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Wooden Boat Festival 2019

Wooden Boat Festival 2019

Four days of an iconic Australian bi-annual event, the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, in Hobart, Tasmania, was held in February this year. The cool summer days made it a pleasant experience for everyone – including the young children who were entertained with many free activities and events.

The inaugural Australian Wooden Boat Festival was held in November 1994 by boating enthusiasts and friends, Cathy Hawkins, Ian Johnston and Andy Gamlin. Since then, the event has grown bigger and better, and has gained international recognition among the wooden boat enthusiasts from all over the world. It is one of the events that involve the community and allows stories to be told and traditions to be passed on.

Wooden boats from everywhere and of all sizes – from dinghies to tall ships – were on display, and each owner or operator was more than happy to answer any questions. Many boats were open to the public, and allowed visitors to experience what it was like inside these vessels that carried with it the stories of their builders and their histories.

The festival included dozens of local food stalls, seafood cooking demonstrations featuring Michelin-starred Tetsuya Wakuda, sailing legends telling their stories, musicians from close by and away, buskers, art displays, photo displays, nautical book author interactions, and film showings.

Festival Chairman Steve Knight estimated the festival generated “in excess of $30 million of economic benefit to Tasmania”, with many of those from interstate estimated to have spent not only the four days of the festival on the island, but 10 or 11 days in total, spending their money elsewhere in the state.

Visitors came from all over the world, including the US, Europe and China, with the US group representing a large proportion of those from overseas, being the “featured nation” of this year’s festival, displaying their skills at the American Precinct.

Despite periods of rain, the sun shone on much of the weekend during which Mr Knight said he saw “tens of thousands of happy people”.

One of the most spectacular sites of the festival is the Parade of Sail that begins the festival, and the Admiral’s Sail where within a number of hours sees the docks go from being jam packed to almost empty.

In total, 503 vessels were on display at the festival with a further 256 ships in bottles on display as part of a community ‘flash mob’ of ships in bottles, with about 400 volunteers who helped in making the event a spectacular experience.

The MyState Bank Australian Wooden Boat Festival will return in 2021, February 5-8.

By Roselle Tenefrancia