I suppose the idea for Begonia started in 1991 when a client of ours made an offer we could not refuse. He had some Huon pine and New Zealand kauri he was willing to donate to the WBA to build a club boat, with conditions. He would remain anonymous and I was to be the builder.

I dug out a design drawn from a half model that we had whittled as a demonstration activity at a boat show. While I worked on the model, Carol shaped a mast using a drawknife and a plane to keep the shavings rolling. When visitors to the show asked why we weren’t using power tools, we said that they didn’t want the noise of a typical boat shop. The plans were shown to the committee, along with the proposal that club members be involved in building their own club boat. It would be the sort of traditional boat building I could envisage the WBA would be keeping alive. I hoped that the WBA would become as active as the WoodenBoat magazine has in the USA.

I did a deal with the Polly Woodside where we had built a number of craft. Under the deal, we would provide a live exhibit of boat building crafts in exchange for free use of the site. We were already using the Polly Woodside’s cottage for WBA meetings. We scrounged and bought some tin and timber to make a lean-to roof for shelter. Later we closed it in for protection from the weather. A number of members joined us and we started by drawing up the plans to full size and lofting out the moulds for the stem and the stern, then setting up a backbone with the moulds braced to the roof. Planking started slowly as we were only working on three weekends a month, but progress was satisfying as the members got into it. Near the end, we ran out of boards and the WBA paid for two boards to finish the planking.

A member donated the centre case made out of Philippine mahogany. On reflection, it wasn’t a good choice of wood as it moves too much and always leaks until it swells up. That’s a bit like the rest of the boat when it has not been used for some time!

We had a hand from Eric Erickson and Rick Mitchell to put in the ribs and a few other details. Rick hand sewed the sails for the sprit rig I had designed. Later someone decided the spit rig was too complicated and had a new gaff sail made, along with a new mast, and added fathoms of rigging and blocks in an attempt to simplify it.

The boat was named Begonia after the Ballarat Begonia Festival where the WBA really started life. The name was not my first choice.

I hope the members continue to enjoy their traditional clinker craft.

Tom Whitfield

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