Members' Stories

Okay, I already had the Joansa and the Rifleman, why another boat?

Well, we had thought at that time that the Joansa at 54 kgs was too heavy to rooftop (how wrong we were!), and when rowing solo in stronger winds it was difficult to steer because of the sheer at the bow. So with the help of Capt. Nemo, we set out the search for a smaller, lower profile hull.

Many options were examined and discarded, but eventually we settled on the Selway-Fisher designed 12 foot Thames Skiff. A classical look, a little narrower in the beam than the Joansa (Slithytove), and potentially considerably lighter to handle.

thames skiff 01

Note: Ed Wright joined our club last year after hearing about us in a conversation at South Eastern Sails. This is the story of three friends who are undertaking the challenging job of restoring an old wooden ski boat. Ed has sent in an article Will Morgan wrote for their yacht club newsletter, plus a collection of some photos to help with the story.


On ANZAC Day 2018 Ed Wright, Will Morgan and Travis Loton inexplicably answered a Gumtree ad from Adelaide.  An old fashioned hoarder from Sellicks Beach south of Adelaide wanted to offload the rotting timber ski boat taking up space in his backyard. Apparently he needed room for some more rusted old cars. So we did what any sensible person would do and bought it. Days later we were on the Western Highway on our way to collect the hull that would become known as “Laird”.

So what is it that helps us choose a boat design to build? For some, it’s the desire to build a boat for competition, or to learn to sail. It could be that we want something we can use with the family, or to meet the urges of mid-life to do something different – to show that we still have something worthwhile to give!

Marg and me? We wanted to go fishing!

rifleman 06

I scanned the internet for possible candidates, listened to advice (mainly ignored) from friends, and eventually decided that the Rifleman was the boat for me. Yes, as I have confessed before, a large part of my choice (initially anyway) was that I really liked the boat’s appearance, and just as many of our choices in life are based on what we can see on the outside, so it was with the Rifleman. Fortunately, just as with the Margaret, the things I learned after making my commitment have all been good.

adirondack 01

NOTE: David was a finalist for the inaugural Alan Chinn Award in 2019.

Why build an Adirondack Guide Boat?   Well I have found that I like building small boats, and I liked the idea of giving a double ender a go, preferably clinker, with a goodly number of planks.

   "Maude" is for sale - see The Boatyard for details

  Maude 08

NOTE: Russ was the winner of the inaugural Alan Chinn Award in 2019.  The Award aims "to reward and show appreciation to a club member for their efforts in building or restoring a wooden boat, including model boats".

To restore a 26ft wooden boat to original condition is not for the faint hearted.   I am having difficulty in condensing a job of 1,000 hours and still getting it to be interesting to a reader. I am simply going to list the jobs to date and let your imaginations do the rest.

Jimmies Kayak 01

NOTE: Jimmie was a finalist for the inaugural Alan Chinn Award in 2019.

Jimmie’s kayak was his second boat building project, following on from “Hunka Munca” a 10ft stitch and glue rowing boat. After reading about various kayak designs at Nick Shade's website ( he purchased “The Strip Plank Kayak” book,and selected the Guillemot design for his next effort.

Jack Ellis Kayak 08

NOTE: Jack was a finalist for the inaugural Alan Chinn Award in2019.

The kayak is a 'Ravenswood' fuselage-frame SOF design by S. Jeff Horton of Kudzu Craft Skin Boats in Alabama. (

Interview with Geoff Carroll

"There is something highly evocative about hand-crafted wooden boats, whether sailing boats or traditionally crafted motorised cabin cruisers. The romantic lure of it all gets under your skin and becomes part of who you are."  This is exactly what happened to Geoff Carroll, long time WBA member and owner of several wooden boats.

Recently Geoff was interviewed for Alan Hutchison's most interesting website Agenda For Life - Sourcing great ideas, opinions, experiences and opportunities. Inheriting his father's boat in 1992 led to interaction with veteran boatbuilder and designer Tom Whitfield for advice on repairs, which in turn led to an introduction to the Wooden Boat Association and its activities, a connection still strong today.  Since restoring Kibbee to her former glory, Geoff has built two more, very different, boats.  The video interview and transcript can be viewed at




Our Core Sound 17 after her first launch.

Building Kirsty Ann, our Core Sound 17. Sail number 122. April 2005-January 2006

by Peter Batchelor

UPDATE: Kirsty Ann was sold in November 2018. The next boat is probably going to be another CS17, perhaps the Mk3.

