Terrific times in Tasmania at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

Monday morning at the festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Monday morning at the festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Over 500 boats, numerous displays, demonstrations and talks, four seasons of weather plus a rainbow, and not to mention the fine Tasmanian food, it’s always a challenge at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival  (AWBF) to cover everything with not much more than three days to see it all. The museum managed to do it by sending a diverse contingent of staff for the festival, which ran from Friday 10th through to Monday 13th February, 2017.

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Ready for Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

At the 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

At the 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

The 2017 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart starts this Friday 10th February, and the Australian National Maritime Museum will be very well represented at the festival over the weekend. A contingent of staff is travelling south to attend and help with various activities.

The museum has a booth in the principal display hall on Princes Wharf and is hosting a cocktail evening on Saturday. It is the sponsor for the AWBF Symposium of speakers which runs over three days, and is a key organiser with Maritime Museum of Tasmania for the Australian Maritime Museums Council’s Conference that proceeds the festival. The Voyage Game will also be a feature at the festival.

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The End of a Watermark: Changes to our Permanent Gallery

Watermarks exhibition gallery, when it opened. Image: ANMM.

Watermarks exhibition gallery, when it opened. Image: ANMM.

The museum is undergoing an exciting change to its permanent galleries. After more than 15 years, on 29 February the Watermarks Gallery set its sails for the last time (pardon the pun). The gallery first opened in 2001 and told the story of how water and the ocean plays a vital role in the lives of all Australians and how the coast has inspired our recreational lives.

Our new permanent gallery exhibition, ULTIMATE DEPTH: James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge, will open in late 2016. Continue reading

Mark your calendars for the Classic and Wooden Boat Festival 2016

The Ena, a fine example of Edwardian elegance. Photo by Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

The Ena, a fine example of Edwardian elegance. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

The Classic and Wooden Boat Festival, April 15 to 17 2016.

The answer to the question ‘what is a classic boat?’ will be on display over the weekend on 15th to 17th April at the Australian National Maritime Museum, where The Classic and Wooden Boat Festival will have over 100 craft that show the diversity that fits this title.

One of the most easily identified classic vessels will be the steam yacht Ena. It features high class Edwardian elegance throughout and the sight of this fine craft steaming along, cutter bow carving through the water, a gently curving sheer, raked lines to the superstructure and a long overhang aft are all hallmarks of what most would consider classic without question.

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HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 3

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A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Friday 30 January 2015

With the wind now at our back, we have cut the engines and are enjoying ‘champagne sailing’ back to Sydney. Everyone is appreciating the sunshine and the much calmer seas.

Back in Sydney Harbour, people take advantage of the glorious clear sky to indulge in some photography. We are also finally able to undertake our climbing training: up the shrouds and futtocks of the foremast, onto the fighting top and down the other side. It’s exhilarating to succeed in what many people experience as a significant challenge.  Then up the masts again, this time to lay on the yard and furl sails. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 2

IMG_3096A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Thursday 29 January 2015

The crew are in good spirits even though most are feeling some effects of the big waves.  More than one person has remarked that they would have felt ‘disappointed’ to come on this trip and not experience some challenging weather!

Man lines have been strung around the ship and we make our way carefully, clipped on for safety. There have been sightings of albatross, dolphins, flying fish and shearwaters, and a magic moment when a Caspian Tern kept with the shipwright beside the staysail. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 1


A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

A raining start to our grand adventure. By 12.30pm all voyage crew had completed their safety induction and necessary paperwork and after a delicious first lunch aboard of soup and salads, we were ready to depart.

The crews consists of 16 professional crew, 36 voyage crew and 4 supernumeries (for more information on crew types, see our Sail the Endeavour page).  There are a number of family groups aboard, including a group making up most of Foremast Watch, who are helping their father achieve a lifetime dream of sailing to Tasmania. Continue reading

Carl Halvorsen, 1912-2014

Carl Halvorsen (left) at the museum with niece Randi Svensen, his sister Elnor Bruem, and brothers  Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen

Carl Halvorsen (left) at the museum with niece Randi Svensen, his sister Elnor Bruem, and brothers Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen
Photo: Jeffrey Mellefont

A life in boats shaping and crafting their construction from timber, a life on the water working with the waves, currents and wind – this was Carl Halvorsen’s remarkable century that came to a peaceful close just over a week ago. From birth he was instilled with a passion for the sea from his maternal ancestors who had been captains, seafaring from their Norwegian homeland, while boatbuilding was a trade and skill passed from his father. Carl and the Halvorsen family continued this trade not just because it was the tradition, but because this was where they were comfortable and capable – working with boats and the sea.

The Halvorsen story is well known and recorded, and the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (administered by the museum) captures their beginnings in Norway and their passage to Cape Town and then later to Sydney in the 1920s, and follows the rise of the family business to its eventual pre-eminence in Australian boatbuilding. The register hosts pages about their individual vessels, from the well-known luxury cruisers, through to the hire boats and wartime craft. Their yachts are represented as well, including Maud, built in Sydney in 1927 and raced by Harold and Carl to success at the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club. Continue reading

The race of the century – America’s Cup 1983

The action for final race for the America’s Cup in 1983, dubbed ‘the race of the century’ by US skipper Dennis Conner, began well before the race started. Mindful of some starting issues, the Australians called for a lay day after race six to put some practice in. Meanwhile, the US team used this to optimise their yacht Liberty with ballast and sail area changes to make it faster in the expected lighter winds, something the Australians had wished they had thought of too.  Racing was abandoned for 24 September due to poor wind, and then the US team called a lay day themselves to do more work on Liberty, further irritating the Australians.

