Tasmania is an island with an area of 90,758 km², located 240 km off the south-east corner of mainland Australia. Next stop south is Antarctica, 2000 km away. Encircled by the Southern Ocean, Tasman Sea and Bass Strait, Tasmanians breathe clean air, pure water and have a maritime climate influenced by the Roaring 40s!
So its quite natural for members of the population to have some type of connection or interest with the sea and its historical and modern day craft. The Tasmanian coastline is abundant with small inlets, bays, estuary’s and places that are used as sheltered anchorages and temporary moorings for seafarers. There are as many permanent marinas and ports at major coastal centres as there are smaller remote docks and harbours scattered about the coast for hundreds of recreational and professional craft.
Since first settlement, Tasmania has depended on the sea for its survival. Sailors, whalers and fishermen are all part of Tasmania’s past and you’ll still find evidence of this sea faring way of life in our coastal cities and towns today. Let’s not forget last century, Tasmania was first a penal settlement, shipping was the life-blood of the colony and it’s convict settlers. It was the only way local goods and people could reach the mainland and the only way the necessities of life, as well as those few luxury goods, could find their way to Tasmania.
The subtle references to our colonial and maritime heritage is apparent all around this island State. A quick glance on your travels illustrate this point only too well, with place names like Port Huon, D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Tasman Island, Cape Grim and Crayfish Ck. And so it goes on, gaze at a map of Tasmania and you will quickly see the place is littered with historical and maritime references. This is eclipsed only by the number of pubs and restaurants named with the same theme in mind. The Hope and Anchor, The Shipwright Arms, The Drunken Admiral and the Customs House to name but a few.
Mucking about in boats is a serious business here, seventy five percent of the coastline is accessible by road, providing recreational and industry opportunity, deep water ports for global markets, a number of industry harbours, small marinas, yacht and rowing clubs, private boat sheds and slipways for shipwright services. All this to feed a healthy Island obsession with boats.
So how do these self obsessed boaties celebrate an obsession like this you ask? With regattas and boat festivals of course. It’s mostly an excuse to eat a bit, drink a little and catch up with mates, to exchange ideas and look at, talk about and touch stuff.
Perhaps the quiet buying of something needed and the selling of something else not. To the uninitiated it really appears that these nautical types are a little unhinged in their quest for perfection. They are surrounded by the quiet confidence and passion that keeps all this afloat. Ask a question and you will quickly see that the whole system is supported by a network of knowledge and experience like no other, a camaraderie forged by sea time and the survival of the occasional spot bother.
No matter what floats your boat, this years three day Wooden Boat Festival held in Hobart last weekend had something for everyone. Big, small, handmade, historical, industry focused or quintessentially unique, it was all here.
The interest in all things nautical is as strong as ever and shows no signs of waning. If your only claim to “Mucking About In Boats” is a trip on the Spirit Of Tasmania to get here, don’t fret, we don’t discriminate, come be amazed and take an interest and chat up a local. You will not be disappointed in making this an annual event, you may even buy a boat.
Mike Briggs, Wooden Boat Festival, Hobart February 2019