The Core Sound 17 is an easy to build stitch and glue plywood cat ketch rigged boat, using mainly 6mm ply, with some 9mm ply in the lower chine. Easily providing comfortable space for up to 4 adults, this fast dayboat was designed by Graham Byrnes, a naval architect now living in North Carolina but originally from Australia.

On a CS17 there are two masts, one set close to the bow, for the mainsail, and a mizzen, just aft of the center of the boat. The mainsail is larger than the mizzen. The sail plan spreads the sails along the length of the boat. The low center of effort afforded by the fore and aft, rather than upward, spread of sail, produces less heeling force.

Free standing masts require no rigging; making them quick to rig and unrig, easy to reef and inexpensive. They also offer an innate degree of safety: the masts bend during gusts, flattening the sail and de-powering the rig. It takes one person only a few minutes to rig this boat. 

Read more about Peter's experiences building Kirsty Ann here.

Rosamund, our Northumbrian Cobleby Peter Batchelor

Late in 2002 we started looking around for a boat to build. Ideally it would be something that two adults and two children could sail in, or row. As this would be my first boat-building project, I wanted something that would be relatively straightforward to build. Stitch and tape plywood construction seemed to be ideal. One of the pram designs seemed to be the simplest to build, but I preferred a rounder hull - perhaps harking back to the Heron we had when I learned to sail as a kid.

Eventually I narrowed my choices down to one of the boats by Paul Fisher, of Selway Fisher Designs, and decided on one of the Northumbrian Cobles. The prompt, courteous replies from Paul regarding changes of the rig on a Coble, and the existence of a Yahoo Groups forum for Selway Fisher sailors and builders, reinforced my decision to go with one of his designs. Another Yahoo Group that I subscribed to was Wooden Boats Australia. Through these groups I met Alan Chinn, an invaluable source of boat-building knowledge, and discovered Australia's Wooden Boat Association, and joined the Victorian branch.

The plans were bought as a present by Kirsty's parents, and so, with no excuses left, I started building my first boat.

Futher down this page are some notes I made while building the boat. Another page is devoted to sailing and handling notes.

We sold this boat in 2010, only because we had outgrown it as a family - two adults and two teenagers is really too much for this boat in anything but sheltered waters.

Read more about Peter's experience building the Northumbrian Coble own a wooden boat, are building a wooden boat of any size, including a model, are interested in building a wooden boat of your own, or just enjoy the beauty of wooden boats, THIS CLUB MAY BE FOR YOU.

Every member of the WBA has at least one of these interests, and you will find like minded men, women, and the occasional youngster, willing to share experiences - and if required, offer advice and assistance.    Of course we enjoy using our boats together, too.

More information required?    Email  and we will be in touch.


Read about some WBA members' boatbuilding and boating experiences below.


After a nearly two year restoration my 14’6’’ 1898 Hobsons Bay Flattie “Larrigai” was re-launched at the 2018 Paynesville Wooden Boat Show.

1898 Hobsons Bay Flattie Larrigai 1

It also appeared the following week at the Geelong Wooden Boat Festival sitting on its trailer. This is the “Larrigai” saga.

Building the Alma J. (Ken MacMahon)

Alma J 7a

I built three wooden boats as a teenager – a kayak, a 10’moulded plywood dinghy, and a sailfish. Then, for forty years, my attention was diverted into bushwalking, travel and family activities.

When I retired four years ago I built a nice, big shed and searched for a new boat building project. My main selection criteria were as follows: a construction method that suited my skill level, big enough to be stable and comfortable for an older person, able to be set up and sailed single-handed, easily trailerable, and it had to be a pretty boat.

I eventually settled on a Penny Fee, a five metre long glued lapstrake sailing dinghy designed by Ian Oughtred. I bought plans and a kit from Robert Ayliffe of Straydog Boatworks (South Australia). The kit includes moulds and plywood planking. These were laser cut in Melbourne, so I picked them up directly from the factory. As the planks are cut out of 2400 x 1200 sheets there is a bit of scarfing to be done. Small laser marks are aligned with a string line to ensure the finished planks are the correct shape.

Alma J 1   Alma J 2

The Williamstown St Ayles Skiff Project (Jane Howard)

UPDATE: "Thursday" was launched at Williamstown in December 2019.  Congratulations to all the builders!

