From Liveaboards to Wooden Boat Charters
“Honestly, I haven’t always been into boats and it took even longer to get into wooden boats, but now I am and have started down this path, I don’t really see anything else in mine or my family’s future.
I grew up in Goolwa SA, which many may know has its own wooden boat festival, of which as a kid I attended a grand total of 0. But we did have a fibreglass fishing boat we used fairly often for trips down the Coorong and for skiing in the river. My grandparents had a steel houseboat and a property on the water at Hindmarsh Island where I would occasionally admire the paddle steamers that went up and down the river. Looking back now we were always around boats as kids.
In high school my love for the ocean really came out through surfing which I would prioritise above all else, even schoolwork. Easily my favourite subject at school was furniture construction and I loved working with wood.
Out of high school I had no direction and no idea what I really wanted to do, so joining the RAAF seemed like a good idea. This led to three years in the northern territory before posting to Newcastle NSW where, on my drive home from work I saw the little trailer sailor for sale on the side of the road that would change the course of my life. From the moment the engine was turned off and the wind was pulling me through the water, I was hooked.
About five years, two boats, some sailing experience out of the Newcastle Yacht Club and a Coxswain ticket later my wife Sarai and I sold our house and most of our possessions to buy a Catalina 36 “Felix” to sail the East Coast of Australia in.
Felix took us up and down the coast from Sydney as far as Cairns twice in the two and half years we had her, including a yearlong stop in Airlie Beach to have our first Daughter. Our little girl starting to climb onto the cockpit seats was the catalyst for either putting in a lot more safety measures or getting off the boat.
We chose to get off the boat. But what to do now? We were thinking of moving closer to home and maybe I could build some furniture. But then I discovered that there were still people making boats out of wood, and I could spend a year at a place called the Wooden Boat Centre in Tasmania learning how to do it. “You mean I can work with wood and still pursue my passion with boats? Why not? “
I applied to do the yearlong Shipwright course and in doing so, I had to give reasons why I would be suitable. Memories of building little sailboats in my grandads shed to set off across the local river came flooding back, along with the enjoyment of building things with wood over the years through house renovations and boat work.
With all the stars seemingly aligning and things falling ridiculously easily into place, something seemed to be telling us to move to Tassie. So Felix was put up for sale and the next thing we knew, we were living in Franklin and I was building a traditional style clinker dinghy out of Celery and Huon Pine and loving it.
I’ve now well and truly become a wooden boat tragic, with custodianship of two historic Tasmanian wooden boats and a business “Huon River Cruises” chartering one of them on the Huon River.
Curlew, a 40ft fishing boat built in 1914 by Charles Lucas at Battery Point, was the first wooden boat we bought. With her beautiful lines and perfect set up for weekend cruising in the channel, we couldn’t resist taking her on. But it was more than that, the feeling you get aboard, the way she glides through the water, it’s like her soul is calling to you.
The second is LaDrone, a beautiful 1948, 38ft motor cruiser we operate our business “Huon River Cruises” with. One day while enjoying a drive south of Franklin, we stopped at Heriots Point Vineyard and there was La Drone sitting at the dock in a ray of sunshine. She stole our hearts and we knew she was our chance to create a way of being around wooden boats and spending time on the water. This seemed like a fated visit as it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
The Wooden Boat festival in February was my first, but certainly not my last and felt like a culmination of sorts of where this journey has brought me so far. I’m excited to see where my future, and wooden boats take me.
By this point it’s fair to say that I have jumped in whole heartedly and discovered my passion and what I believe I am meant to be doing, and that is wooden boats in some form or another, either working on them or on the water in them. I love being in the workshop almost as much as being out on the water.”
Huon River Cruises