My father, Neil Smith, spent his early teenage years close the Murray at Swan Hill. His later teenage years were in an ancestral house in South Melbourne, built by his grandfather (or great grandfather), who had worked in port management. His uncle, who had inherited the house, also worked in port management.

Before training as a teacher, my father worked as a numbertaker and ticket seller at Princes Pier. His boats came after a few rural-school postings. The longest (and happiest) prewar stay was at Tooradin North (1936-41), boarding in Tooradin 'a pretty little fishing village', in Stella Maris boarding house. He alternated between weekends in South Melbourne (socialising), and having Melbourne friends come to Tooradin for picnics and to go boating.

He bought a small dinghy with an outboard motor, and named it 'Felix Kasper', after the world champion iceskater, although the boat could achieve only 6 kn [11 km/h] at best. He stepped up to a larger boat (unnamed), and then to a beautifully-made double-diagonal-plank sailing dinghy with an outboard ('Jessie', the only one with a photo in the family album).

Two stories became family legends: he had a young girl out one day, and the motor ran out of fuel. Although she could hardly have had aviation experience, she was scared that the boat would sink if the motor stopped. On another occasion, he had the stationmaster out fishing. The boat got stuck on the mud in the falling tide, and the evening train to or from Melbourne was stranded at Tooradin, unable to get a signal; its whistling could be heard from the water.

With the advent of WWII, the boat (and his piano) were sold in 1941.


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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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