By Greg Fleming - Sydney, Austraila

I am someone who is immediately attracted to a boat design that seems original and out of the ordinary, so when I first saw pictures of Phil Bolger’s box boats I was hooked.  Birdwatcher in particular appeared to me to be not only highly original but supremely sensible too.  I built a Brick some years back and bought the plans for Birdwatcher at the same time but eventually decided that I needed a boat with a motor to travel from our weekender in Pindimar Bay on Port Stephens, NSW, over to the main town on the southern side of the Port at Nelson Bay.  That meant looking at alternatives on the Birdwatcher theme with a motor and so I eventually decided on Jim Michalak’s Scram Pram.  

The 2008 Sydney Wooden Boat Festival

click images for larger views

RAN Training boat from 1952. Australian Red Ensign is not quite big enough really!
HMAS Onslow (the sub)

So I started building a Scram around five years ago and have been plugging away every second weekend (or third weekend) since then.  You see, we live in Sydney and Pindimar is a three hour drive north. Needless to say, I am still not finished, but it is getting closer now!  Ironically not long after starting the Scram I came into a little money which I used to buy a Bolger Micro and a runabout with a 50 hp outboard so the Birdwatcher would have been OK after-all as the Birdwatcher sans motor  was for the Myall Lakes just a way up the Myall River from Pindimar, a real Birdwatcher paradise.

An Old Shoe for sale with Endeavour behind
Daring Class destroyer Vampire behind some classic yachts
Riva Ariston with Endeavour behind

Meanwhile back at the building of Scram – there is no greater tonic for the weariness of the long-distance Scram Pram builder than a visit to a wooden boat show - and there is no better wooden boat show within a reasonable distance of where we are than the Sydney Classic & Wooden Boat Festival held every second year at Darling Harbour in Sydney on the site of the National Maritime Museum.

Huon Pine dinghy at Show being raffled (value $16,000 Aus)
Huon Pine Cruiser built in the 1990's
Akarana is a triple planked planked (one fore & aft and two diagonal) racer built in the late 1800s in NZ by the Logan Bros. and restored and presented to Australia as a bicentennial gift by the Govt & people of NZ

This year I was hoping to see a Birdwatcher as last time there was a Birdwatcher present.  I missed that Festival so was determined not to miss this one.   As it turned out there were very few box boats there this year, in fact just one.  A Bolger Oldshoe built buy a Sydney resident who I think hailed originally from Canada.  His Oldshoe stood near a bevy of chic runabouts from the forties to the seventies including a Riva Ariston – the Rolls Royce of runabouts – or should that be the Bugatti of runabouts perhaps?  Personally I found the Oldshoe much more interesting!

Endeavour replica getting her topsides re-oiled
Steam Launch for joy rides $10 a head
Ship models on display

There were lots of boats to see from Halvorsen cruisers to classic Ranger gaff rigged centreboarders and on to all sorts of steam launches and skiffs built from exotic timbers like the famed Huon Pine.  And all this with the dramatic backdrop of the National Maritime Museum collection and cruise ships across Darling Harbour.

An array of Halvorsens
Halvoresen 30
Not all Halvorsens were pristine! This from 1937

Well it’s too late to see the Festival this year so for any Northern Hemispherites wanting to get away from the cold next year why not check out the premier wooden boat festival held in this country which will be on next February from the 6th to the 9th February 2009 at our southern most State.  The Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Hobart, Tasmania.  Now this is the big one Down Under and is in another league altogether  - Worth checking out!

Taipan was a radical 18 footer designed by Bob Miller - later called himself Ben Lexen and designed Australia II of winged keel and America's Cup fame But this boat was a radical departure from the working boat origins of the 18s and had a very radical innovation for1959.....
..... The rudder had end plates as did the centreboard (you can see them on the wall to the left) Recently Taipan was restored and presented to the ANMM.
Oldshoe for sale at the show

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