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ABC Hobart’s Joel Rheinberger, who officially launched the Derwent Skiff takes a turn around the bay.
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Photos © Rob Walls / http://www.robwalls.net

TO celebrate the 70-day countdown to the 7th Australian Wooden Boat Festival being held in Hobart from 9th — 12th February 2007, on Sunday 3rd December there was a special launch event today in Hobart. 

With Tasmanian Olympic rower Cameron Wurf at the oars, 936 ABC Hobart’s Joel Rheinberger officially launched the prototype of The Derwent Skiff — Allan Witt’s winning entry in the competition run by the Australian Wooden Boat Festival to design a boat of simple timber construction with unique Tasmanian characteristics for the 2007 Festival.

Festival Director, Andy Gamlin gave a brief welcome to the enthusiastic crowd, and spoke about his vision for the competition — to get people building wooden boats and getting them on the water without too much expense and too much time; in particular, a boat that would suit a broad range of conditions.

Some of the earliest photographs taken in Hobart record the skiffs that used to tie up at the tidal steps of Watermans Dock. In the late nineteenth Century the small seaworthy rowing craft were the water taxis of the day. They played a vital part in ferrying officials, crew and visitors to and from the many sailing ships lying at anchor in the River Derwent. Although the need for rowing craft has changed, the beautiful venue, the River Derwent has not.

“There are many competitive rowers and many who enjoy recreational rowing as healthy outdoor activity, but, despite our excellent waterways, until now we have had no locally designed boats of a suitable type. The Derwent Skiff runs easily and is light and easy to row. The rowing position was designed to match that of a racing skull, with room for one passenger if needed. It handles choppy seas well and is light to car top”, said Andy.

Derwent Skiff designer, Allan Witt said: “I am very pleased with the design process. It started with a big drawing board and spline and finished with CAD (computer aided drafting). The result is the best of both worlds – the ability to perfect a set of lines having a good view of the total shape plus the utility of CAD documentation for computer controlled cutting of parts.  A person wanting to build a boat has options - ranging from doing everything off a set of plans through to receiving a complete set of accurately cut component parts.” Allan also added that the boat was designed for easy maintenance while preserving the elegance of traditional lapped planks.

Longley-based boatbuilder, Mark Singleton commented that it was an easy boat to build and was very well thought-out. He said there were some minor changes to be made, but her simple lines and elegant shape made her a really lovely boat. 

Anybody interested in building their own Derwent Skiff, or engaging a boat-builder to do it for them, will be able to buy plans and associated licence over the weekend of the Festival and onwards. The Derwent Skiff “Prototype” will be sold at silent auction on Sunday 11th February at the Festival.

For the latest news of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival go to: http://www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au/

Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Some of the earliest photographs taken in Hobart record the skiffs that used to tie up at the tidal steps of Watermans Dock. In the late nineteenth Century the small seaworthy rowing craft were the water taxis of the day. They played a vital part in ferrying officials, crew and visitors to and from the many sailing ships lying at anchor in the River Derwent. Although the need for rowing craft has changed, the beautiful venue, the River Derwent has not.