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It was raining, cold and miserable as I crossed The Rip, but as soon as the Queenscliffe ferry slowed on her approach to Sorrento the sun came out and I went to the weather deck to take stock of the enormous changes that have washed over the bayside village since I last came here 30-odd years ago. All the pretty little weatherboard fishermen’s cottages that once adorned the hillsides have long since gone.
But it was not the trappings of extraordinary wealth that caught my eye so much as the array of gleaming white flagpoles seen in front of virtually every house. Right along the shore, Couta Boats with their arching jib-booms and handsome Cheviot Launches were bobbing cheek by jowl at their moorings: so many in fact that I lost count before the ferry docked. They’re all products of the Wooden Boat Shop, the result of the creative genius, the energy, the initiative and the passion of one remarkable man. The Tim Phillips story is one we should all know and not least because it demonstrates what can be achieved when a person with talent, drive and passion sets his sights on an ambitious goal and refuses to compromise in its pursuit. In affluent Portsea and Sorrento I was struck by the sensitive use of weathered timbers and galvanised iron, materials that echo the early vernacular architecture of the Bellerine Peninsula.
Barefoot in salt-stained shorts and a bulky old roll-neck sweater, a black woollen beanie is clamped down tight his whiskered head and gives his deeply-lined, weather-beaten face the authentic, unvarnished look of a lobsterman. Tim is that rarity in Australia these days, a specialist wooden boat builder who is as passionate as he is knowledgeable about the traditions and the practice of fishing under sail in the treacherous waters of Bass Strait. At a time when every other wooden boat builder in Australia seems barely able to keep his head above water, the Wooden Boat Shop in Sorrento is thriving.
Tim employs 25 men including six specialist wooden boatbuilder and four apprentices as well as diesel fitters, painters and engineers, all of which makes him Australia’s biggest wooden boat builder. The Couta Boat fleet, which had numbered several hundred at the turn of the 20th century, had long since been broken up or dispersed as they were overtaken by bigger, faster, more efficient motorised boats. Tim ferreted them out of muddy backwaters and farmers’ fields where their upturned hulls were often used as dog kennels and chicken coops. Without knowing it, he was starting a movement that was to grow and grow into something approaching a Couta Boat cult.
From the observation deck of their splendid new clubhouse, Tim has the satisfaction of being able to look out over the broad arc of the bay and see over a hundred boats that he has either built or restored.
She was on the point of being sold to a fellow who planned to seal the holes in her wet-well and turn her into a fancy cruising boat. Row, row, row your boat, paddle your canoe, sail your sloop, or berth your yacht at the dock. By Grant TherkildsenBobby and William Ettinger of Mandeville check out " Sweet Dream" a 1961, 19-foot Inboard Runabout at the 2008 Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival. Boats entered this year range from "The Nutshell," a 7-foot, 6-inch restored pram; to the 70-foot power boat "Perfection," a 1918 Biloxi Schooner, converted to a shrimp boat. This year’s festival poster was created by artist Mickey Asche and depicts shrimp boats. Children’s activities include inflatables, the "Tumble Bus," the Audubon Zoomobile, magician Jim Chester, the Calliope Puppets, Radio Disney and more.
Sea-worthy specialties to be served up at the festival include seafood pastas, shrimp on a stick, crab cakes, crawfish etouffee, shrimp and crawfish fritters, along with other traditional festival fare.

