Ode to Wooden Boats

By Brian John Pollock, 77. Brighton, VIC

For some people it might be fishing
Or visiting places remote,
But for me the ultimate pastime
Is building a wooden boat.
It started in my childhood
Building boats out of scraps of wood,
My father would take me to the beach to float them
Knowing full well they never would.

But that was never a deterrent
For my passion never dimmed,
Building my first proper boat years later
A wooden boat with sails to be trimmed.
But why timber and not fibreglass
Well may you ask,
To me the smell and beauty of timber boats
Is impossible to surpass.

I remember a large boat being built in a driveway
Of a house some distance from ours,
I would ride my bike to view progress
Over three years I would have watched it for hours.
Then one day the driveway was empty
And a great sadness enveloped me,
But a feeling that was soon to pass
Picturing where it belonged – on the open sea.

Driving along Australia’s coastal roads
Stopping at little inlets and bays,
Walking out on rickety piers
For me, are joyous days.
Watching the boats at anchor
Gently tugging on their mooring chains,
Sturdy little fishing boats
And yachts with furled up mains.

None of your floating gin palaces
In locations such as these,
But proud little boats with bobbing bows
Pointing directly into the prevailing breeze.
Wooden boat shipwrights
Are artisans from a bygone day,
And while somewhat of a lost art
There’s a minor resurgence underway.

Five years ago I built a wooden dinghy
In a garage open to the street,
Passers-by would drop in and watch me work
For little children it was a treat.
On one occasion I surmised to an observer
That maybe I should have used fibreglass,
To which the observer replied with conviction
“No, you’re building a boat with class.”

YouTube has been a saviour
For wooden boat enthusiasts like me,
We can watch someone building a boat
Starting with the felling of a tree.
I have followed a project for the past three years
Where one man has done just that,
His wood working skills and ingenuity
Make you want to raise your hat.

I can be enthralled watching a shipwright
Carefully crafting a dove-tail joint,
For me this is utter bliss
But I realise others may not see the point.
There is no greater sight in nature
And very hard to match,
Than to watch the twinkling harbour lights at sunset
As the Couta boats come in with their catch.

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