Although the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2021 Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Tasmanians have not taken the postponement lying down. As Bruce Stannard reports, organisers are planning two new initiatives to keep the spirit of the festival alive and well until the event can re-emerge in a Covid-free 2023.

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival is a huge drawcard: a quarter of a million visitors descend on Hobart over a three-day weekend and spend, spend, spend. The festival generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the Tasmanian government and has become one of the pillars of the state’s tourism industry. Maintaining at least some measure of momentum is therefore vital.

When the island state’s health authorities sensibly ruled out staging the 2021 festival, suggesting instead that it could kick-off again, hopefully in a virus-free 2023, there was widespread disappointment, not only in Tasmania but throughout maritime Australia. A good many interim ideas were considered and eventually two good local initiatives came to the fore. The first involves expanding one of the best-loved festival events, the spectacular Parade of Sail – a waterborne extravaganza that sees hundreds of classic boats under sail in one enormous armada. The magnificent spectacle on the River Derwent will involve boats of all shapes and sizes celebrating the rich maritime culture and community within Tasmania. It will coincide with the Royal Hobart Regatta on February 7, 2021.

The second initiative, which will be of particular interest to wooden boat devotees, is The Maritime Trail 2021 over the weekend of April 10-11, 2021, a wonderful opportunity to visit some of Tasmania’s best-known boatyards where visitors can meet the master craftsmen and women, and watch them at work. The statewide Maritime Trail will also include marinas that showcase beautiful classic wooden boats.

AWBF General Manager Paul Stephanus said the festival continues to thrive on community support and involvement and organisers and participants are looking forward to celebrating all things ‘wooden boats’ at these events. “This is an exciting opportunity to encourage spectators to enjoy a day out admiring the sailing and also travel to other regions less explored, to delve into the stories of wooden boats and the people who build, restore and treasure them,” he said.

Both events are designed to ensure adherence to social distancing and Covid-19 regulations.

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