Craft artists will offer wood-carved fish and birds, custom-cast sterling lotus pods with pearls or semiprecious stones, paintings of Louisiana scenes and more.
Teams such as the "Tar Balls," "Liti-Gators," "The Drifters," "Tuff Nuts," "Skid Marks" and "Deep Water" will be participating in the Quick ‘n Dirty Boat Building Contest. Tickets to the Wooden Boat Festival cost $8 in advance at Capital One’s north shore branch locations.
In addition to wooden boat rentals and restorations, Brightside offers modern power boat rentals, storage and winterization services, and much more!
For his entire life, Shawn Grant, a resident of Belgrade Lakes for nearly 20 years, has recalled a love and appreciation of classic wooden boats. From their vintage design, the low bellowing sound they make when piercing the water, and their harmonious feel as they glide along. Grant said he knew that he wanted three strokes of a paint brush in his logo and a transom, which is the back part of a boat or ship. Whether the customer was looking for a boat rental for a weekend getaway, or had a snow-covered 1956 Chris Craft that required restoration – word of Brightside was beginning to spread amongst the local community, although for many outside of the Belgrade Lakes region, it still remains one of the state’s, or perhaps country’s best kept secrets. Belgrade Lake’s flock of Summer tourists make up much of Brightside’s rental side of the business, many whom are looking for the “On Golden Pond experience” – the Academy Award winning ’81 film based on pristine Great Pond. While classic wooden boat rentals and restorations may be the foundation of Brightside, over the years, the business has found themselves spending more time in other areas – such as modern boat rentals and storage and winterization services. Today, Brightside offers various boat rentals including modern power boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks. Grant currently employs several experienced woodworkers and boat builders to keep up with the demand on the restoration side of the business; including leadman, Jim Wachter, of Belgrade Lakes. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum sponsors the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival, along the banks of the Tchefuncte River.
Last week, President Barbara Foster, her husband Dan along with Board member Debra Dobbins, husband Lew, ACBS Treasurer Jared Hein, and ACBS member Norm Kitching presented the Sea Scout Ship 145 Challenger with a check for $833.33 to help fund a current project of maintaining, repairing and replacing steel decking on their ship.
Skipper and ACBS member Layne Davis, along with his Scouts proudly posed in front of their ship as Barbara presented the check. For Spring Fling this year, the Sea Scouts will be bringing their ship Challenger up the Petaluma River to the Petaluma Yacht Club and will be taking us on a river cruise. I developed these plans based on the Grant boat offsets in Kenneth and Helen Durant's book: Adirondack Guide-Boat. Neatly manicured lawns were spiked with magnificent traditional poles, all shipshape and Bristol fashion, with their yards neatly squared and their gaffs set at precisely the right angle to carry the national flag. Along the way he’s helped to create a seachange in attitudes ashore as well as afloat.
Like the boats in the bay, many of the houses have a charming, timeless quality that reminded me of that other wooden boat mecca, the Atlantic coast of Maine. He does not belong to the hi-tech world of the 21st century, nor even to the 20th century if it comes to that. I found 50 boats standing around the yard in various stages of repair, but almost double that number are due to come in over the next few months for their annual haircut and shave, ready for a spring re-launch and the up-coming summer of sailing and fishing.

He fell hopelessly in love with the lines of the lovely Couta Boats, the big, beamy, open centreboard sloops that were once at the centre of Victoria’s fishing industry.
Many of the old boats with their dipping lugsails and gaff-rigged gear were taken down to South Australia where for a few more years they fished the waters of Spencers Gulf.
He and his mates bought them for next to nothing and trucked them back to Sorrento where he restored and sold them. The wealthier citizens of Melbourne, whose opulent summer homes had long since replaced the humble fishermen’s cottages around the outer edges of Port Phillip Bay, lined up to commission new boats. So great is the enthusiasm for the Couta Boats that Tim and his clients formed a club at Sorrento where they now race throughout the year.
Signed posters will cost $45 before the festival and $55 after the festival, with $5 from each poster sale used as a donation to the Greater New Orleans Foundation-Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund. New this year, will be a mini-cheerleading camp in the Children’s Village with the New Orleans Hornets Honeybees. He wrote his own business plan and sold some of his prized possessions in order to acquire the necessary tools, equipment and rental boats to get the business started. I modified the design slightly to include the characteristic re-curved stems common on many guide boats.
These full size plans include patterns for all the forms needed to build a strip-built rowing boat. Gleaming white helicopters are now stationed where humble fishing boats were once drawn up on the narrow sandy beach and in the summer months there are probably more Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs here than in any other part of the country.
He is instead a genuine throwback to the latter half of the 19th century, a time when deepwater windships reigned supreme on the oceans of the world and sail was still the only motive power among the myriad small boats that fished and traded around the Australian coast. His real wealth lies not in the bank, but in his profound understanding of and unwavering commitment to the maritime heritage that once shaped the lives of the fisher folk of Port Phillip Bay.
Although he recently completed what is undoubtedly his most ambitious project so far, the restoration of his own boat, the magnificent 54ft topsail cutter Storm Bay, he is now embarked on yet another, the resurrection of the lovely 50ft Huon Pine ketch Jane Kerr, a crayboat that had long lain neglected down the Victorian coast at Portland. Not everyone wants to rent a ’47 Chris Craft, so we need to keep up with the demand of what our customers are asking us for”. It was originally developed in the Adirondack region of upstate New York where guides would bring customers out onto the lakes to fish and hunt. In order to get to the prime fishing spots before other competing guides, the boats have to be fast and efficient when rowed. The boats also needed to be light weight and easy to carry to cope with the many portages between lakes. Rockin' Dopsie, Jr.Admission is $10, $5 seniors, free for children younger than 12 free for military personnel in uniform.

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