Returning to the Begonia Festival where the WBA began is one of our traditions. Locating the oak tree under which the founding fathers met in 1989 involved some head scratching. Alan Chinn, one of those founding fathers, pondered the question with our WBA group as we sat in the shade of the oaks by the lake. “It must have been one of these” was as close as we got to a conclusion. Thanks to “our man in Ballarat” Quinton Wilkinson, the event ran smoothly and the Yacht Club facilities were made fully available to us. Quinton has been the driving force in maintaining our links with the festival organisers and the Ballarat Y.C. A WBA pennant was presented to the Commodore of the Ballarat Yacht Club, Paul Crosbie, by our President, Geoff Carroll in recognition of their hospitality.

This year a brochure with photos and details of our member’s boats was produced for us by Heidi Zukauskas from the Festival Committee. Many brochures were taken by passers-by over the weekend and who knows what may result in terms of enquiries and new members? For most of us, the campaign to reach the festival site and tie up against the lake wall required extending our lines of supply in a way that is akin to Napoleon’s assault on Moscow. Leaving our home headquarters we set up a base camp at the motel or caravan park. From there we moved to a forward position at the Yacht Club where cars and trailers were left behind. Finally it is on to the front by whatever means of water transport we had brought with us, across the lake to the Botanic Gardens festival site.

A notably heroic effort in this regard was made by Alex Pigdon with his recently launched Elver Yawl Halloween. Undeterred by recalcitrant motors, an awkward launching ramp and an unhelpful wind direction, Alex and his troop of extended family members succeeded in reaching our gathering on the lake shore through a great collective effort. Tony and Linda Remington avoided many of these logistical difficulties by making a dash from Melbourne on Sunday morning, arriving at the Yacht Club with Ursa at 9am. They had an active day with us, sailing and socialising, and returned home that evening. In all there were 11 WBA boats present, and at least 25 members with their families. Two boats on the brochure did not make it but their owners did. Rob and Pat Ripley’s J. S. Ripley was left in Melbourne due to a car breakdown and Rod Smith’s Jesse II was in Adelaide for maintenance. Rob and Pat brought Green Bean with the smaller car instead, while Rod joined us on Sunday for all the land based activities.

Sailing the reedy channels of Lake Wendouree and negotiating the rowing course buoys is an enjoyable and challenging part of the weekend. Our regular participants and skilled sailors ghosted around the lake in mostly light winds with occasional stronger gusts in the hot northerlies. The Batchelor’s Kirsty Ann, Jim and Penny’s Talisman and Geoff and Jill’s Bluebelle could be identified by their different rigs appearing above the reeds as we scanned the lake horizon. Slightly reminiscent of the Norfolk Broads perhaps. The Gnu II again demonstrated its ability to take Frank wherever he wishes in a style that is an interesting mixture of the simple and the complicated. The powerboat contingent from Ballarat, Quinton’s Wastell and Leigh and Jo Hayley’s PA96, motored purposefully across from the club or around the reeds avoiding the box shaped steel paddlewheel ferry. There were many curious admirers of the machinery when the engine boxes came off.

David and Jan Gibson brought their strip planked canoe which made a centrepiece display for our base at the festival. Sitting in the shade of those oak trees, WBA members were able to make forays into the festival exhibits then return to share drinks, nibbles and conversation with our group. Even the parking officers joined the friendly conversation when asking us to move vehicles which had become inexplicably parked on the lawns.

At the end of each day we returned to base camp with my Hartley Blue Wren acting as cargo vessel for the chairs, eskies, banners and accumulated odds and ends that needed to be carried back across the lake.

A small group met in the Victoria gardens for a BBQ on Saturday evening to relax after the day’s activities. The dinner at the Black Hill pub on Sunday night looks like becoming another part of the Begonia festival tradition after a great roll up and a friendly atmosphere once again this year. Geoff Carroll presented Quinton with a WBA pennant in recognition of his work with the Festival organizers and the Yacht Club to coordinate this outstanding event. Quinton presented Geoff with a Ballarat Yacht Club pennant to add to our collection on the wall at A.P.Y.C.

The discussions at the pub that evening moved to our enthusiasm for coming back next year and what we can do to enhance the experience. There is talk by the Ballarat Yacht Club of re starting the Wooden Boat Regatta after a 10 year layoff due to the dried up lake. This was held for many years with sailing as the main event, so keep an eye on the news and put the March long weekend in your calendar for next year.

Leigh McNolty

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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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