  The St Ayles Skiffs are 22 foot row boats that are similar to ancient Scottish craft used for fishing and recreation around the Scottish Isles. The St Ayles Skiff was designed for communities to build and own to encourage community engagement and build skills both in the building and the rowing. These boats are now being built around the world for this purpose. The Williamstown group had its inaugural meeting in July 2016. A core group of 12 women members have been active in raising funds, attending other events here in Victoria (Geelong and Warrnambool), Tasmania and South Australia, and meeting monthly. The commitment by the women to attend on a weekly basis for the build has been phenomenal. The Williamstown build was inspired by the Franklin Women's Build in Tasmania. Their boats (x4 now) are moored on the river and accessible at all times for casual rows and competitions.

IMG 2   IMG 1

In February a small group attended the Hobart Wooden boat festival and participated in the mini raid return to Franklin over four days. This introduced us to people from around Australia, Scotland, England, Holland and New Zealand and gave us an amazing opportunity to see the full impact that this growing sport engenders.We are auspiced by Outlets Community Co-Op in Newport who are very supportive. As part of Outlets we qualify as a non-for-profit group. We have a committee and membership structure. At the beginning of the year the Welsh Church (which built and rows the St Ayles Skiff “Cariad”), kindly allowed us to set up to build our St Ayles Skiff in their shed at Seaworks, Williamstown.

A great forecast for the day, and a mate rings up to see if I would like to go fishing. I have to think carefully about this, as he doesn’t have a wooden boat! On the other hand, his boat is bigger, he is doing the towing and launching, responsibility for finding the fish and shouldering the blame for failure is his, I don’t have to spend an hour cleaning up etc. when I get home …. and his missus is a fabulous cook who always forces his friends to stay for homemade delights with accompanying beverages.

I accept.

So I pick up the 3rd mate, rendezvous with the skipper and we head off to Warneet to catch the tide.

All is well, although the skipper did drop a bucket accidentally over the transom, which managed to snap off the transponder on the way past……. But we simply drop into “what we used to do before transponders” mode and head out.

Well you know what fishing is like, you sit and chat for 4 or 5 hours, throw the keepers in the fridge and the others overboard, then getting tired ,and having eaten all the food you go home! Usually!!

Over the years of browsing the Float a Boat shop in Ringwood, I had been intrigued by the large model boat (as I thought) on the counter as a display item.

            Floataboat bait boat 10

When I asked after plans for the boat, Adrian informed me that there were no plans – the boat is in fact an original full size craft that had been brought in by a customer for refurbishment to supplied specs – but never reclaimed.

Hands On Learning Australia is a programme committed to preventing the harm of early school leaving by creating opportunities AT SCHOOL for young people to discover their talents and experience success.

In addition to their normal schoolwork, participants in the programme are involved in “making and doing” at the school they attend. They have access to resources which allow them to learn life skills, and under the oversight of trained coordinators may also learn how to use the tools required for various tasks. For those interested, more at .

Towards the end of last year your club was involved in helping the Westernport Secondary College HOL group prepare for one of the fun events of the year – the annual raft race between HOL Schools, held at Mornington.

     HOL 8

You may want to check out the only video I could track down of a previous race, and get a picture of what happens - .

Design is one of the keys to a good raft, along with simplicity of construction, availability of resources, skillsets of the builders, time constraints – and of course, floatability (is that a word?).

A number of designs were considered, and the suitability of many different construction materials was discussed – from plumbing pipes and car tubes, to large garden tubs and plastic barrels. In the end, the kind donation of a stack of packing ply from Cambridge Commercial Equipment – a commercial refrigerator supplier in Hallam – resolved the issue, and plywood it was.

         “Ultimately I would like to make something that can carry the six of us for an afternoon of sailing but I think that would be too much of an undertaking for a first attempt at making a boat. I would rather start with something that is achievable and fun to build with the boys”.

Discussions with Chris Kelly, Bill Jones and others, led to that the conclusion that although simple, the boat would be too small for his purposes and this led to research into finding something that may better suit the family and would not be beyond the resources available at present in Vanuatu.

A few options were checked out, and the Selway -Fisher 11’6” Acorn Garvie was put forward as an option. It is a relatively simple build, follows the lines of the Graefin in many ways and help is available from the designer if required. Yes Leigh, it looks very much like a Mirror dinghy!

AcornGarviepGraefin 10


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