Two yachts on water

Australia II (KA 6) nicely out in front of Liberty in an earlier race, Sally Samins photographer.

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AUSTRALIA II, the winged keel and more

Australia II has become one of the nation’s most recognisable vessels, thanks to that extraordinary America’s Cup win in 1983. Almost everyone knows about its winged keel that seemed to make it unbeatable. The keel completely spooked the Americans who tried many moves off the water to avoid having to race against Australia II.   However there was much more to the boat than just that keel, because its peculiar advantages allowed other subtle changes to be made that further helped Australia II to dominate many races. Designer Ben Lexcen had trialled endplates and other similar features on rudders, centreboards and keels at different times in his career, starting with a Moth class dinghy in the late 1950s, and then the break-through 18-foot skiff  Taipan in 1959. The focus of his efforts was to reduce the drag and loss of efficiency from tip vortices off these appendages. These experiments met with mixed success but when he returned to the idea again in the 12 metre class, he developed the concept from a different direction.

Twelve metres are designed to detailed rule for their allowed dimensions. They are heavy boats for their length, with a considerable amount of ballast. The draft restrictions and large volume of the hull result in a shallow depth keel, with a poor aspect ratio and poor efficiency. The wings on the keel helped to reduce these inefficiencies in a similar way to the endplates he had experimented with, but he was able to make another bold step in lateral thinking. Rather than just realising the improvements to drag, Lexcen could see other advantages at the same time, and this was characteristic of his ability to think around many things at once.

Two comparison keels

These two half models in the ANMM collection show a comparison of a conventional 12 metre Australia (1977 and 1980) above with Australia II below.

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A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – the mast fish

A Viking boarding party? The Jorgen Jorgenson alongside HMB Endeavour

A Viking boarding party? The Jorgen Jorgenson alongside HMB Endeavour

Early this morning while most people were commuting to work, a rare combination of 9th, 18th and 21st century technologies occured on Darling Harbour. The museum’s Fleet staff moved the Viking reconstruction Jorgen Jorgenson alongside the HMB Endeavour replica and used its block and tackle to winch the heavy mast fish (a partner timber to support the mast which has a fish shape to it) from the wharf onto the Viking boat.

Here’s how it happened… Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour

Readers may have seen a rather strange looking bright green double-ended wooden vessel moored under the Anzac bridge at Pyrmont for several years now. On close inspection, there is no mast, an open deck and oar holes along each side. Although clinker built, it is not your traditional Australian wooden sailing vessel. But what is it?

The Jorgen Jorgensen at Pyrmont Bay, June 2013

The Jorgen Jorgensen at Pyrmont Bay, June 2013

The bow and stern are identical and rise sharply, and this is a clue. If you imagine a single mast and spar with a square sail, and perhaps a dragon head carving on the prow, you will get the picture – it is a Viking longship.

Well, not a longship technically. It is a reconstruction of the famous Gokstad vessel, which was actually a karvi – a ship used by Viking Age chieftains to cruise the Scandanavian coastal waters and rivers. A true longship, used for raiding overseas, would have been much larger, with possibly over 60 oars rather than the 32 on this vessel. Continue reading

A tale of self-rescue

Sometimes when it all goes pear-shaped you have to find a way to extract yourself from the situation. The gaff rigged 28 foot long Maluka and its crew got into and out of desperate circumstances late in 1935, helped a Christmas pudding, a lucky unplanned arrival onshore and their practical, bushman’s can-do resolve.

Boat sitting on rocks

Maluka on the rocks at Cape Conran, Victoria

Maluka was built at CAM Fisher and Son’s Yard in La Perouse on Botany Bay NSW and launched late in 1932. The owners, brothers William and George Clark were bachelors, and had settled in Sydney a few years earlier after retiring from farming. Maluka was planked in Huon pine and fitted with a Lycoming auxiliary petrol engine. Continue reading

Rescue – the Australian surf boats

Black and white photo of wooden lifeboat on beach

Boofa at the North Curl Curl SLSC

Famous throughout Australia as a symbol of the surf, surf clubs and the surf lifesaving movement, the surf lifesaving boat is an Australian class of boat evolved to suit the coastal beaches. It has since found its way to other countries, such as New Zealand, which have also developed a strong surfing tradition. It is rowed by a crew under the command of the sweep, who stands aft steering with a long sweep oar over the transom.

The craft became a distinct vessel in 1913 when the Manly Club in Sydney acquired a boat that then became the standard model. Prior to this the other boats that had been used included vessels similar to the Royal National Lifesaving Society craft in the UK and a variety of other local craft such as butcher boats and whalers, with mixed success. Continue reading

Rescue – early Australian Lifeboats

The coastline of Australia has some particularly exposed and dangerous areas, and a notable graveyard of accidents is the southwest coastline of Victoria and across to South Australia. Here the westerly winds of the roaring forties and the south westerlies that come in when a low develops bring gales and big seas hitting a landform of cliffs, headlands, islands, outcrops and hidden dangers. Increasing the danger further an arduous voyage was nearing its end, and a tired crew was trying to navigate to safety in testing conditions.

In response to the inevitable shipwreck situations that had occurred, lifeboat stations were set up at some of the safe havens along this coastline, following a pattern employed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Three of the craft that have survived and are featured on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV), they show the standard technology of the period. A fourth lifeboat on the ARHV shows how ideas ahead of their time failed to meet expectations.

Wooden lifeboat on water full of people

Portland lifeboat and crew.

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