was to be involved in boats and fishing. I dreamt of becoming a skipper of an ocean going trawler. That was until I was advised by my cousin that I needed to get a trade behind me before I started travelling around the world in a boat.
So the next best thing was to learn how to build my own boat and become a shipwright. I applied for an apprenticeship in the Sutherland Shire, only to miss out. The closest that I came was then starting and completing an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery and then finally becoming a licenced builder.
Well worth the visit if you are into boats. Image by Gary Brown.
Boats have been in my life since an early age and will always continue to be there. So when the opportunity came up to visit the Wooden Boat Centre in the Huon Valley in Tasmania I took the time with a group of friends to pay a visit.
The smell of the timber as you walk into the centre was incredible. Image by Gary Brown.
The Wooden Boat Centre is situated about a 45-minute drive south from Hobart along the Huon Valley Highway to Franklin.
The Wooden Boat Centre has been nestled on the banks of the Huon River since 1992 and has three boatbuilding workshops and visitors' centre, with the largest workshop being able to accommodate the construction of vessels to nearly 40ft. They offer anyone from novices to skilled boat builders the opportunity to build anything from wooden oars, to dinghies or 25ft pocket cruising boats.
You can learn how to build your own boat at the centre. Image by Gary Brown.
They say that this was the site where the May Queen was built. She is Australia's oldest sail trading vessel that is still afloat. She was built in 1867 by Alexander Lawson, right here on the banks of the Huon River. Her hull is made of Tasmanian blue gum and stringy bark, the deck is celery top pine and her spars are of imported oregon. You can now see her on display at the Waterman's Dock in Hobart.
Our tour guide for the morning. Image by Gary Brown.
There have been a number of owners of the Wooden Boat Shed, but it is now owned and run by the Franklin Working Waterfront Association from mid-October 2014. They are a community driven group of people with the initiative to develop a traditional port and marine precinct on the Huon river in Franklin.
The construction of a traditional merchant schooner, restoration and servicing of classic timber vessels and the provision of ancillary shipwright services are key elements of this dynamic, inspirational social enterprise.
Their aims are as follows:
To revitalize the existing Franklin waterfront into a vibrant maritime precinct
To build on Franklin's maritime heritage and the talents of the local community
To create meaningful employment and support local business
To grow tourism and provide educational opportunities
To build a merchant trading vessel designed to carry specialist cargoes and passengers with low-carbon outputs.
The learning starts in the classroom. Image by Gary Brown.
After you have finished your interesting tour of the Wooden Boat Centre you should take a stroll down to the wharf and have a look at the Yukon of Copenhagen, a privately owned Danish sailing ship. Yukon was rescued by Australian shipwright David Nash and Ea Lassen, originally of Denmark, from the bottom of a harbour near Copenhagen.
Go for a sail while you are there. Image by Gary Brown.
After a five-year restoration, David and Ea operated Yukon as a charter vessel, first in Europe and now in Australia. Measuring 17 metres on deck, there are two private cabins with two bunks each sleeping 3 people. The saloon seats 12, with extra bunk space for two people at night. Yukon's interior is luxurious for two pairs, pleasant for a big family and practical for a group.
If you are thinking of taking a ride on the Yukon of Copenhagen up the Huon River you will need to book ahead as it is extremely popular. I'll write more on our trip on the Yukon of Copenhagen in another article.
So the next time that you are looking for something to do where you can learn more about the history of timber boat building, take in the beautiful sights of part of the Huon River and also have the chance to hoist the sails, you should check out the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin.