Simes sets sail for River of Art 2017

Woodworker Eric Simes builds boats; not to make his living but for his own amusement.

“I have built a dozen boats … all of my own design,” Mr Simes said. One of those 12 was the centre-piece at the Splinters Exhibition during the River of Art festival a few years back.

“I was in Hobart one year for the wooden boat show, and the River of Art lady rang me to say ‘why not put a boat in the show?’,” Mr Simes said.

“Well, we couldn’t get it through the doors!”

Not to be daunted, the retired architect stripped his boat back. The bare hull alone weighed about 300kg.

The retired architect says he builds every boat differently in order to test and improve on design.

“Six of us could just tip it on its side and into the hall. Then I went about rebuilding it,” he said.

Mr Simes said each boat was an experiment in design.

“I won’t make two of anything; I like to try and see how different things work. That is my architectural background coming through.”

Eric Simes built the kids’ reading boat for the refurbished Narooma Library in 2016.

Indeed, one of the boats wasn’t tested for sea-worthiness at all.

“There is one in the Narooma Library; it’s only 1.7 metres long. It’s for the kids to sit in while they read,” Mr Simes said.

Thinking it over, Mr Simes said he didn’t think there would be another boat in the Splinters Exhibition for some time.

Splinters Exhibition at The River of Art

The Eurobodalla Woodcraft Guild spokeswoman Kotti Sallai said the annual Splinters Exhibition features a wide range of woodworks, fine furniture, and sculpture. Exhibits are made from native timbers, precious exotics, and even noxious weeds.

Two visual artists would show with the splinters group this year: Al Dickinson and Bronnie Barnett.

See the Splinters Exhibition at the Mechanics Institute, Moruya, from 20-28 May 20-28.

Best wood for boats?

Mr Simes said he used Huon Pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii, to build his boats.

“Huon is full of oil and marine borers wont eat it – it’s one of the best timbers in the world for boat building,” Mr Simes said.

The long-lived, slow-maturing conifer grows only in Tasmania.

“They have stopped felling them: a mature tree is about 1000 to 2000 years old,” Mr Simes said.

“The problem is, if we used up all the Huon there would be none left for many generations – ten generations – because it is so slow to grow.

“Who has the foresight and the patience to manage a forest for ten generations?”

Still, Mr Simes said there were several sources of the desired wood.

“They are dragging submerged Huon out of rivers … because it has been underwater it hasn’t rotted,” he said.

However, the timber came at a cost.

“When I built four years ago it was $8000 per cubic metre, now it is closer to $10,000,” Mr Simes said as he compared it to a cubic metre of radiata pine at $1500.

The quarter-buttock line is key!

While living at Coila, Mr Simes had five boats. These days he is down to two.

“I only have the launch and a dinghy now,” Mr Simes said.

“Although, I might build another,” he mused.

When asked for the best feature of his current launch, Mr Simes said it was the hull.

“The launch has a displacement hull, which pushes water aside as the craft goes – slow but economical,” he said.

”The first launch I built did okay, but tended to roll a bit. And it would squat a little on acceleration. This second launch is wider and longer, but goes faster with the same horsepower. It is a better design.”


“The quarter-buttock line is less than six degrees and it has fine entry and a flat run out,” Mr Simes said.

Or, in layman’s terms: “The front is pointy and the run of the hull is fairly flat”.

Story and photo courtesy of The Narooma News, 1 May 2017.