Tasmania's Wooden Boat Centre

wooden boat centre tasmania Franklin is the oldest township on the Huon River. It's a tiny little port town about 10km from Kermandie. Situated on Shipwright's Point, it boasts an antique shop, a post office, a cafe and the Wooden Boat Centre. We'd read about the Centre which is “dedicated to preserving the traditional craft/trade of wooden boat building.” They have an interpretive center with viewing windows through which visitors can watch the students and craftsmen at work. Mary Anne had business in that direction and offered us a ride.

visitors centre 1

Shipbuilding is part of the culture and history of Tasmania and the Wooden Boat Centre proudly contributes to the “celebration of the traditional values around wooden boats, boating, the (Huon) river and its life.” Established in 1990 as a wooden boatbuilding school, the Centre offers accredited courses in the craft and is “the only school in the world in which … students undertake the construction of a full-sized, sea-going cruising vessel built in solid timber as their major learning project.” That made me think schooners and barques, but the boats we saw, though definitely seaworthy, were in the 20-30' range.

new clinker

The courses offered include building and/or restoring your own wooden boat. A sponsor will either commission a new boat to be built or provide an old wooden boat that needs restoration and the Centre takes it on as a project. That's pretty impressive. We were hoping they had something in the works when we visited and we were in luck.


There seemed to be no classes in session, so we were able to wander through the work shed on an informal tour and get a hands-on, up-close look at the works in progress. Five boats in different phases of completion were awaiting attention in the workshed. A big issue nowadays is access to the rare woods originally used in Tasmania's boatbuilding history...King Billy pine and Huon pine are “rare as hen's teeth”, quipped our guide. Restoring old boats like Clara, a current project, is an excellent alternative to starting anew. At 120 years old, Clara will hopefully be good as new and back to her original self in time for the upcoming Wooden Boat Festival in February.

restored clinker

The rich, distinctive smell of the recently cut wood was wonderful. Planks and chunks of wood stood on end, waiting their turn to be employed. Woodworking and shipwright tools hung on the walls. Feeling the smooth timbers and admiring the boats close-up gave me a feel for the knowledge and patience required for this craft.

copper nails

I especially liked the clinker (aka lapstrake), a small open boat with overlapping planks, the size of a dory. The guide explained the process of steaming the planks to make them pliable enough to be bent into shape. The beveled planks are so tightly fitted, that the copper nails still used to attach them is all that is required to make the boat water tight. This boat building technique traces back to the Vikings.

We'll miss the bi-annual Wooden Boat Festival in Tasmania, but you can check out their website to learn more.


I also increased my nautical vocabulary with the help of a small quiz I took in the Visitor's Centre. Words like futtock, sny, joggle and trunnel were new to me and will be good for Words With Friends. I had to look them up. Oh...and you were thinking I'd share the definitions? I will... tomorrow.


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