The South Australian Wooden Boat Festival was on at Goolwa over the weekend 23/24 February so we decided to drive over and have a look. We pre- booked our caravan park accommodation a month beforehand and were lucky to get in, Goolwa was full.

On the Saturday we took our 4 month old pup with us and walked to the festival gate to see “No dogs allowed”, so we diverted to the Hindmarsh Bridge for an overview of the whole setup. This provided spectacular views of the boats parading up and down the river as well as enabling us to get a bird’s eye view of the different sail boats jockeying around the race start line. We could clearly see the whole race course and the near misses as the more competitive sailors ramped up their start tactics.

Jan and the pup decided to do the coffee and retail therapy thing, while I paid the nominal $5 entry and slowly strolled the wharf precinct and checked out the boats and everything else that was happening. There was constant stream of activity on the water which was clearly focussed on owner participation supported by a running commentary over the PA system on the passing boat parade. The usual commercial boatie suspects were there displaying their wares and there was a good sprinkling of privately owned boats on display on their trailers. The South Oz WBA people had a small tent with some literature and merchandise and seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the heat, it was stinking hot the whole weekend and shade was at a premium.

Around lunch time the organisers wheeled out Griff Rhys Jones of ‘Three Men in a Boat’ fame to officially open the festival. Over about 4 hours I managed to see just about everything there was to see including the Goolwa - Robe steam train (even though I missed Rob & Pat Ripley and Green Bean, Rob must have been out on the river somewhere). Berthed at the numerous jetties and pulled up on the sandy beach were all types of motor boats, sail boats, dinghies and canoes with Halverson’s and Clausen putt putts there in numbers together with a half dozen or so large paddle boats. The organisers were hoping for well over 250 boats which seemed to be on the money.

Goolwa is definitely putt putt territory, they came downriver in all shapes and sizes with their distinctive, well, putt putt sound. The next day we went down to Armfield’s Slipway and checked out the boat shed, it was a sort of a mini Blunts with preloved hulls propped up waiting for some tlc maintenance. We could hear the local wooden speed boats out playing on the river and their open exhausts drew us towards the local ramp where several speedies were on display on their trailers.

At the caravan park we stayed at, several wooden boats had pulled in for the duration and of course it was like moths to a flame, people congregated and boatie conversations were off and running whenever a cover was pulled off gleaming timbers and polished motors.

As a first time festival visitor it was well worth the trip over to see it, it’s just a pity the Hobart festival was on a few weeks earlier, now if each were held on alternate years it would spread the joy......

David & Jan Gibson (and Abby the pup)

Photos by David and Jan Gibson

And then they had to pack up!

After the event! The organisation of a Wooden Boat Festival entails not only the setting up – but also the packing up. A very short time after the finish time for the Goolwa Wooden Boat Festival for 2013 all the considerable crowds, and boats, had disappeared from the port. Peace returned to the waterway. The next day I observed some very industrious 'boaters' with a portable pontoon in tow for return from the port to the Armfield Slipway and Boatshed. It took much advice and skilful assistance of several helpers to gently return it to its usual site.

Pat Ripley

Photos by Pat Ripley

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Membership is open to all wooden boat enthusiasts. Many members own boats, others do not, but all enjoy the chance to get together and "muck about with boats". Their boats include rowing boats, putt-putts, radio controlled models, pond yachts, canoes, kayaks, steam-powered boats, sailing dinghies, dayboats and ocean-going yachts.

The Wooden Boat Association is based in Melbourne, with regular sailing days scheduled on Albert Park Lake, as well as other venues around Melbourne, and at least one weekend each year elsewhere in the state.

Especially welcome is the first-time wooden boat builder or restorer, who can expect to receive ample advice and assistance in getting their dream onto the water.

Benefits of Wooden Boat Association Membership 

  • Become part of a friendly and sociable group of people with a common interest in wooden boats.
  • Receive Shavings, a monthly newsletter bringing timely news about events and activities in Victoria.
  • Regular meetings with a wide range of interesting speakers and activities. Our usual venue is the Albert Park Yacht Club, with visits to other venues from time to time.
  • Monthly sailing days, on Albert Park Lake and other locations close to Melbourne.
  • Use of the Association's own boats, two traditional sailing boats, Begonia and Lindsay Symons, our canoe Stringybark, and our extremely rare Port Philip 12.
  • Access to the Association's extensive library of boatbuilding and other nautical books.
  • Companionship with sister associations in other states

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