THE eighth Narooma BoatsAfloat festival wrapped up on Sunday with 42 traditional boats and their crews again thoroughly enjoying the pristine, scenic waters of Wagonga Inlet.
Strong winds on Sunday morning forced organisers to call off the popular grand parade along the Mill Bay boardwalk, but spectators could still see the boats motoring around Forsters Bay and close up on the jetties.
The Narooma News caught up with committee members Malcolm McKay and Brian Craven on board Malcolm’s hand-built motor cruiser Paddy D.
“We had visitors participating from Perth to Melbourne and boats came from as Canberra, Port Macquarie and the Central Coast.”
Cancelling the grand parade was indeed a difficult decision made on Sunday morning based on the expertise of local mariners, they said.
Beautiful weather on Saturday made for great cruising as the boats sailed around Wagonga Lake out to Paradise Point.
This year’s Best Boat award went Eric Simes’ 21-footer named Legend that he built in his backyard at Coila Lake.
It took about 20 months to build out of Huon Pine featuring the classic sheer lines of a 1950s, 1960s Chris Craft speedboat.
“I wanted to get this boat faster than my previous boat Quest but with the same horsepower, and I succeeded,” he said.
And while the spectators would have had their own favourites, the decision by the five judges was apparently unanimous.
Building boats in backyards and sheds around seems to be great tradition and something special to Narooma.
Malcolm McKay is not only on the BoatsAfloat committee he is also a prolific boat builder and he likes to tell the story of how he waited for the quiet streets of Melbourne Cup day to tow the Paddy D, named after a grandson, down to the water.
He based the design on a photo he saw in a boating magazine of the cruiser Merna in British Columbia that was built in 1928.
It took him 12 months to build the electric-powered craft on his property off the Old Highway and he did have to take the roof off his shed to get it out.
Before that he built the Carmel J of similar design that also looked resplendent in this year’s BoatsAfloat with its dark blue paint set against the cold-moulded plywood.
Malcolm and Brian said the festival was not only great for the town of Narooma its also helped preserve the tradition of boat building, which was now unfortunately a dying art.
Narooma BoatsAfloat was an idea born eight years ago to bring like-minded people together to celebrate all that is wonderful about traditional boats.
“We want to keep these wonderful craft in working order and foster interest in the young to keep them going forever," member Mark Westwood said.
The skills of boatbuilding continue when a retired boat-builder mentored a bunch of locals, who got together to form the Narooma Centre for Wooden Boats a few years ago and in a non-descript boat shed built a clinker boat from scratch.
The members are currently restoring local boats in a pure labour of love with the added benefit of later cruising them on Wagonga’s waters.
Builder of this year’s Best Boat Eric Simes is indeed also a member, as well as being active with the Narooma Woodies wood-crafting group.
But building your own is not the only option for traditional boat enthusiasts who want to get out on the water - you can always buy one!
The vessels ranged in sizes, styles and ages with a couple of large ex-fishing vessels featuring this year, as well as local Narooma yacht Public Nuisance.
The Narooma Bridge needed to be lifted on Saturday to allow the yacht and the ex-fishing boat Lady-Jane to sail onto the lake.
Public Nuisance could be seen working the stiff winds on Sunday morning hard up on its keel, while mixed-breed dog Josie loved riding the breeze on the bow of the Lady Jane.
The biggest boat out on the water was ex-trawler Dael formerly from Bermagui and who knows before that, which has been lovingly restored by Canberra couple Steve and Jan Barnes with the help of a local tradesman.
The big blue-and-white boat along with many other traditional boats now call Forsters Bay and are ideal for sailing the inlet and further afield.
This year also saw a new partnership between Montague Arts and Crafts Society and BoatsAfloat, with an exhibition of MACS members’ art on display and for sale in two boat sheds on Forsters Bay.
Narooma artist Margaret Moran won the “BoatsAfloat Art in the Sheds” award for her watercolour “Waiting for the Men”.
There was also a solo show in the SoArt Gallery in Midtown Narooma featuring nautical-themed “oarsome” work of artist Sandy Musto.
“It’s been wonderful and boaties have been tickled pink with the show,” MACS member David Pye said.
“We’ve had quite a few sales and definitely would love to be involved again next year.”
The festival wrapped up with a barbecue and presentation at the Taylor’s boat slip sheds.
NSW Maritime and water police made an appearance on Sunday conducting vessel checks on the water.
Organisers are already planning for next year with a more formal “Plan-B” for inclement weather conditions and other improvements for the festival.