A MOTELY crew of shipwrights, boat builders and naval architects recently attended the inaugural Shipwright and Boatbuilder’s Community Event at East Fremantle Yacht Club.
The get-together was the brainchild of shipwrights John Holder, Barry Glazer and Ben Hill, who wanted to unite a community that has been an integral part of Fremantle’s maritime history.
“Some of these guys hadn’t seen each other for 30 years, and just walked in and hugged each other,” says Mr Hill. “It was awesome to witness.”
Despite the event being put together in just a few weeks, about 40 attendees travelled from as far as Cervantes to reminisce, share their knowledge, and reflect on the changing maritime industry.
People still working in the industry rubbed shoulders with industrial manufacturers and retired workers, discussing the past and the future of local boat building in a congenial atmosphere.
“People don’t realise the mateship aspect when you’re standing next to a bloke for 40 hours-plus a week, building a boat from nothing, handing him tools…it becomes a bit of a family in a sense,” attendee Ben said. Wooden boat building has been in Fremantle since the first colonists landed on Garden Island.
After their gardens were abandoned for the new Fremantle settlement, sheds began to pop up along the river mouth, near what is now Left Bank.
In these sheds were specialists building and repairing wooden boats, as well as carpenters, metalworkers and the associated trades upon which much of our early economy relied.
With the widespread adoption of fibreglass moulds relegating wooden boat building to a niche industry, some of the shipwrights adapted to the new technologies and methods, expanding and relocating to South Fremantle, while others continued to specialise in the maintenance and upkeep of wooden craft. Ben is currently researching the local history of shipwrighting in Fremantle, collecting old magazines and photos while conducting interviews for an upcoming book.
He welcomes submissions and can be contacted at email@example.com
by JUSTIN STAHL