The Australian Wooden Boat Festival Organisers have this week announced the latest addition to the Festival program, The Australian National Maritime Museum Boat Builders of Australia Display.


The exhibition style display will showcase some of Australia’s most renowned and respected builders and designers from across the country. One of the featured wooden boat stalwarts is Len Randell. Len is one of Western Australia’s most famous and prolific boat designers. At 27 he was elected an associate of the Institute of Naval Architects (London). Len began designing ten years earlier after rebuilding an old boat into a 20ft centre-board cruiser. He designed many yachts and the first of the high-speed cray boats that operated off the coast of WA. Travelling all the way from WA, will be Rugged, R23, one of his most famous designs built by many amateurs in the early 1950s. Other Len Randell vessels attending the festival will be Swift, Duet and Smoky Cape. Smoky Cape being the last boat owned by renowned maritime artist, Jack Earl.

Across to Queensland, where the history of the team at Norman R. Wright & Sons will be explored. Norman R. Wright & Sons is a custom designer and builder of quality commercial and pleasure boats – from tenders to super yachts. Based in Brisbane, Queensland, since 1909, they have been mastering the art of vessel design and building for over 113 years. In the early years the focus was on competitive racing yachts, but this work was suspended during WWII when the military engaged Norman Wright patrol boats. From the 40’s onwards the firm moved into trawlers, luggers, and sleek powerboats, which is what they are known for today. Some of the Norman R. Wright vessels attending the festival will be Bali Hai II (main photo above), Conway, Magellan, Tilting at Windmills, Boxer, New Horizons, Reluctant and Jenny VII.

Closer to home, the renowned Tasmanian builders Wilson’s will be featured. The Wilson Brothers from Cygnet, Tasmania started building boats in 1863. The boat builders are now one of the longest continuously running businesses in Australia and are still recognised as some of Tasmania’s best. Although the actual building location has changed over the years, the artisan craftspeople at Wilson’s still build and maintain some of the strongest most seaworthy boats around. View boats like Alathea, Gloria of Hobart, Kerrawyn, Margaret Eve and more during the Festival.


To ensure a widespread representation of builders and designers were included, the AWBF also invited the team from The Wooden Boat Shop to exhibit. Inspired by the modest historical Couta Boat, Tim Phillips and friends took an interest in the little boats and started restoring them. Fast forward to the present day, the Wooden Boat Shop designs and builds stunning modern versions of this classic wooden boat. Over the past 30 years, skills and techniques have been developed and refined to now make the Wooden Boat Shop the epicentre of modern wooden boat building. At the Festival you will see some fine examples including Argonaut, Francesca, Gina, Green Moon, Jane, Squally Cove and Tideways.

Come along to the Australian National Maritime Museum Boat Builders of Australia display at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 10-13 February 2023 to see more iconic Australian designers and builders. Guided tours of featured boats will be available, check out the AWBF website for more information.

Main photo: Bali Hai II – Norman R. Wright