A GROUP of wooden boat enthusiasts and now boat builders launched their first handmade vessel on Friday with a splash of champagne as supporters cheered.
Under the guidance of retired boat builder Jimmy Taylor, the six members of the Narooma Centre for Wooden Boats built the 16-foot, clinker-style launch over the last two years.
It was a labour of love with the men meeting only once a week, every Friday to work on the boat.
Mr Taylor joked that the new boat builders should be called “the cup of tea club”.
He completed his last large vessel, the 42-foot Anna-Mareeka, in 1980 in the very same shed the centre uses today.
That vessel ended up being a prawn trawler in the Top End, before working out of Eden and eventually a charter boat in Sydney.
Centre member Mark Westwood said Friday’s launching was a dream come true and learning traditional boat building skills from a master was a unique experience.
“His skills and knowledge is not something you can write down,” he said.
“You can really only pass them on in a hands-on way.”
Their new vessel was made with planks of Queensland hoop pine laid down on a keel, stringer and trim made of locally-sourced spotted gum, the same timber the old boat builders used to make large ships on the inlet.
The boat builders worked off plans for a Chapman Standard 16-foot launch designed in Sydney and installed a 3.5hp Blaxland Pup engine.
And what’s the fate of this, the centre’s first vessel?
Well it sold off the internet even before being completed and its new owner came down on the weekend to collect the boat to take back to its new home on the Hawkesbury River.
It is hoped it could return to Wagonga Inlet one day to sail on the Narooma Boats Afloat Festival, an event the centre’s men are also heavily involved in.
And they are already planning their next possibly larger vessel.
The full story in pictures is at www.flickr.com/photos/narooma-wooden-boats-centre/sets/
You can also follow their future exploits on Facebook at “Narooma Centre for Wooden Boats”, while Narooma Boats Afloat is also online at www.naroomaboatsafloat.com/